From Complacent Bystander to True Ally

I’ve always considered myself a progressive, a liberal, someone who has the needs of others at heart.  After a week at General Conference working with Love Prevails and witnessing committee work, dynamics in the hallways, and learning the code of church politics, I find myself asking for forgiveness.

Since seminary and ordination 20 years ago I have done little to nothing to make a difference in the lives LGBTQ people.  I have quietly thought good thoughts.  I have carefully said well intended words in safe audiences.  I mailed a box of cookies to a friend.  I invited someone to dinner.  But I have not bothered to witness the harm being caused by our church.  I have not spoken truth to power.  I have not risked anything.

And I am sorry.  I am ashamed.  I have allowed damage to be done and I have averted my gaze.  I have considered myself an ally, but in truth, I’ve been a complacent bystander.

I was challenged to attend General Conference to witness what happens to those marginalized by the church.  I wasn’t sure what that meant.  And I really would have felt more comfortable with an assigned role.  But I learned that witnesses are vitally important.  You can’t really believe how awful it is until you see it for yourself.  My seminary friend, Sue Laurie, told me that people often don’t believe the full extent of the stories she tells.  It helps to have a cloud of witnesses who have also seen, heard, and felt.

My witness and my apology mean nothing if I continue to speak safely and quietly.  They mean nothing if I don’t work to make a difference in my local church, my community, my annual conference and beyond.  There must be substantive action.  There must be risk.

So I call out to my friends who would claim the terms progressive or liberal.  We have abandoned our LGBTQ friends.  Our silence has been betrayal.  Our calm has caused damage.  Our theology means nothing without word and action.

13177288_10154167598222603_1725590365421272884_nHave you witnessed the carnage at our General Conference?  Lord have mercy!  Even the stones should be crying out.  So why aren’t we?

Several people offered me bail money before I left.  For better or worse, there were no actions while I was there that would have made me need it.  However, others will need bail money this week.  Soon, in fact.  Send it to https://loveprevailsumc.com/donate/
Send a lot.

But there has to be more than money, we must be moved to word and deed.  We must follow the example of Jesus Christ and speak truth to authority, work always for justice, and effect change in the world.  God is calling you in this moment to show up.   What will you risk?

Rev. Cathy Weigand

 

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One thought on “From Complacent Bystander to True Ally

  1. At a district meeting of laity and clergy preparing for the North Georgia Annual Conference to be held June 7-9, 2016, the group heard a discussion of the General Conference which our DS had attended. The discussion, led by a youth delegate from our conference to GC, centered on how closely the Southeast and South Central jurisdictions had worked with the Central Conference delegates from Africa. Having followed the proceedings of GC as closely as possible on the Internet, I knew that the African delegates had adamantly opposed with little or no discussion any measure intended to lighten the strictures in the BoD against LGBT ordination and marriage. Knowing this, I asked the GC delegates if they thought the Bishops’ Commission would address the stark differences between the African delegates’ environment and that in the US, especially the statutory and governance ones. I indicated that homosexuality was illegal in many African countries and punishable by death in some. I noted that in the US, homosexuality is protected by our laws and that gay marriage is the law of the land. I noted that I thought the Commission would have to address these stark differences. My implication was that the alliance between the Southeast and South Central Jurisdictions and the Central Conference created a huge roadblock to ever resolving the questions about human sexuality. The response from the speaker was that the Commission would address this difference. The response from the room was what I considered shocked silence that a lay delegate to our Annual Conference would express such language. This was my small way of speaking out, and it cost me a great deal in terms of acceptance in this group. It may also cost my wife who is a part-time local pastor and who was present at the meeting. But whatever the cost, I will no longer remain silent about issues of LGBT inclusion.

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