Losing My Religion

I was raised in the United Methodist Church. Really raised. Church every Sunday (Sunday School and worship service) – if I feigned sickness I wasn’t allowed to leave my bed. No books, no radio. Wednesday fellowship, meals and more teachings. Youth Group, trips to the beach, sleepovers at the church, and more teachings. Youth Choir – singing praises and more teachings. Ice Cream Socials – lots of amazing homemade ice cream and more teachings.

Most of my neighbors attended our church, so gatherings blurred  – were they social or were they church? Did it matter? Almost every day I was with my church community. And my memories of growing up in the United Methodist Church were ones of tolerance and social conscience raising – volunteering on building trips after natural disasters, serving in soup kitchens, helpful our fellow people. We even allowed women in the clergy! The other churches in town didn’t.

Church became less and less of my life the older I got. I finally found a church in San Francisco that I felt at home in – Glide, which happened to be Methodist, but it put people before the doctrine. Everyone, I mean *everyone*, is welcome at Glide. It doesn’t even matter if you’re Christian. Love is love is love. I loved the Sunday celebrations, full of music and praise and joy and vulnerability. Even though I’m not living there anymore, I still stream the Sunday celebrations.

I’m sure if adult me were to visit child me, I would see the prejudice and discrimination that I’m sure were there in my childhood church community, but which were invisible to child me. That prejudice and discrimination hit me full force this week.

On Tuesday, the United Methodist Church voted to reinforce its decision that gay and lesbian clergy are not welcome in the church, and the church will not recognize same-sex marriages. My first thought when I heard that this was on the conference agenda was, “Seriously? This is 2019.” My second thought was that they would probably come to some sort of watered down compromise, much like the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” doctrine of the 1990s and early 2000s. I wasn’t prepared for what was shared. The vote was 53 to 47. That’s incredible in a jaw-dropping, mind-blowing way. 53% of the representatives of the church do not want to recognize the civil rights that every person is entitled to.

I’m heartened by the churches in the 47% saying they will break away, they will form a new denomination. There’s no place for this type of institutionalized discrimination in any organization. It’s 2019. It’s time.

Let’s Recognize Love

I’m in Washington, DC this week for work. My teammates and I walked through the city this evening, passing by the Capitol, listening as the symphony played out front, timpani drums booming. We walked further and found ourselves gazing at the  Supreme Court. I walked up the numerous steps to the massive door of the Supreme Court, reliefs etched into panels. I stared upwards at the huge columns. I touched the elaborate carved marble and felt shivers on my arms. This was where so many important decisions had been made. Brown vs Board of Education. Loving vs Virginia. Roe vs Wade. United States vs Windsor. Obergefell vs Hodges. Laws that guaranteed civil rights to all people, not just the ones who had previously accessed such rights to education, marriage, health decisions. I walked away as the moon rose feeling hope that, yes, our government is (eventually) a force for good.

As we turned to head towards Union Station, we passed the United Methodist Building. I identify as a Methodist. It’s been a part of my identity since I was five and my family moved to Rural Hall, NC. I’ve had periods throughout my life where I struggled with my faith, wondered if there was a capital G God, and preferred to sleep in on Sundays rather than attend worship service. But for the most part I value my Methodist upbringing. It’s one of inclusion and tolerance, mostly.

As we passed the building, I noticed the marquee had a phrase on it. I like to read church marquees; they often are a source of clever puns. This is what I read:

“Let Us Not Tire of Preaching Love”

And I was angry. Really angry. How about we recognize love instead? And not discipline clergy who perform same-sex marriages or clergy who are in same-sex relationships? It’s up for discussion in committee, but does it really need to be discussed? We say that all persons are of sacred worth. We say that we believe in grace.

Let’s believe in love in all forms. Let’s not just preach about it.

We can do better.

Let us not tire of preaching love

Let’s recognize love instead