Archive for June, 2016

Prayer Vigil

Saturday, June 18th, 2016

Prayer Vigil in Remembrance Lives Lost at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, FL on June 12, 2016

Methodist Federation for Social Action

June 16, 2016

Collaborators:

Elyse Ambrose, Edgar Diaz, Vicki Flippin, K Karpen, Bruce Lamb, Joey Lopez, Dorlimar Lebron Malave, Lea Matthews, Jonathan Rodríguez-Cintrón, Siobhan Sargent, Jeff Wells

 Welcome

 Beloveds, on this night, we have gathered specifically as a community of faith to show up for one another in tragedy and to affirm the divine light in ourselves and in each other. Mostly, we want you to know that, whatever you are thinking or feeling in this moment, wherever you are, you are not alone.

We come to this space feeling many different things. Some among us are angry that we continue to stand by as gun violence destroys lives, families, and whole communities. Some are angry that our nation has been debating the safety of gendered bathrooms, all while someone planned to violate the safe space of the queer club, all while the truly vulnerable continue to be harmed. Some are angry. You are not alone.

Some among us are feeling extreme grief that so many lives were cut short, that some were people whose families only learned about their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression as a result of their injuries or death. Some are despairing that this act is already fanning the flames of Islamophobia and homophobia, and that we ourselves as Christians and as United Methodists are culpable as we participate in these very forms of prejudice. Some are lost in grief and despair. You are not alone.

Some among us are feeling vulnerability and fear, thinking…”It could've been me or my child or my friend.” We wonder about our own Pride celebrations, about our own favorite bars and clubs. We wonder where and when we will feel safe again. Some are afraid. You are not alone.

Some of us fear erasure, that this will fade from the news cycle in a week or two, that it'll be seen primarily as anti-American and not specifically anti-queer, that the fact that it was Latin night with trans talent at a gay club is already being whitewashed out of the story. Some want the story to remain honest. You are not alone.

Some of us are feeling resolve. Through tears, we want to shout that our communities are stronger this, that this kind of attack is meant to make us cower into hiding, and we refuse. Some are resolute. You are not alone.

Wherever you are, we seek to create a safe space here to prayerfully feel and process. But we also know that some among us may not be feeling prayerful or close to God at all this week, and you are also welcome to just sit in wholly appropriate anger and disorientation for this time. Whatever you are called to feel and do tonight, just know that you are not alone.

Opening Song and Psalm 46: 1-3, 11

I Believe – The words of I Believe were found etched onto a wall of Auschwitz. The author is unknown.

One: God is our refuge and strength, a very present[a] help in trouble.

All: I believe in the sun, I believe in the sun, even when it’s not shining.

One: Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;

All:  I believe in love, I believe in love, even when I don’t feel it.

One: though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

All: I believe in God, I believe in God, even when God is silent.

One: The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Call to Worship                                                         

One:    We come to this sacred space desperate to find community.

All:       We will not fear.

One:    We pound our fists in rage; we cry out to God in grief.

All:       We act together.

One:    Where targeted violence against our queer community has threatened to tear us apart,

All:       We stand as one.

One:    Where others, including many in our faith communities, and even our own United Methodist Church, deem the 50 lives lost expendable and unworthy,

All:       We claim them.  We are Orlando.

One:    Where brown and black bodies feel the sting of violence in racialized, disproportionate, and systemic ways,

All:       We name that sustained pain and demand change.

One:    When hate co-opts this horrific attack and attempts to blame others for it,

All:       We reject Islamophobia and stand in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters.

One:    When we are meant to run scared and to feel the targets on our backs,

All:       We say “NO!”

One:    No, we will not stop our lives, our loving, our being.

All:       No, we will not! 

 

Opening Prayer

 

Psalm 69

Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.

I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold;

I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me.

Cansado estoy de llamar; mi garganta se ha enronquecido; los que me aborrecen sin causa se han aumentado más que los cabellos de mi cabeza.

Do not let the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the Pit close its mouth over me.

Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.

Y no escondas tu rostro de tu siervo; Porque estoy angustiado; apresurarte, óyeme.

Acércate a mi alma, redímela; líbrame a causa de mis enemigos.

For the Lord hears the needy, and does not despise his own that are in bonds.

Song    I Choose Love      Mark A. Miller

I Choose Love was written by Lindy Thompson and Mark Miller after the shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the shooting that killed 9 people in that sacred sanctuary. This week we mourn the loss of 50 in another sacred sanctuary.

Prayers of the People

One:   We pray a prayer of heartbroken confession that the Pulse nightclub was more safe, more sacred, more welcoming, more diverse, more full of love and grace than so many of our churches. We confess and grieve that we are a part of a denomination where the bigotries and traumas of the outside world are repeated instead of healed. We grieve that, because of our church laws, people are made to feel fearful coming into our sanctuaries and coming before our boards of ordained ministries and coming out to their pastors. We grieve that, perhaps as occurred in the life of Omar Mateen, our faith community’s bigotry convinces families and friends of queer people that they should be shunned, badgered, harassed, abused, and abandoned. We grieve the damage we do to queer people among us. We bow our heads in shame and ask for your grace and your mercy and your transformation. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Two:    We pray for Muslim individuals and communities in our nation and around the world. We ask that you would give us the strength to resist allowing Islamophobia to be perpetuated in our name. We pray for solidarity among Muslims, all people of color, and queer people in this moment, that we might all find what unites us, that we might stand together against crimes of hate and discrimination and violence. We pray for the safety of all of these communities here and around the world. We pray for honesty and healing for any past sins we may have committed against one another and for a future of love and truth in our intersectional struggles for freedom. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

One:    We pray to you for all victims of violent crime, including the almost 500 of your beloved children who are murdered in Chicago every year. We lift up to you every life that may be saved by more compassionate and meaningful public policies, including better gun control, criminal justice reform, more equitable public schools and employment opportunities, and policies that address mental health, including trauma and addiction. We pray for a more just accounting of racism in our nation, and we pray to you for a nation that does not allow xenophobia and hate to have a place in our national discourse. We ask that you would guide us individually and as communities of faith to understand how to best effect holy change in our nation. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Two:    We pray for our enemies, for Omar Mateen and his family and friends. We pray a prayer for his soul that emerges from a place of pain and anger. We pray words that we may not yet mean, and we ask you to hold, along with our disgust and our grief. But we also pray for him and other troubled souls to know your unconditional love, your justice, your grace, your mercy. We grieve over the parts of him that were so human, so like us, so beloved in your sight. We confess that we ourselves have been tempted by the self and other hatred that Mateen succumbed to. We ask that you would not contaminate our hearts with hatred toward this man, but that you would only bring resurrection and love out of these horrific deaths. And we pray that he and all who have died might find peace in you. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Psalm 23

(We have paraphrased Psalm uses inclusive pronouns to humbly acknowledge the all emcompassing magnitude and inclusivity of God.)


The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

They make me lie down in green pastures;

she leads me beside still waters;

he restores my soul.

They lead me in right paths

for their name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

I fear no evil;

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff— they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

Naming Those We Have Lost “Presente!”

(We will read the name of each person. Following the reading of each name we offer each of these children of sacred worth up to God by saying “Presente!.”)

One:    Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Amanda Alvear, 25 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Cory James Connell, 21 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Frank Hernandez, 27 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Kimberly Morris, 37 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old

All:       Presente!

One:    Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old

All:       Presente!

Moment of Silent Remembrance

Song                                                    God is Able   

Closing Blessing

May I be safe.

May I be valued.

May I be well.

May I be at peace.

