grieving after general conference

Before leaving for Portland I was listening to Beyoncé’s Lemonade non-stop. I kept thinking, started a blog, about brokenness and working through it all to something stronger. Queen Bey (and fellow United Methodist) names her own stages of grief:

  • Intuition
  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Apathy
  • Emptiness
  • Accountability
  • Reformation
  • Forgiveness
  • Resurrection
  • Hope
  • Redemption

I have been thinking about how can the church arise from grief and brokenness, and end up strong, in formation… since high school and I don’t have any answers.

This morning after having a minor freakout over countdown cards and measuring tape, I realized that I needed space. Thank God it was my soul sister friend who is amazing and asked me if I was grieving and what I was grieving. I texted back:

My innocence? I was never naive. I saw and heard the most unchristian things… And thought bad things.

I posted a status on Facebook and heard from multiple friends from Florida to Portland giving support through memes and wedding photos. The timing of GC with finishing my M.Div hasn’t been ideal, yet, I am supported in my grief. So here I am, trying to finish my Master of Divinity, while feeling the stings of witnessing and feeling spiritual abuse, but holding the hope of new and old friends.

I stand at the precipice of grief unexpectedly. I’ve already done this during the degree and I went through the stages, and from that brokenness became stronger. Now I need to move through the stages again. This time, blasting Lemonade.

pink heels & real conversation part 2

As highlighted before in Part 1, my pink heels remind me of my God-given agency, the freedom and freewill that I live through my Wesleyan lens of grace-centric faith.

I started Thursday morning in my stylish, yet comfortable black heels which matched my business suit. The day was going to be rough, so I was going to be professional (not that I am not usually professional, but business suit means business especially in ministry). As I headed into plenary, I was stopped several times asking where were the pink heels.

Most questions came from coalition partners and friends, but as I was heading to my seat after some quick meeting, a random man stopped me and asked, where are your pink heels today? I had been walking by this particular person all week and we had never exchanged words, but the power of the pink heels is magical.

I said that I was running around and needed more comfortable shoes because I was running around more, and literally these are the heels I can run in (you saw my talent in balancing in heels, applies to more than yoga-like moves). But it gave me pause.

As we inched closer and closer to the time where the RCRC would be debated, I got nervous. Finally since we were heading back to our hotel room during our lunch break, I decided game on, the heels were back. When I came back into plenary and walked past the man, I said, the heels are back and it’s because RCRC and abortion were going to come up.

After the vote and my anger tears, the man came up and asked about my heels. It lead to a real conversation about abortion, the RCRC, theology, discussion and deep listening, and the Spirit was present. This young adult man, father of three girls, clergy member is pro-life, but yet understands the need for RCRC. We disagree on abortion restrictions, both approach the topic Biblically rooted, and have a great love of Christianity. Although a relatively brief conversation, we talked about the need of similar conversations on the actual plenary floor, for honesty, integrity, and most of all, REAL CONVERSATION about women’s bodies.

My passion came through and I was heard, and I heard his cares, concern, and compassion. I shared about leaving the ordination process and how I wanted to speak prophetically. He actually said that it was really too bad and that people like me were needed, but he understood. We chatted about a few other things too (it was a long afternoon break).

Somehow, in the midst of debate and tears, frustration and anger, my pink heels lead me to hope. That people who disagree with me can have real conversations, discussions not debates. We saw each other’s humanity and started from a place of mutuality.

If I hadn’t put on my pink heels yesterday, maybe I would be in a different place now… but yet again the Divine has shown me hope, possibility, and wonder in the most mysterious way. Thank you so much to my new friend who embodied this for me. I will hold our conversation close for a long time.

pink heels & real conversation part 1

The past few days has been rough for me at General Conference. I have learned some tough lessons, but yet remain committed to social justice and The United Methodist Church. I’m pretty exhausted and a little cranky (sorry Sara & Kevin), though there are some bright spots.

Yesterday was my denim jumper with pink heels day. I stomped around and meant business, made some impressions with said heels. Now why pink heels.

I am not getting ordained and for years I put power in a clerical collar. When I decided not to get ordained, I realized I had my own power, my own God-given agency and didn’t need a collar for that. I have my bright pink heels that embody the fierceness of my agency… instead of a clerical collar.

