i’ve been complicit & it’s past time to turn the table the patriarchy built

I write this post not to absolve myself of the sins I have made against God’s beloved children by not being in radical solidary to everyone pushed to the margins by the patriarchy. I write this post to confess my sins and to encourage others like myself (white, straight, middle class cisgender) to start this painful, humbling process of self-examination. I am still learning and hope that people continue to lovingly educate and provide feedback as I move forward to the person that God has called me to be.

When I was in elementary school one of the ways we learned the multiplication tables was by speed tests. We did these individually and by the game inaptly called “around the world.” This game consisted of everyone sitting in a small circle while one person would stand, the teacher would say 3×4, the person who answered correctly (12) would win and move to the next person. If you got around the “world” you would win a Jolly Rancher.

As a white cisgender girl, I excelled at this game. I bounded around the circle leaving all in my wake. No thought to why we were learning by competition, but did noticed the boys in the circle annoyed with how well I was doing as a girl.

In college, I took a course on ethnomathematics and how math is taught and learned that this method was built around the success of white cisgender men and how they learned. I studied how gender impacted math education, then I further studied how race did. Competition being the root of learning the multiplication tables to how we learn higher level mathematics without knowing the big picture first, giving a group of white boys the means to succeed more than the rest of us. I noticed who was in my high-level mathematics courses in college, we were mostly white and the woman who were my peers had fathers who were engineers and had taken the time with their daughter’s education.

What would it have looked like if my teachers had taught the multiplication tables differently, not an on the spot competition, but embracing that not everyone can spit out 12 as quickly and that it created an unhealthy space? I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had just been a little slower so a shy or quiet peer could have had a better chance for that Jolly Rancher. We were fighting over one spot for a prize, the being set apart, when we could have been collectively learning together.

Mathematics was the entry point to opening my eyes to privilege and understanding how I could move within those systems both knowingly and unknowingly. I have been complicit.

Studying something, learning something, is no use unless you apply and live it. I confess that I have not understood the weight of my college learnings until recently. I believe that sin is not living up to one’s full potential, and I have not been living that way.

In understanding how to game the system, I have forgotten the spaces I try to be is not the table of Jesus, it’s the table that the patriarchy built with limited seating and only a few spots for people who do not fit the mold. The table that the patriarchy built is not the full breath of humanity and was intentionally composed to limit all God’s beloved from breaking bread together (as we fight for that one Jolly Rancher instead). It has pitted those who do not fit the patriarchal model against each other. It comes up in siloed systems where justice seekers are not intersectional and working together for our collective liberation.

I have been sinfully slow in realizing that I have wasted too many decades attempting to get a seat at the wrong table when the table that Jesus set for us is open to all. I have not been expansive enough regarding gender, I have not educated myself enough on racism and poverty, and I have siloed myself. As hard as I thought I was fighting the patriarchy, I was doing so from the lens of a straight, white cisgender woman embedded in a system rooted in scarcity when God has taught us there is more than enough. The patriarchy preaches the falsehood of not enough space at the table when Jesus lived abundance and multiplied the loaves and fishes.

Recently, I have been examining myself and what is next for myself in ministry and have been heartbroken with how my United Methodist Church has been. It has been glaring to me that as I have started to re-engage with church activism that I have been fighting to get to the wrong table. Last week I attended a webinar on radical solidarity and found myself in tears realizing that I have caused harm. Saying I’m sorry will never be enough, I needed to recalibrate my course, my actions, my words, and where I invest my energy. As my wise friend, Will (Ed) Green said a few days ago, “Christ has set the table already for us.” That’s the table I yearn to be at.

Our Movement Forward Summit in Minneapolis was a venue to create and encourage dialogue centered on PoC+Q+T voices this past weekend. It allowed space for a white straight cisgender woman to sit and learn, to be in awe of all the collective wisdom from our speakers and those who shared, and to see the table that Jesus has already set for us. We were reminded of the Audre Lorde quote of “[the] master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” It’s time to do what Jesus called us to do, to break every yoke and to turn the table the patriarchy built. UM-Forward is doing just this, turning towards Jesus’ table that has room for us all to not just be together, but to be in radical solidarity together.