(self, someone else, all beings)

A Voice Crying in the Wilderness

Monday, June 13th, 2016

June 13, 2016

 

In the wake of the horrifying attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning the Methodist Federation for Social Action Co-President Rev. Vicki Flippin shares: “When I ask where God is in these moments, the only conclusion that feels right is that our God, Lord of the Dance, died of a gunshot wound in the Pulse nightclub on Sunday morning, that our God is today young and queer fighting for life in a Florida ICU, that our God is tearing up and giving and receiving hugs at vigils all over the world this week. God is NOT glorified in ANY religious teachings, including our own, that promote hate, discrimination, or violence. We stand today with all people of faith, including and especially Muslim communities and individuals, that uphold the religious truths that love is greater than hate and that LGBTQI people everywhere deserve to feel safe and valued.”  

We are reminded today of the words of the prophet Jeremiah:

“Thus says YHWH: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and bitter weeping. Rachel, weeping for her children, refuses to be comforted, for her children are no more.”  - Jeremiah 31:15 (The Inclusive Bible)

We invite you to join us for a virtual prayer vigil, a time to gather, mourn, grieve and pray together. We invite you join this vigil by phone on Thursday, June 16th at 9:00 PM (EDT). To join the vigil please RSVP here: http://goo.gl/forms/6npwCjwBAQ5q6ldG2. You will receive a link to join the vigil on Thursday morning.

MFSA interim Executive Director, Deaconess Darlene DiDomineck reminds us: “Scripture calls us to pray without ceasing. As justice seeking people of faith, prayer is both active and contemplative. In times of crisis it both centers us and calls us to sacred change. May we be agents of sacred change today and all days, God being our guide and holy agitator.”

Today families, friends and neighbors mourn with bitter weeping, refusing to be comforted. LGBTQI lives, many black and brown bodies, children of sacred worth, once again were targeted and lost. Bishop Carcaño, in a statement released on Sunday, said: “As I have prayed for the victims of this latest shooting, for the shooter and his family, for the people of Orlando, and for us, I have been struck by a concern that has penetrated my heart. Is it possible that we United Methodists with such a negative attitude and position against LGBTQI persons contribute to such a crime?” We give thanks for Bishop Carcaño, her prophetic leadership and her prayerful honesty. When we proclaim lives are incompatible with Christian teaching in our polity, when we preach and teach a theology of exclusion rather than a gospel of inclusion, we too pave the way for violence and discrimination to follow.

Our hearts mourn with LGBTQI family and friends in Orlando and all acts of violence committed against LGBTQI lives, our prayers join yours and we too call out into the wilderness refusing to be comforted for our children are no more.

The Methodist Federation for Social Action renews our commitment to work for justice for all of God’s children both within the structures of The United Methodist Church, in our local communities and throughout our world. We continue to proclaim that God’s LGBTQI children are persons of sacred worth and as such condemn heterosexism and homophobia in all its forms.  

The intersection of race/ethnicity and sexual orientation in the attack which took place in Orlando on Sunday morning cannot be denied. Communities of color have been and continue to be systematically targeted for acts of individual and institutional violence in this country. Racism is woven into the very fabric of our institutional structures both within the polity of our denomination and the United States. Just last month, The United Methodist Church during General Conference repented for our egregious participation in the Sand Creek Massacre. We, The United Methodist Church, have been perpetrators of violence both in our complicity and in direct action.

Our hearts mourn acts of violence committed against all communities of color, our prayers join yours and we too call out into the wilderness refusing to be comforted for our children are no more.

MFSA calls upon ourselves and our progressive partners, along with local churches, annual conferences, and all denominational bodies, to confess and condemn the sins of systemic and personal racism, and to engage in the hard work of repentance and reconciliation.

As the nation mourns a great tragedy committed by an individual, our newsfeeds fill up with the scapegoating of an entire religion for the acts of the few. We know Muslim people to be faith-filled, peace-loving neighbors and committed partners in interfaith movements for justice and nonviolence. We know Islam to be a religion of peace, rooted in compassion and service to community.

Our hearts mourn with our Muslim family, friends and neighbors, our prayers join yours and we too call out into the wilderness refusing to be comforted for our children are no more.