The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) did not come up on Wednesday after the Bishops’ took some steps to lead the church forward. Human sexuality has been put on hold legislatively until a special General Conference, and we weren’t sure where abortion was going to fall. On Wednesday night it was obvious today, Thursday, was the big day for the RCRC vote and perhaps the Social Principle on Abortion would go on the floor even though there had been a deal struck in sub-committee between the two camps, somewhere Responsible Parenthood is in limbo. Needless to say, I woke up this morning knowing it was vital to have my game face on.

The morning brought great conversations for working in coalition moving forward, support for the work I have been doing, and the knowledge that we were most likely going to lose our RCRC membership as a church. What I wasn’t prepared for were my angry tears. Originally I wasn’t wearing my pink heels, but they went on before RCRC was to go before the body. I needed my pink heels to remind me of my agency.

We got word that the elected abortion/diversity sub-committee chair for Church & Society 2 was not going to be the person introducing the legislation removing the church from the RCRC. Although totally appropriate of the chair to do, that was a political move and in my opinion lacked integrity. It set the tone of the legislation and also gave the woman presenting extra time for speaking for the legislation (so against the RCRC) instead of providing a neutral tone. Again she called herself a feminist, but her actions do not align with the accepted definition of feminism.

Instead of honesty and actual facts, lies about the RCRC were shared on the floor by those supporting us leaving the RCRC. Thank God for Becca and her speech against using the talking points I helped prepare for that moment. Truth was spoken, but damage was done. Points of clarification, order, and whatnot were used, and we put up a good fight. But at the end, we lost our seat at the table of the RCRC.

I am angry. Women and girls in the church deserve better. This is just another attempt of men controlling the bodies of women behind thin veils of theology that does not recognize freewill and God-given agency given to ALL human beings including women. It’s about more than abortion. Abortion is a symptom of a larger issue, women having a say over our bodies. RCRC advocates for reproductive health, choice, and justice which isn’t all about abortion, it’s about women’s health both physical and spiritual. It’s about trusting women to be moral agents, to live into grace and make the decision which is best for ourselves and our families.

If I wasn’t awake before, I am more so now. I am in it for another four years. I am committed to ministry through being an advocate, a progressive faith voice, being and acting prophetically about reproductive health, choice, and justice issues. My pink heels aren’t going anywhere, and neither am I. 

So bring it those who attempt to strip women of our gift from God. You will not take me away from the table and I am going to get a lot louder believe you me. 

umw for the win with responsible parenthood

This piece was originally written for the Love Your Neighbor Coalition newsletter for General Conference 2016. 

My favorite piece of legislation that impact’s women’s reproductive health is the updated resolution of Responsible Parenthood crafted by United Methodist Women. Unlike much of the legislation that impact’s reproductive issues, this resolution theologically articulates parenthood in a post-modern world in a way that can move the church forward in a variety of ways.

One thing that I love about this renewed resolution is that it is proactive; so much of what we do is a reaction so it is refreshing to see legislation thinking of the future. We need this resolution because provides the framework for a holistic and comprehensive model into what responsible parenthood looks like. It breaks down into five parts:

  • Biblical Basis for Families speaks of abundant life, and how the source of this is family: “The decision to have children is a decision to participate with God in the process of creation.” (DCA CS2 327) The decision to not have a child is just as important as there are many other ways to participate relationally with creation and that’s where contraception comes into play.
  • Contraception is next: “Use of family planning and access to contraception around the world has had a dramatic impact on empowering women, on women’s economic development, and overall public health. Maternal and infant moralities have been reduced. By controlling the number and spacing of their children, women have greater opportunities for education and economic participation, resulting in an enhanced quality of life for everyone.” (DCA CS2 328)
  • Barriers to Responsible Choice covers gender, financial, arranged marriage, spousal disproval, and lack of access and/or legal restrictions.
  • Challenging Pregnancies and how we can start thinking about ending a pregnancy under a different Biblical basis: “The creation of a child is an incremental process whose beginnings stretch back to the creation of earth’s first life, and whose milestones include conception, implantation, quickening, viability, and live birth. The Bible affirms breath as the mark of a living human person. While respecting developing life at every stage, we reject the simplistic belief that the moment when egg and sperm unite is the sole marker of human existence.” (DCA CS2 328)
  • It ends with mandates, which provide a call to action for education at the family level, local church level, and greater United Methodist connection.