Most of all, Our Movement Forward Summit and UM-Forward has woken me up to my complicity and reminded me of my calling to be rooted in social justice that is fueled by grace to be an ally, advocate, and agitator who walks with others as they recognize and grasp their God-given agency. (Even as I type this, I realize it’s time to reflect and rework my framing. Discernment is for life.)

I do know this in the core of my being, I am done with tables composed of the same players by the master’s tools where space is only created by open letters or Twitter outrage. I am done with spaces where PoC+Q+T voices are not centered because when they are we enter the holy ground where the Spirit dances in delight. I am done with the excuse that clergy can only be the primary leaders ignoring the knowledge and wisdom of laity who live their faith outside church walls. I am done with theological institutions preaching scarcity and not living abundant life.

Justice is not quick, hearts and minds changing is painful and necessary, yet I remain committed to this process and the work needed. The table the patriarchy build is heavy to turn and we have many strong, capable hands ready to turn it. It’s time. Come join us, there is room for you, and we will delight that you are with us in embracing abundance.

first #deaconessing confession: i almost didn’t get commissioned

On May 18th I was consecrated into the Order of Deaconess & Home Missioner of The United Methodist Church at the United Methodist Women’s Assembly in Columbus, OH. It was a joyous service that took place during opening worship where there were women on stilts with streamers, a sea of 6,000 United Methodist Women worshiping God, and in the crowd where my parents who had flown in from Seattle and two of my very best friends. My friends streamed the service from D.C. to Arizona to Seattle and even up in Alaska. It was a big deal. After 9 years of discernment in the church that I love, I found a home as Bishop Gregory V. Palmer laid his hands upon my head praying, “Irene DeMaris, I consecrate you to a lifetime of Jesus-like service under the authority of the church.”

I walked off that stage as a proud United Methodist Deaconess committed to a lifetime of love, justice, and service. It further strengthened my calling to bring forth the Kin-dom of God in the here and now in the world and within my chosen denomination.

The next step for a newly minted Deaconess or Home Missioner is to be commissioned by the bishop in the conference we live in. Most people are not aware of my Order, so just getting commissioned can be difficult, but my good friend and fellow Foundry United Methodist member, T.C. Morrow was on it with a call and a few emails to conference staff. I knew my commissioning was going to be hard as soon as they told me it was going to be during the Service of Ordination & Commissioning, since I was aware of the grumblings surrounding two of the clergy candidates up for a vote for commissioning and full-connection due to the fact they are in loving, stable marriages (as LGBTQIA+ folks). Even harder still is in my limited time in D.C., T.C. and her wife have become a good friends who have supported my calling, shown me grace, and made sure in all this mess my becoming a deaconess did not get lost in the shuffle.

How does one hold the tension of embracing her own calling while holding sorrow that those equally called are being denied? That’s how I entered annual conference as a friend and as a white cisgender straight woman who will never be discriminated over who I love.

The Board of Ordained Ministry had deemed T.C. and another friend fit for ministry, embracing their time, talent, skills, graces, and gifts for the work they are called to do. Then the bishop chose to uphold the Book of Discipline laws that deny full inclusion for those who are called to ordained ministry. Not following an unjust law is not unprecedented. I was livid and the atmosphere of the annual conference shifted to one of deep lament. One doesn’t need to spend more than a few minutes with either individual to know they are called by the grace of God for ordained ministry.

On Thursday at 11am I found myself in the hallway sobbing and unknowing if I could be commissioned at the 7pm service that day. I knew I would be face-to-face with the person whose actions the day before did further harm to my fellow siblings in Christ. I do not think that my bishop is a bad person, or isn’t in her heart of hearts progressive. She may have been backed into a corner, but I’m not here today making excuses for a bishop. I will say this. We talked about being one under the cross all week and not enough about why. Jesus spoke truth to power and laid it all on the line; we are not called to easy lives as followers of Jesus and sometimes we have to make risks. A prophetic voice was yearned for and it was denied. We were not one at the cross.

I made a few phone calls to see if I actually had to be commissioned. I technically did not. I knew bulletins weren’t being widely distributed, people didn’t really know me since I am new to the conference, and I was terrified something would come out of my mouth to the bishop and I would lose my job.

Between my good friend who sat with me, a phone call with the Executives at my Order, and messaging with another deaconess, I realized, this was something I needed to do. The liturgy mentioned Foundry and my faith community deserved some joy this year after two years of sorrow at annual conference. I needed my annual conference to know who I was and who I belonged to so that I could be more effective in ministry. I needed my bishop to know that in spite of the Spirit being denied, I would not let an unjust rule of law impact my calling.

