Sitting at the Bedside of the UMC

I was born into a Methodist family in April 1959. I was baptized that same year in the Methodist Church in Meade, Kansas. A Methodist/United Methodist preacher’s kid I would have to unique opportunity to be confirmed thirteen years later in that same small western Kansas town of Meade while my father was serving as pastor. I was nurtured in Sunday School, UMYF, and other activities by the church. For me it was always a place where questions were welcome, inclusion seemed to be a given, and love and welcome were the norm. It was in the United Methodist Church I was married to my best friend and both of our children were baptized and confirmed. I have loved the UMC all my life.

I write this pondering now in part because I cannot sleep. I write this pondering because this is often how I process. TruDee mentioned the other day, perhaps, I write these ponderings because they are one way I pray. However, I cannot sleep right now because there is something amiss in my heart and soul. It is something that has been a troubling for some years now, an empty spot that has longed for the UMC of my youth. That church has seemed absent for a good number of years. It has felt as if it had lost its moorings in justice, compassion, and love. It has felt to me my beloved United Methodist Church had been consumed with a legalism and letter of the law kind of existence that had choked out the openness and welcome of earlier years, like a creeping kudzu of sorts. There is part of me that knew it was happening, however my tendency to wear rose colored glasses, the inclination to believe the best about people, and an idealistic optimism refused to let me see the obvious symptoms.

Today, attending the third day of this Special Called General Conference on a Way Forward felt a bit like I was sitting at the bedside of a dying loved one as I watched the events unfold. That kudzu of fear and control, legalism and judgment ruled the day. I watched as the life was sucked out of the large convention hall with a plan for a way forward that is anything but grace filled, was filled with exclusion and harm toward LGBTQ persons within and outside the church. I watched as we put money and exit plans ahead of people’s lives and the notion of finding a way to live together. I watched as it seemed the breath went out of the church I have walked with for so long.

I know, many of my colleagues and friends have not given up hope yet, and I will say neither have I. There is just enough rose color in my glasses and just enough faith still deep within my heart and soul that maybe somehow, with the work of our incredible delegation, and the move of the Spirit, perhaps someone can jolt this body back to life. I am praying for a little resurrection this night, however, right now in my heart of hearts, it looks pretty grim. It feels like someone has their finger on the off button of the life support and is just waiting for the moment between now and tomorrow evening. I pray it is not so.

I confess, and I know it is because of the way I was raised, I do not understand the kind of fear that continues to plague not only the church, but our society and culture, fear of the other, fear of disagreeing, fear that we will not all think alike, fear that smothers the very love of God until there is no breath of life left. From where does this kind of controlling, consuming, power hungry, and bitter fear come?

I think of how deeply I grieve this night and how it cannot hope to compare to the pain and suffering LGBTQ persons have felt and feel and experienced in the hall today. My struggle holds not a candle to what they have experienced and continue to experience in these days. Their perseverance, persistence, courage, grace, and love shame me and my sense of struggle. However, they inspire me and remind me it is not my fight to give up. To you, my LGBTQ friends, family, and colleagues, I see you, I hear you, I stand and march with you. We cannot be the church, the beloved community of faith without you and I am grieved at the harm we have once again caused you this day.

I think it is too late for part of my beloved United Methodist Church. I think a little bit of me died this afternoon sitting watching the gasping for air in the room. I think a little bit, or more, of the United Methodist Church died this afternoon, even as a good number tried to keep it alive.

That being said, I will trust the Spirit, I will trust those who are working tirelessly to save this church’s soul to do what they can tomorrow to breathe some new life into what we seemed to have pulled the plug on today. Regardless of what happens tomorrow though, even if those who wish to watch it wither and die succeed, Wednesday will come, Thursday just behind it, and I am confident the church… the church, the beloved community of faith, will rise and make justice happen, love as God loves, and BE the very reflection of God in the world. May I be on the other side of the darkness with the community of faith who knows no walls or exclusions, no bigotry or hate. I pray it will be so.

May We find Peace and Light on this continued Journey Together.

Rev. Kent

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One Response to “Sitting at the Bedside of the UMC”

  1. Terry Turner Says:

    I was born a Methodist in 1948, my grandparents had been leaders in the Pleasant Valley (the one in Wichita County) and Leoti churches since the early 1900’s. Ihad a relatively brief hiatus from the Methodist/UMC while I followed my American Baptist preacher’s daughter wife. I came back for seminary and she has been a better United Methodist than I was a Baptist. We grieve the loss of the church we once knew, but we await the future with hope that God’s justice will ultimately prevail.

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