This resolution is inclusive as it brings in the whole connection and doesn’t just focus on one country. Responsible parenthood is not only just about women, it’s about men too, and it’s about our larger faith community. It encourages dialogue and goes beyond face service to action, to seek justice and live out our Social Principle values. Those who are calling for the deletion of this resolution are citing their theological differences over abortion. The way to realistically approach responsible parenthood is to take into consideration rape, child brides, safety of the mother, socio-economics, and many other contextual factors. Removing this resolution based solely off issues with abortion writes off many other brilliant parts of the responsible parenthood framework.

What this resolution does not implicitly address is adoption, IVF treatments, and LGBTQ issues in terms of parenthood beyond inclusive language. It’s broad, yet there are other pieces of legislations that better and more specifically address these important issues regarding parenthood.

I fully support readopting the Responsible Parenthood resolution and it is my hope that you too will support this valuable and radical piece of legislation. As a young adult woman considering responsible parenthood in her future, I hope that The United Methodist Church will rally behind this legislation so that current and future parents have the love and support of our faith community.

ode to (dr not ms) benz

Almost two years ago, I was fortunate to go to a Western Methodist Justice Movement conference in Lake Tahoe. It was around the time where I was figuring out my calling and honing in on my specific area of social justice, and I was looking to connect. All the pieces came together and I was able to go on scholarship. Those scholarships and financial contributions changed my life in so many ways, and that’s when I met Benz.

Benz to put it lightly is a total badass. I want to be like Benz when I grow up in so many ways. She has dedicated her life to seeking justice through her work with unions and organizing as one of the founders of Methodists in New Directions fighting for inclusion. She isn’t afraid to use her voice for justice and because of women like her, I have models to look to when my voice goes quiet.

The first day of General Conference plenary, Benz was one of the only women to speak on the floor. She represented the concerns of the infamous Rule 44, was persistent, respectful, and spoke out because it was needed. Then this morning (because Rule 44 still hadn’t been voted on), she added an amendment which addressed something important.

Rule 44 (for a wonderful post about it, visit Hacking Christianity) essentially creates a voice for all the delegates and breaks people into small groups with moderators (being so simplistic here). Benz motioned (correctly) to add language around creating those small groups as sacred and safe space, where people could speak frankly and honestly without the threat of charges being made against them. This is a totally valid concern. It needed, and needs, to be addressed.

Since she has been speaking and tweeting (@drbenz3), she caught the attention of someone and a tweet was aimed at her: So Dorothee Benz doesn’t want  delegates to file complaints vs  clergy who admit breaking covenant. She cannot silence us, & won’t

Please note lack of period at the end. Beyond that. The author of said tweet is a white, cisgendered man, heterosexual… he has all the privileges that centuries upon centuries of patriarchy has built for him on the backs of those who have been marginalized.

I have privilege and need to be a better ally too. Benz lives justice, Benz embodies justice, Benz follows the radical model of Jesus, and Benz is a beloved child and reflection of God.

When I saw that tweet, I froze. I was angry (I am angry), but I didn’t know what to do. The oppressor is claiming to be oppressed. The church has not been inclusive, therefore we have marginalized our LGBTQIA sisters and brothers, and those who do not fit a gender binary. The very thought that Benz is oppressing a white, heterosexual, cisgendered man is ridiculous.

The picture is property of Snarky Pastor and is of said pastor, Benz, and Carol at a Black Lives Matter protest in New York City, December 2014. 

worships well with others?

I remember the first Easter after taking Christology. It was hard, I struggled with all the historic and traditional theology and language used during the service. I could not claim the words because I had yet to define them for myself.

For a few years, I could not sing all the words in songs during worship. When I changed faith communities, I found my spiritual home at Valley & Mountain, where we strive to be inclusive and work hard to do so. I would say that we are usually successful in this endeavor.