MFSA calls upon all justice seeking people of faith to resist rhetoric of scapegoating and Islamophobia. We encourage our chapters, partners and individual members to seek out opportunities for interfaith understanding and dialogue by reaching out to local interfaith partners. We believe our lives and faith is enriched through interfaith partnership.  

The tragedy in Orlando is yet another reminder that weapons are too readily accessible in our country. Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America said yesterday: “…Every single day, 91 Americans are killed by gun violence, and hundreds more are injured. We will never accept these shootings as the new normal, and we must continue to demand our lawmakers act and work to keep guns out of dangerous hands. The phrase “another mass shooting” does not have to be a part of the American vocabulary.”

Our hearts mourn with our family, friends and neighbors impacted by gun violence, our prayers join yours and we too call out into the wilderness refusing to be comforted for our children are no more.

MFSA calls upon all justice seeking people of faith to work to end gun violence in our communities through sensible gun laws. To do so we recommend you connect to our partners in this ministry of  non -violence, Everytown for Gun SafetyMoms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, and Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

“As our hearts mourn with so many communities, we recommit ourselves to MFSA's mission of energizing people to be agent's of God's justice, peace, and reconciliation, and we call on all United Methodists and persons of faith to seek ways to live out this work in our local contexts as well as more broadly.” Rev. Dr. Christina Wright, MFSA Co-President  

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Since 1907, the Methodist Federation for Social Action has worked to mobilize, lead, and sustain a progressive movement, energizing people to be agents of God's justice, peace, and reconciliation. As an independent, faith-based organization, MFSA leads both church and society on issues of peace, poverty, people's rights, progressive issues, and justice in The United Methodist Church. For more information visit www.mfsaweb.org


At the Intersections

Friday, June 10th, 2016

The following is the text of the keynote speech I was honored to give at the Iowa MFSA Awards Dinner. I can't think of a better way to transition to new work and continue to have passion for all MFSA has been, is, and will be.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to preach at Craig Chapel at Drew Theological School. Now I'm a lectionary preacher so the week following was a lovely, yet complex passage from the book of Acts.

16 years later, I can't thank Dr. Sharon Ringe enough for her map quiz in my New Testament survey class. Here we encounter Peter entering the city of Lydda as he makes his way from Jerusalem to the Mediterranean Coast. Lydda is a city at the crossroads of two roads – the first that Peter is on and a second that goes from Egypt to Babylon.

As I prepared for a sermon on raising the dead, I realized there was another truth in this nugget of Scripture.

Peter had a conscious choice to make: continue on his mission to heal in the name of Jesus; or to turn down a road that leads to places of captivity and oppression.

Friends, The United Methodist Church is like Peter in the city of Lydda.

We are at a crossroads.

For the past 4 General Conferences, progressive caucus groups in support of LGBTQ rights –Affirmation, Reconciling Ministries, and the Methodist Federation for Social Action – worked to affect change in the denomination. At Tampa in 2012, we saw this group of three grow when racial/ethnic caucuses asked to join alongside our work, and by January of this year, we had 13 partners as part of the Love Your Neighbor Coalition.

Leadership developed around major work areas over a year before General Conference, focusing on legislation, delegate relationships, international hospitality, volunteer hospitality, witness, worship, communications and public relations, and pastoral care. The conference calls and emails were many, but by May 10, we were ready to house, feed, and support the work of the Love Your Neighbor Coalition in Portland, OR.

Before this General Conference, I always joked that this is the worst two-week vacation you'll ever take.

But in all honesty, when General Conference works, you see The United Methodist Church at our best.

Sadly, this past month has shown The United Methodist Church far from our best.

From the outset, there was discord as members of General Conference attempted to pass the rules. For a day and a half, discussion focused on Rule 44, a change that would allow for small-group engagement around difficult conversations. These debates were an important reminder that when the Church talked about “human sexuality,” we're really talking about “gay people.” When Rule 44 didn't pass, General Conference reverted to business as usual in dealing with “gay people.”

