We ARE they

When I was in seminary, I was taught in my theology classes that you had to pay close attention to prepositions. You know, those (often) small words that express relation (like “in, under, towards, before”), or various roles of phrases (“of, for, with, to”).

In that light, I want to also suggest that pronouns matter, maybe even more here at General Conference.

In several settings this week, I have heard people use the phrase, “they are saying…”, or “they are doing…”.

In truth, “they” is really “we.” If WE are a family, a United Methodist family, aren’t we all one? How quickly “we” fall in to the divisive language of us/them, we/they.

I have a friend who is a retired United Methodist clergy. For years, Jim has delighted in complaining about the actions and inactions of his annual conference. “They don’t know what they’re doing,” he would often say.

To which I would reply, “But Jim, you ARE they! You’re a clergy member of the conference. You ARE they.”

For these two weeks in Portland, Oregon, United Methodists are gathering in a huge community. This is generally a time of forward-looking hope. But this morning, my heart broke as a member of the BWC delegation stood before me in tears.

She had taken to heart all the sniping and griping, belittling and behaving. She was downhearted as the people around her demonstrated by their behavior their answer of “no” to the question, “Will they know we are Christians by our love, by our love?”

Here at the Oregon Convention Center, there’s a person walking around outside the building wearing one of those advertising sandwich boards, which simply reads, “Love Means All.” I’m told that at one point yesterday, two white men, both delegates, approached the message bearer and proceeded to taunt him, asking him if that love would extend to animals, to insects. Love of all, love of LGBTQ people, their actions showed, was a joke.

That’s partly why this member of my delegation was in tears this morning. The harsh, divisive, disrespectful treatment that is unfolding among people who seem certain about the will of God is doing more to destroy our church than anything else. Bishop Gregory V. Palmer, in the episcopal address, spoke eloquently about this. He called on us to recognize each other as beloved children of God.

And yet, it is so easy to complain, to judge, and ultimately to sit back and do nothing. Fine; that is your right and your privilege. But until we find a way to become truly “we,” instead of the current “we = us/them,” then WE (as in ALL of us) are in trouble.

Unless we find a way to be church, this morning’s tears won’t be the last. 

Sign up for our newsletter!

umnews-subscriptions
General Conference
Bishop Kenneth H. Carter speaks during an oral hearing before the United Methodist Judicial Council meeting in Evanston, Ill. Carter is president of the denomination's Council of Bishops. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.

Church exit plan already in effect, court says

But the United Methodist Judicial Council has no ruling on Traditional Plan questions from bishops.
General Conference
Bishop Kenneth H. Carter, president of the Council of Bishops, discusses his ideas for the interim time as the church works toward its future. He proposes a moratorium on the complaint process related to LGBTQ infractions alongside a loosening of the trust clause. Video image courtesy of UM News.

Bishop suggests hold on trials, trust clause

The Council of Bishops president proposes coupling a pause in church trials related to LGBTQ restrictions and a relaxation of the denomination’s trust clause.
General Church
United Methodist Judicial Council member Warren Plowden (left) asks a question about the investigation of improper voting during the 2019 United Methodist General Conference. He was questioning Bishop Kenneth H. Carter, president of the denomination's Council of Bishops, and William Waddell, the council's legal advisor, during an oral hearing at the Judicial Council meeting in Evanston, Ill. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.

Top court raises questions at lively oral hearing

Judicial Council members wonder about authority, lack of documentation over ruling request on improper voting.