As a seminarian at an intentionally ecumenical seminarian, words matter, but yet, I have learned that words can mean different things to different classmates and faith communities. I value inclusive language, but I am starting to value people’s different accessibility to the Divine.

A few weeks ago, I went to my friend, Edward’s church, Kingdom Family Worship Center. This pentecostal church stretches me in so many ways, to the dancing in worship, different style of worship, and being so participatory. It’s not a place where I immediately feel comfortable, I am uncomfortable and I know I stick out as a white woman, but yet, I am utterly welcomed. The language isn’t always inclusive, but yet, that’s not what the church is conveying.

Even though I am finding I am able to worship now without fully inclusive language, I need to accept my privilege. As a cis-gendered female, heterosexual and white, I have the luxury to roll with the language. I have listened to my close friends who the language hits hard and wonder why inclusive language isn’t being used here, in the context of General Conference where we are a big tent. I also wonder why I am not being effected as much as a card carrying (bought one from Hillary) woman, fierce feminist, and LGBTQAI ally or co-conspiritor.

My question has become this (please notice, I do a lot of questioning): If General Conference was truly conveying hospitality and inclusiveness, can we let inclusive language slide a little because we trust the intent? But how can we trust intent when our policy or polity excludes? As an ally, I need to remember my privilege in this and switch to my co-conspirator lens and be vocal for those who the United Methodist Church is not inclusive to.

ministerial integrity & rev. vicki flippin

Well, General Conference finished our Opening Worship. In many ways it was beautiful, we sang in many different languages, had a nice reflection from Bishop Brown… but yet underlining all of it was the withdrawal of Rev. Vicki Flippin from doing opening remarks today. You see, she was asked to make remarks based on her ministerial context, yet restricted in a way where she could not be authentic, or give the remarks with integrity.

My question becomes: if we cannot welcome all, can we truly worship together? My answer leans towards no as I already heard my LGBTQ sisters and brothers’ pain over this seemingly small act. It’s not small, it’s major.

The following is the official MFSA Press Release:

This morning, Methodist Federation for Social Action’s (MFSA) board of director’s Co-President, Rev. Vicki Flippin, received notice from the Worship Director of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church to remove mention of sexual orientation and gender identity from her remarks in this afternoon’s opening worship for the every-four-year global gathering of the denomination in Portland, Oregon.

Those asked to bring opening remarks were asked to share greetings from their ministry contexts. Rev. Flippin serves as Associate Pastor at Church of the Village, a progressive, multi-cultural, and Reconciling congregation in the West Village section in the borough of Manhattan in New York City. “My context is one of ministry to and with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) people in our city,” states Flippin.

When asked to remove her references to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, Flippin responded that she could not “in good conscience participate in a service that will not even pretend to welcome and include God’s LGBTQI children.”

MFSA executive director, Chett Pritchett, states, “Worship should be the space for all people to be welcomed and recognized as being made in God’s image. Sadly, the institutional Church has failed queer people like myself yet again, on one hand calling us ‘of sacred worth,’ but clearly not worthy enough to be directly mentioned in what should be our denomination’s proudest moment.”

This afternoon’s opening worship begins 10 days of legislation, worship, and witness for the 12 million member global denomination. One of the most pressing conversations will center on the Church’s welcome to LGBTQI people and those in ministry with them.

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.

being in coalition, being in community

Sometimes one arrives in Portland before the third person in your small group text chain. Honoring her absence clearly takes place at lunch. 

I arrived in Portland yesterday to be greeted and needed right off the bat. My first General Conference is off to a hop, skip, and a jump into writing an Op Ed for Love Your Neighbor Coalition (LYNC from now on).

I’ve been meeting people I’ve only communicated with via email, meeting social media friends, and straight up fangirling the man behind Hacking Christianity. The thing about meeting all these new friends, is that there is a deep connection already, progressive United Methodists who value justice and changing the church. No big deal.

Being in coalition means learning to communicate with each other, to share our stories, to be open, and to listen deeply. This extends beyond my LYNC bubble and to the other coalitions in the UMC.