In a flash of hope, the Bishops’ Statement on A Way Forward provided a glimmer of what true Episcopal leadership could be.  But on the plenary floor, we saw consistent and continuing attempts to thwart both the process and prophetic leadership.

Over the past five years working with the Methodist Federation for Social Action, as a seminary-trained but not ordained, openly gay, leader in The United Methodist Church, I have come to the conclusion that LGBTQ people are being used as red herrings in a larger struggle for power and privilege. If queer people aren't the ones being thrown under the bus, they'll find someone else to push into the crossroads.

General Conference 2016 showed us this all too well.

Work to divest from the Israeli occupation of Palestine died in committee. Fossil fuel divestment lost on the plenary floor. Both conversations were vehemently opposed by the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits who decried that their commitment to profits took precedence over moral obligations.

In an educational and meaningful presentation, General Conference engaged in an act of repentance for the role prominent Methodist leaders played in the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864 and the murder of indigenous people. The very next day, members of General Conference voted down a petition against sports teams with racist mascots, many of which do harm to indigenous people.

Reproductive health, rights, and justice took center stage on the final day of General Conference. Leading up to Portland, MFSA worked with United Methodist Women and the General Board of Church and Society, in consultation with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. A lot of work went into legislation on responsible parenthood that was global in nature, truly progressive, and spoke to the idea that reproductive health, rights, and justice are about more than abortion – they are about the ability for families of all forms to thrive. Sadly, this legislation failed with one delegate commenting “this is too long to read” – I have to wonder if she feels the same way about the Bible.

While our social principles around abortion and reproductive rights didn’t change, one major action was taken by General Conference in which The General Board of Church and Society and United Methodist Women were forced to withdraw from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC). On one level, this is a great loss. The United Methodist Church was a founding member of this Coalition and our denomination has been a strong voice in their Coalition Council for many years. On another level, this action increases the importance of individual United Methodists to be engaged in the work of reproductive health, choice, and justice. Hear me loud and clear when I say that MFSA will ALWAYS be at the RCRC table. And we need your support and voices to stop the subtle and not-so-subtle ways in which religious liberty is being manipulated against those who work for the rights of women, children, and families.

No mention of General Conference is complete without addressing racism, colonialism, and white privilege as it was experienced in Portland. From a base built on our colonialist, US-centric structure and assumptions, to cultural misappropriation, and “All Lives Matter” comments, General Conference was filled with micro-aggressions and white privilege.

In specific, MFSA recognizes that racism and colonialism are not limited to those with whom we might not agree, but are found in our own structures and in the hearts of those with whom we collaborate. I commend to you MFSA’s Statement on Racism, General Conference, and Progressive Movements from May 18 of this year. In our continued work, MFSA challenges our constituents to continue anti-racist, anti-privilege, anti-colonialist work in all levels of the movement for justice.

And now I return to the Bishops’ Way Forward. No anti-LGBTQ legislation advanced at General Conference. Anti-transgender language did not make its way into our Social Principles. And Judicial Council ruled that mandatory minimum penalties for chargeable offenses regarding LGBTQ people are unconstitutional.

But friends, according to our church, self-avowed, beautiful children of God can still be denied ordination and appointments.

Officiating a same-sex wedding is still a chargeable offense.

And thousands of LGBTQ members like myself, and millions more waiting outside the door, are still being told we are “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Since the close of General Conference, the Council of Bishops has once again shown it is not of one mind in regards to human sexuality (gay people). However, They- as a body- are not willing to take immediate action to curb the harm being done to LGBTQ United Methodists. So, I implore you Iowa, reach out to your bishop. Let your bishop know you want to hold him- or maybe in September, her- accountable to being a prophetic leader on the Council of Bishops. We need their leadership now more than ever.

When we take a step back and look at all the things that happened at General Conference – and all the things that have and will continue to happen between General Conferences – we begin to see a clear pattern. This isn't just about human sexuality (“gay people”). It isn't even about adherence to Scripture or theological Orthodoxy.

