by Rev. Dr. Julie Todd
January 18, 2016
I approached the Council of Bishops’ call to days of prayer for and until the United Methodist General Conference in May with a certain amount of cynicism, as anyone reading these thoughts can probably understand. But the process of putting myself on my knees immediately checks, and occasionally eliminates, some of the negativity that is borne of primarily personal experience, and not borne of the possibilities of God.
When I turn my prayer attention to the task of witnessing to the United Methodist General Conference, I usually start crying. There is so much pain in past witnesses to the general church, and the multitude of other efforts I have been involved with in the local church, seminary, and my annual conference. There is the weight of the hard-heartedness, the grief over how truly horrible the institutional church is, my anger at the cowardice of people to take prophetic moral action, the piercing sadness of so much suffering of folks that I love. Queer folk who have pretty much had it with this business. And not just LGBTQ folks. All kinds of people who have suffered and struggled in this denomination of ours. But who have persevered in various forms and fashions. So many are gone, of their choosing, because they were forced out, and because they died. I feel them all with me at these times.
Today is the day I leave for Portland, Oregon with Love Prevails for some organizing for GC16 and to attend the official denominational pre-GC briefing. Love Prevails will continue its campaign to #Disclose #Divest and #Disrupt until the officially coded, categorically-discriminating, anti-LGBTQ policies and practices of the denomination are removed from our United Methodist Book of Discipline.
Today is also happens to be the day that my conference is on the schedule for this denomination-wide prayer effort. For the sake of it, I took advantage of the resource my conference provided. I got on my knees. I cried. I prayed aloud. With great love, I remembered and spoke aloud the names of the delegates from my annual conference, some of whom are the simply the finest United Methodists and human beings that I know.
Here I reconstruct some of that prayerful sentiment, and offer it to you sincerely as my prayer for today as Love Prevails heads to Portland.
may Jesus guide me
to that mystery that is the Incarnation;
Equal Parts divine & human.
How can I approach him,
approach the balance of those parts of him,
to be fully myself and fully in you
as I come to this day and to this work?
Help me to be like Jesus
equal Parts human & divine;
knowing that even in him
the balance was sometimes found
walking between extremes:
part temple-table-flipper, part one who withdrew to pray;
part passion, part surrender;
part condemner of viper’s brood, part lover of neighbor as self;
part woe & part mercy;
part anguished lament & part peace that passes all understanding.
Help my unbelief.
Help me to believe in the unbelievable parts:
trees that clap their hands;
lions that lie down with lambs;
weapons that become tools of cultivation & freedom;
sons & daughters prophesying;
young & old declaring visions.
May all that which seems impossible come to be at General Conference in May.
Help me to see & believe in something beautiful
that may come of all of this.
Parts & hopes unseen.
Help me not to despair in worship & speech that is false
neither others’ nor my own undeniable Part in hypocrisy.
Let my speaking & acting, protesting & praying
indicate Parts of your spirit and truth.
Help me to be grateful,
for your love from which I have never been aPart;
for this church that has shaped me & failed me
for the movement that has raised me & disappoints me
both of which have been my faithful homes.
Help me to love myself and these my people
in whole, not in Part.
Help me never to give up my Part in the struggle for justice
for those who suffer most in this world. Amen.