We Aren’t Done Yet

I came home from Lincoln last week to this for the first hour or so that I was home.

If you ever need to be reminded that you’re not all that and a bag of chips, let a cat find you – it’s the best way. If you let them find you, then they believe they adopted you and the relationship is set up much better from the beginning. Ringo was not amused at my unpacking and putting away activities. He let me know by going into the rooms where I was currently unpacking and laying down, as above, always with his back to me. My visiting with him about my trip and the highs and lows would get an ear bent back toward me, sometimes both at once, but never a look toward me of support or compassion. Just the loud shout of the silent back of the head – the intentional and proactive “I’m ignoring you and I need you to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I’m ignoring you and everything you stand for because you abandoned the home to whence I have been assigned.” He received, along with Max and his brother Oscar, magnificent care while I was away which matters not. Cats are not always the embodiment of grace in one’s world.

One of the good news’s with which I shared was our Bishop’s statement at the end of our meeting day on Wednesday. In a time set aside after the information session ended, our Bishop chose to speak on the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation. With the addition of slides that detailed the Protocol’s content, Bishop Saenz gave his interpretation and understanding of the effect of that content for the denomination and for churches. And then the moment came in the part of the agreement asking Bishops to “hold in abeyance” charges and trials brought forward for clergy officiating same-gender weddings and in same gender relationships. Every Bishop has the opportunity to support this “aspirational” request, or deny it, Bishop Saenz up to that point had not chosen to respond to inquiry around this, but this time he did. Twice in this same session, he shared his intention to “live into the spirit of the Protocol and hold charges and trials in abeyance” until General Conference, 2020. That is a strong statement. Many Bishops across the United States are making that statement, some are coming out opposed to that statement and vowing to continue their Episcopal leadership the same as has been the pattern for 48 years, and still others have not made a statement regarding what they will do. I do not want us to underestimate the power of Bishop Saenz making his decision known for public record. It is a huge step for which we can be truly and authentically thankful. AND the process toward justice is not done or complete.

While national news media outlets have announced the United Methodist denomination has officially separated, we have not. The Protocol is aspirational. It is the first and most protracted and intentional and professionally led process of gathering leaders from our diverse theological perspectives in one place to find a way forward that all could finally sign onto and support that moves us past the on-going fight. That’s ground-breaking in importance!!! However, the aspirations now must be turned into hard legislation that will then be brought to the General Conference in May of this year for vote. It. Is. NOT. A. Done. Deal. Our work must continue to educate and inform, support and encourage, and love and respect all in community seeking faithfulness to God’s vision for all people in all places.

At Grace we will continue to intentionally and proactively welcome anyone from any perspective to walk through life with us learning and growing and listening and speaking our way toward mutual love of God and neighbor; and resisting anything that would divide or polarize us in the midst of agreement and/or disagreement. For us, as for so many across the world, loving God and loving all neighbors as ourselves supersedes polarization and division over any”things”. How great is that???

I might wish I could tell you and myself that all the hard, icky, messy, and chaotic human relationship stuff is over. That now we’ll all “hug it out” and everything is fine. Just fine . . . fine, fine, fine. But I’ve been around more than a few minutes and what I know about stuff that has humans at the center of it, is that it ain’t over til it’s over, or until I sing! *snort! So we continue the hard work of living our faith in the reality of the world. We face into the hard stuff of listening in our differences without hate or animosity, and still acknowledging that which hurts and engenders anger, and choosing to respond by turning that energy into good things for the world. It’s possible! I’ve actually seen it! The end of a recent college basketball game notwithstanding . . . we CAN do better, especially those of us over the ages of 18-22 who, whether we like it or not, are living examples of appropriate (please) and responsible adult behavior. Another blog for another day . . .

Thank you Bishop Saenz, for your aspirational statement and willingness to live into the spirit of the Protocol that seeks to stop the harm against our LGBTQ siblings now rather than some ambiguous later. Thank you United Methodist community called Grace, for being a voice of active resistance to hateful language and polarizing attitudes. Thank you God, for not giving up on us in the midst of our weakness, sometimes shortness of vision and little faith, and continuing to use our brokenness to shine a way forward toward healing and welcome.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” (Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1958 quoting Rev. Theodore Parker, in the 1853 sermon ‘Of Justice and the Conscience).

So may it ever be.