The work of justice-seeking people of faith is a challenge to those who have been ensconced in power in the Church for decades. Years of hard work have brought us to this moment – and it didn't begin in 1972 with the addition of “incompatibility” language. It began out of our predecessor denominations thanks to passionate leaders with names like Anna Howard Shaw, Georgia Harkness, Mary McLeod Bethune, Herbert Welch, Harry F. Ward, and Lee Ball.

In their footsteps, MFSA has worked to never be a single-issue organization. From our beginnings in 1907, we have understood that the work for peace couldn't be separated from the work of human rights, racial and gender equality, or anti-poverty initiatives. Today, our intersectional organizing principle continues to guide our work.

Indeed, intersectional organizing is an affront to the very understandings of power and privilege. Intersectional organizing means that a coordinated effort to “divide and conquer” will no longer work. We see this beginning to happen in places like North Carolina. Previously it was not common for poor whites, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and people of color to work together. But thanks to the work of the Moral Mondays movement under the leadership of Rev. Dr. William Barber, right-wing leaders have had to acknowledge they can no longer depend on false dichotomies of rich vs. poor, black vs. gay, Christian vs. immigrant.

Coalition building is tough work, especially when is done from an intersectional perspective. It can be difficult for long-standing organizations to work with newly formed groups. It can be difficult for well-funded, well-staffed agencies to give up control to smaller, volunteer-led groups. It can be difficult to herd all of the personalities for a common goal. Trust me.

Yet, with all the challenges in the work of justice-seeking, intersectional work is a challenge worth taking on.

In all this work, we have to remember that intersectional work is a challenge to the status quo. I know some of you might disagree with me, but at this point in the history of The United Methodist Church, our Bishops, our General Boards and Agencies, and yes, even our delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conferences, are part of the status quo. I know there's some status quo in the room tonight, and I know that comment stings.

For the past 16 years, I have heard my friends in seminary, at Annual Conferences, on Conference, Agency, and Episcopal staffs, and yes, even delegates at General Conference, say, “You know I'm with you, I just can't be public about it.”

These words are damaging, my friends, but even more so, they are damning, because they make the assumption that as a gay man, all I care about is an LGBTQ agenda.

Never mind that I grew up poor in Appalachia.

Never mind that covert racism and white privilege were taught to me at an early age.

Never mind that I've seen friends touched by the stigmas of rape, domestic violence, abortion care, and HIV.

Never mind that I've seen mountains destroyed for coal extraction, water resources destroyed by chemical leaks, and communities destroyed by greed and excessive development.

To the status quo, I can only wear a fabulous, fabulous gay hat.

But intersectionality teaches something different: that I can wear more than one hat – and I can, or rather I must, wear them all at once. And that is an affront to the status quo – because my hats don't all fit nicely and can't be contained safely in the Church’s hat box.

So when there is challenge to power and privilege, we hear phrases like “let's not disrupt things” or “be nice.” Or we say “You know we support you, we just can't say it in public.”

Intersectionality helps us all move from private friendships to public ally-ship. I don't know about you, but I want folks who have my back – and I want them to know that I have theirs.

I continue to work and pray that those who find themselves in the status quo see that the only forward movement we will make as a denomination will happen only when they allow intersectionality to bring them from a place of silent friendship to public ally-ship.

I want to speak a truth when I say that public ally-ship will look different for everyone. In remembering the words of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's comments about pornography, “I can't describe it…but I know it when I see it.”

I saw ally-ship happening at General Conference in clear and distinct ways. I saw it when LGBTQ people listened to the stories of Filipino farmers talk about the evils of militarism and corporate mining in their homeland.  I saw it when Native Americans stood with those seeking justice for Palestinians because they know what it means to have your land taken from you. I saw it when the people of Flint, the people of The Philippines, and communities of color in Portland stood together to call for access to clean water in their respective contexts.

No longer were we silent friends – but we were public allies standing together in an intersection of life.

Over the past few months, people have asked my professional opinion as to whether or not The United Methodist Church will split.

“Who the heck knows!?”