Before the service I took a short nap and spent time in prayer lamenting the church I choose to stay in. I prayed that the Holy Spirit would guide me through it all.

She works in magnificent ways. As I hugged T.C. before the service I knew deep in my soul that this was the right thing. Then as I processed with my two friends who were representing Foundry United Methodist Church and my place of ministry, Wesley Theology Seminary, among a very different sea of people than in Columbus, the Spirit took over.

Joy was found in finding pink heeled footing in the questions Bishop LaTrelle Miller Easterling asked me. When she asked the first question, “Do you sincerely believe that you have been led by the Spirit of God to engage in this work and to assume its responsibilities?” I was able to find my voice and say “I do” from deep in my soul.

The moment was mine and the Holy Spirit worked through Bishop Easterling as I faced my new annual conference, I finally felt at home. I would see the group from Foundry to my left and that’s what mattered to me. Did I preemptively leave the stage and then bounce back in my heels? Yes. Did I ham it up? Yes. The Spirit needed joy and I was happy to oblige.

For a moment such as this, I found strength and hope in the Spirit and as God is my witness, the Spirit was working in my bishop. Can we be angry? Yes. Can we be hurt? Yes. But the Spirit abounds in grace. Grace that lives through us all. I hear that people are attacking our bishop and saying cruel things, that’s not what God wants. That is not the work of Jesus, that is what divides us at the cross.

The work is long and difficult, but the Kin-dom of God is worth it. Mourn, cry, lament, throw a cheap pair of heels. When you are ready, the movement for justice will be ready for you and it will be open wide for Bishop Easterling because I saw God in her and I know that she wants the Kin-dom as badly as I do.

guest post: i signed because i am passionate about the future of this church

Last week we got the news that the executive committee of the Council of Bishops has identified 29 nominees to the special commission on A Way Forward but that only 8 of them, a piddly 28%, are lay persons. As a response to that news, I joined with other lay colleagues to launch and sign an open letter calling out this lack of lay representation on the commission and expressing the need for more laity.

Many people had expected that this commission would be made up of approximately 50% laity and 50% clergy. I, on the other hand, find our preoccupation with such a 50/50 split to be intriguing. Historically, it derives from our origins of annual conference and general conference representation being made up exclusively of clergy. I take note of these historical details in order to provide some perspective. We have this history because clergy are members first of the annual conferences (and annual conferences are represented at general conferences) and laity are members first of local churches, and along our historical way it was recognized that we needed to have laity representation in our top decision-making bodies in part in order to make good decisions. Because the church is ultimately made up of laity, and laity have a vested interest in what happens to and within the church.

In terms of this special commission, however, there is no special rationale for why we need to have a 50/50 split. On the contrary, The United Methodist Church is made up of >99% laity. There is no particular justification for bishops and other clergy getting equal representation to laity on this body, way out of proportion to their composition of the membership of the UMC.

With that said, I’m no proponent of proportional representation by membership, which in my experience is a politically-motivated idea, but it is worth noting that laity make up >99% of the membership of The UMC in order to get some perspective on just how ludicrous it is to stack this commission with over 70% bishops and other clergy, thereby squelching the voices of the laity.

Bishops and other clergy may feel that they spend their days steeped in the church and thus have a tremendous stake in its future, whereas laity can come and go, from one church and denominational affiliation to another, or even to no church at all. I, however, am a home missioner, part of the deaconess and home missioner community, and we have committed our lives to ministries with marginalized communities in settings largely outside the local church but always maintaining a relationship with the church. This experience of being in ministry in non-local church settings–for me, that has meant nonprofit settings–often in contexts where we are surrounded by people who are not active members of local churches, if they are members of a church at all, gives us particular perspectives. Specifically, it gives me a lot of time to think about what it means for the church to try to be relevant to the world of people outside the church, most of whom think the church is irrelevant to the world today and that the church utterly lacks credibility due to scandals and hypocrisy. Focusing in on such matters is critical to the church’s existence and purpose and critical to the church’s future.

By not spending the overwhelming amount of our time within local church settings, many laity come to gain perspective on such matters that can often be different from that of clergy, and especially different from that of bishops.