Which leads me to being in community. Coalition is working together, I am seeing community as being together. Both are a blessing and much needed during General Conference. My roomie, Sara (check out her blog) and I already have a small following of guests who will be hanging out in our room where we are building community that strengthens our coalition.

i got it from my mom

I leave for General Conference 2016 (read this awesome Oregon Live article for more information) on Mother’s Day, today. When I had the actualization that those two things were on the same day, I decided to schedule our “Mother’s Day” on Saturday. My mom is really great about stuff like that, she just wants to spend time with me (and my sister).

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! I am lucky to have such an amazing mother who is so fantastic and so great about understanding why I do what I do. My mom is United Methodist, her mother was United Methodist, and her grandmother was a Methodist. Methodism runs deep in our blood, and how we approach and live out faith.

The mere fact that I’m United Methodist. I got it from my mom.
That I seek social justice in a broken world. I got it from my mom.
That I fight for the rights of women. I got it from my mom.
That I fight for reproductive health, choice, and justice issues for ALL women. I got it from my mom.
The fact that I am taking 2 weeks of my life to dedicate it to The United Methodist Church. I got it from my mom.
That I have a voice that I am willing to use to amplify others and justice. I got it from my mom.
That I know the grace of God. I got it from my mom.

My mom is a beloved reflection of God and I love her dearly. I wouldn’t be at this point in my life without her love and support, her compassion and strength. Happy Mother’s Day!

PS. Mom, not only did you get a card… you got a blog post this year! I love you.

living with tension, standing for justice

This post was originally written for the PNW News Blog.

We knew where the speaker was heading. Every word he spoke clearly led to one extremely specific topic. Each and every word we held, waiting on baited breath. From the words he used at previous rallies, it was clear that my youth group’s beliefs would be in conflict with this man’s words. Before entering the rally the group had had a conversation about what we should, and would, do. The speaker hit the topic hard and we all rose to our feet; we walked out of the room and others followed us.

This happened at CONVO 2003 (the PNW Conference’s annual youth convocation), the last I attended as a youth. The youth group I was with was from Vancouver First United Methodist Church; most of the group had been spirituality formed by a pastor who had come out several years earlier at Annual Conference. This pastor had shown us that belovedness knows no bounds and illuminated the injustice in our churches and our world. When this speaker spoke against inclusivity and the sacred worth of all, my youth group and others like us decided that we would live out of faith with our feet and walk out

My life is intrinsically bound with The United Methodist Church through the PNW Annual Conference. I am a daughter of this conference. No matter how hard I try, I am utterly and holistically a PNW United Methodist woman. The PNW Conference taught me that God loves me, God loves you, and God loves all of creation. We are all of sacred worth.

Because of this bond I have with the PNW, I am a committed United Methodist; a committed Christian seeking justice. Seeking the inclusion of the oppressed and at the same time, seeing myself as the oppressor. I have seen diverse opinions on human sexuality in the conference as a youth delegate to AC in the early 2000s to when I worked for the conference office years later. I have been at national UMC events where I have been in the minority wearing my rainbow ribbon with pride. I know we are divided on this issue in the national and global connection, I also know that we are still not of one mind in the PNW.

In many ways, the PNW is prophetic. We live with the tension of disagreement, but work towards seeing each other, to be relational and not put each other in boxes. Yet, this is a justice issue and God stands with justice. We must live into the hope, possibility, and promise of God’s justice. It’s our sacred duty as those who name themselves as Christian.

The church notoriously struggles with its prophetic voice. The world is caused to confront itself when the church speaks prophetically. As Christians, our case and point is Jesus, but before him were the foremothers and forefathers who paved the way for his fight for the Kin-dom of God here on earth, now, not later.

In Isaiah 58:6, it is written:

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?” 

This is our call to action from inaction. Inaction at its very core is taking the side of the oppressor. Core to our Methodist faith is a grace that overwhelms the world with God’s love.

Oppression is not of God and God does not stand with the oppressor. I cannot, we cannot, stand by as the Church while the world is oppressing our LGBTQ sisters and brothers. We must walk with, align ourselves, and become co-conspirators amplifying God’s message of justice. We have this chance during General Conference to agitate and challenge the church to live into grace, into the message of the Kin-dom taught to us by Jesus. I pray that we are up to the challenge and I will be there, co-conspiring to facilitate and create justice in The United Methodist Church.