But of one thing I am certain: the genesis of schism was born out of fear what it might mean for God’s Spirit to move amongst her people. Justice-seekers must not live out of this fear. Neither shall we live in fear of what might happen if God’s Spirit calls us out of false unity and into new life.

Yesterday afternoon, I saw a lot of silent friends become public allies when we stood during Rev. Anna Blaedel’s moving point of privilege on the floor of Annual Conference. God's Spirit moved in Anna’s words, She moved in our public support, and She moved, just as She does in each in every moment of our being and our becoming, as a witness of God’s love and grace and Justice.

At that, my Iowa friends, is what it means to live at the intersections. God is there with us, creating and calling and moving to that which is best in each situation. We may not know how to describe it, but we know it when we sing “where cross the crowded ways of life;” we know it when we wear all the hats and we can't take even one off our head; we know it when work with those the powers and principalities of our church an world would like to divide us from; and we know it when we remember the story of Peter, who when standing at the intersection in Lydda, chose the road of life and resurrection instead of the road of oppression and captivity.

Which road shall we choose?

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Chett Pritchett is the outgoing executive director of the Methodist Federation for Social Action. On June 15, he will begin serving as the Assistant Director of Alumni Engagement at Marietta College, close to his family and the hills of Appalachia.

 

 

 

 

A Moment of Personal Privilege

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

June 4, 2016

Moment of Personal Privilege

Iowa Annual Conference

Sisters and brothers in Christ, in covenant, in connection:

I have been a United Methodist almost my entire life.  When I was 4, my parents came to faith, and I was baptized in the United Methodist Church in De Ridder, LA.  I was baptized, confirmed, called, commissioned, and ordained into this church.  This has been my place of spiritual belonging, of vocational calling, my faith community, my faith home.  I do not want to, therefore, go.

But.  And.

I am a self-avowed, practicing homosexual.  Or, in my language, I am out, queer, partnered clergy.  I know this is not news to most, if any, of you.  But by simply speaking this truth to you, aloud, here, I could be brought up on charges, face a formal complaint.  I could lose my job, lose my clergy credentials, lose my space of spiritual belonging, of vocational calling, my faith community, my faith home.

I cannot begin to describe the persistent pain and weary wounded-ness of being raised in and called to a church that continues to call my being and my loving a chargeable offense, that continues to identify my being and my loving as incompatible with Christian teaching.  I do not know if it is faithful or just plain foolish of me to continue giving my prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness to a denomination that continues to call me and so many I love an abomination, an issue, a divisive distraction.  How can I be in honest study, prayer, and conversation within this connection when I am not, when we LGBTQ people are not, safe to speak the truth of our living, and our loving?

This institution is instilling in me and other LGBTQ people some horrible, harmful untruths.  That we are unloved, and unlovable.  That we are unworthy.  That we are incompatible, disordered, divisive.  That at our core, at the core of our created-ness, there is something shameful, sick, sinful.

That, friends, is incompatible with Christian teaching.  Allegiance and adherence to unjust laws in incompatible with Christian teaching.  Welcoming us and our ministry only if we hide, be quiet, and stay in the shadows is incompatible with Christian teaching.  Isolation and oppression are incompatible with Christian teaching.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” does not equal justice.  Silence does not equal support.

How can the hand say to the foot, Therefore go, I have no need of you?  How can the ear say to the eye, Therefore go, I have no need of you?

It’s time.  It’s so long past time.  The Spirit is calling, moving, inviting.  No more crumbs.  Stop the complaints, stop the charges, stop the prohibitions, stop the harm.  Justice delayed is justice denied.  Be the church.  Now.  Be the Body of Christ.  May it be so.

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Rev. Anna Blaedel is an ordained elder in the Iowa Conference of The United Methodist Church. A graduate of the University of Iowa, Pacific School of Religion, and a current doctoral student at Drew University, Anna serves as the campus minister/director of the Wesley Foundation at the University of Iowa. She is a child of God, and #CalledOut.

 

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