We stack the commission with bishops and clergy, giving laity an almost token minority position, to our peril.

So, to the topic of why did I sign the laity open letter? I signed because I am passionate about the future of this church. I am passionate about the church’s relevance and credibility. I am passionate about the importance of the voice and perspective of laity in church decision-making in order to make good decisions as we look toward crafting a path toward the future of The UMC.

And I also signed because I am passionate about how we live out Christ’s ministry to the marginalized. How we live out Christ’s message of God’s character being one of love, justice and compassion and how we are called to be likewise. I am passionate about the grave harm done to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual children of God at the hands of the church. I find this grave harm to be unconscionable, and I recognize that Christ would view it as a grave sin and he would have a blistering message to the church today over it, like he did with the Pharisees in his own day.

Stacking the commission with individuals vested in the institution of the church, rather than with people passionate about the church as an expression of seeking to follow Jesus’ message about God’s character and live out his example, is a recipe for bad decision-making. This commission needs people willing to take risks, not people invested in protecting the church’s assets.

It is my hope that more lay voices would provide balance in perspective, helping us to best take advantage of the wisdom of our ordained church leaders while also protecting against institutionalism. It is my hope that more lay voices would lead to more willingness to take risks to follow God’s will wherever it may lead, keeping an eye on a certain degree of protecting the institution of the church from those who would do it harm, but not substituting the institution of the church for God.

Click here to sign the letter today!

Kevin M. Nelson is a home missioner and activist who works to use his white, male privilege for righteous insurrection against unjust power structures that serve to marginalize other individuals and communities.

guest post: why i signed the open laity letter

We have heard Jesus say – to all persons without exception – “follow me.” Yet the Commission on Homosexuality says otherwise. When the numbers came out of the representation of the Commission on Homosexuality, I was absolutely horrified knowing that the 3 categories I represent were disproportionally unrepresented (laity, young people, and LGBTQIA people).

Laity are the building blocks and the glue that stick the church together. Laity are the ones you see helping on Sunday morning at church with everything from coffee hour, being a greeter and usher and, speaking the litany and scripture during the service. Yet, that’s not all laity do; they also help with service projects both near and far. Laity like us have been at the disaster sites of Hurricane Matthew from the start and will be the last people to leave. Laity are ordinary people doing extraordinary things both inside and outside church walls.

Time and time again I hear that the young people are the future of the church. Well I hate to burst your bubble we (as a young person of the church) are the now of the church. If we aren’t involved now in the church, or don’t feel like we have a place in the church because we are looked down upon for being young we aren’t going to stay in the church. This quote from the 2008 GC Proclamation says what I have seen with my peers “The young notice. They notice the church denying, refusing, threatening, removing, closeting the lgbtq people who faithfully serve the church.” The young notice their peers and friends leaving the church because of lack of acceptance of their queer siblings and because of the failure to recognize the young people as the now of the church instead of being just thought about the future of the church.

Queer people are in our churches and have been from in them from the beginning whether you realized it or not. At General Conference this year a list of called out clergy was released by Reconciling Ministries of 111 clergy, and candidates for ordained ministry the list is now up to 141 clergy. As a queer person myself (I identify as non-binary and use they/them/their pronouns) I know we have people willing and wanting to be on the commission of homosexuality which in reality is really a committee on debating the human worth of the LGBTIA community both inside and outside the church. Yet, queer people need to be on the commission in order to show people on all theological spectrums that we want to be in this church and we need the church just as much as you, and we can create a common good together.

The United Methodist baptismal liturgy calls all of us to accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. It is our duty – our baptismal covenant – to stand against the sin of the church, to stand for God’s freedom and power, to affirm God’s entire body of Christ that is the church.

2008 GC Proclamation by Audrey Krumbach and Rev. David Meredith

By signing this letter for an equal representation of laity on the commission of homosexuality you are just doing that. Will you join those who have signed and create a powerful impact by saying we are laity and we are here and we are not giving up our position in our United Methodist Church? Click here, sign, and join us.

About Reclaiming’s first guest bloggerAaron Pazan resides in the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, where they are highly involved in the Conference and Episcopal Area. They are a senior at Central Washington University majoring in recreation management and minoring in religious studies. In their free time they enjoy hanging out with friends, running, writing, photography, and reading about the emergent church.

Photo is from izquotes.com.

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.