A Request for Your Consideration

The following blog post is written by Love Prevails member, Alison Wisneski, in response to a recent tweet after the pre-General Conference meeting. The tweet referenced below suggested that the UMC boards and staffs of IRD, Good News Magazine, Reconciling Ministries Network, and Love Prevails take a mission trip together.

image1Sometimes I see fellow Tweeters and, through following their hashtags that led me to their page in the first place, find out that we like many of the same things. I get excited and I want to follow them so we can share in things other than agreement that the United Methodist Church’s harm toward LGBTQ+ peoples needs to change or we will watch our church crumble to the ground.

This is not one of those situations.

When I am told by straight white men (which is unfortunately too often) that I need to take a deep breath, pause, and then intentionally put myself in harm’s way for the sake of their and other’s comfortability, I cannot agree with them (even if we both get excited at listening to the same music and love the same Netflix hits). It opens up topic for a conversation that, though I am sick of having, I will have until I am blue in the face. Ask me what I need. Stop telling me.

I am flooded with the words of so many who spoke of oppressors before me. Of Martin Luther King, Jr., who shared in the Letter from Birmingham Jail that direct action is the means to the end of negotiation where an oppressed people are heard. Of bell hooks, who says that domination is successful when an oppressor decides in order to love me, they must make me something else. Of Albert Memmi in The Colonizer and the Colonized, who says that when there is no justification for hatred from an oppressor, the oppressed have no choice but to revolt; to break the condition.

I have been called names by people who work for Good News Magazine and The IRD. I have no interest in spending time on a “mission trip” (which, I apologize, is problematic in its own right – as a justice-seeking space and church, maybe we find new language and ways to travel with our youth that are not focused on going in to help the people we deem need help, no?) with people who do not seek for me to have a life within my beloved church. The hateful words in Good News Magazine, which used to be delivered to my office door for distribution, made me feel like I was choking. Like I was buried under an oppressive Church that did not want me to thrive, it wanted me to suffocate and wither to nothing.

I do not live in a place of safety within the United Methodist Church. Currently, I am bound to a book that says my body is useful for the head count at the door but I had better not stand at that pulpit, the faggot that I am, and preach the words of Wesley and Jesus who may have struggled with my identity but would have no doubt let me have a seat with them at the table because they were a people who spoke of forgiveness – oh, no – my body can be counted but it cannot be recognized for what it is. It is strong, ravished by a bone disease that should have stopped me from walking in my teen years but worked through immense physical pain and suffering to get to a point of safety; it is wise, the first of its family to go to college and graduate school and now teach at the college level, moving its way up from homelessness to home ownership; but by in large it is queer, it so fiercely loves a woman who has coincided in the heart that beats in its chest for so long it feels like it has been in love with her since its formation…this body will not be recognized. Just counted in the pew as it sits silently, waiting for pastors and lay people and fellow good-hearted Christian folks who tell it to wait for the right time, to keep its voice down, to have conversation with those who oppress it.

No.

I will not swing a hammer and share in meals and have silly car-ride singalongs with those who want to stifle who I am for the sake of being a hollow shell to fill the space of a dying church.

I will not do something to make you more comfortable when it comes to my distaste for being called a radical sexual liberationist activist (which was fabulous, by the way, when we chose to co-opt it for our own t-shirts and not allow anyone to claim it but ourselves, a decision we are allowed to make as the holders of the name).

I will not be your hollow body to shove full of your ideas of what is the right thing to do before General Conference.

I will not go inside of your church walls, no matter how reconciled the are, to guest preach about my ideas that mean absolutely nothing in a space that so blatantly disallows me to have power.

I’ll be swinging my own metaphorical hammers beside those who seek immediate change. We seek it with our words, through song, through letters like this, through conversation with those who are actually open to hear my words and not fight with me over Twitter like I’m not a real person. I will hold hands with my fellow queers and those who truly seek to see people like me and those I love have power that we so deserve in the United Methodist Church and not with those who will wash it afterward, hoping to get the gay off.

Let this be a request to all of those who want to include themselves in the LGBTQ-inclusivity conversation within the United Methodist Church, or even involve themselves in communities that are marginalized to which they do not belong: do not make suggestions for me. Ask me what I need next time. And before you respond, listen. Don’t say a word. Hear the words I say, listen to my pleas. Because had you asked me what I needed from groups that so openly hate me for my body and everything inside of it, you would know that I sure as hell don’t need to waste my time with those who seek nothing but death for me and my family.

Love peace, promote justice: A request for support

Note: The following is a letter from Rev. Jim Todd, Rev. Dr. Julie Todd’s father. The letter has been used to raise funds for Love Prevails in New England, but the LP team believes it is powerful enough to be shared across all forms of media. Enjoy this beautiful expression of inclusion, and if you are financially able to end your year with a gift to Love Prevails, please do so here.
Thank you, Jim.

December 2014

Dear pastors and members of reconciling congregations:
My daughter, Julie, has committed many years of her life making sure the doors of the United Methodist Church are open to LGBTQ people.  I do not understand, in this day and age, the United Methodist Bishops, pastors and lay people who refuse to fully open the doors and welcome “ALL” into the community of faith, including pastoral appointments.  The UMC, as we know it, is becoming increasingly irrelevant as a backward, punitive and judgmental organization.

For the last couple of years Julie has worked closely with Amy DeLong (both UM clergy) to right the wrongs and fully open the doors of our denomination.  During these years, they have “showed up” when the Bishops and the Connectional Table meet to promote their agenda of truly “open doors” Their organization, “Love Prevails” – www.loveprevailsumc.com  – and their Facebook page tell the story.

At a recent gathering of the Bishops and Connectional Table in Oklahoma City, Love Prevails members were constantly harassed by United Methodist staff.  They were seen as troublemakers and locked out of meetings.  Police and hotel security were called by church leadership for no good reasons.

I am embarrassed and angry that our denomination has treated Love Prevails members the way they have.  The Bishops do little or nothing to open the doors because they claim they “need to keep unity and serve the whole church.”  Is this the same reasoning our denomination used when people of color and women were denied full rights?

Mary and I regularly provide financial support for Love Prevails and their efforts to open the doors of the UMC for full inclusion (including ordination) of LGTBQ people.  For 40 years they have been left out of full participation. How can we, as Christians, accept this United Methodist policy and foot-dragging?  This restrictive policy can be changed only every four years.  I strongly believe if Jesus were to attend the 2016 General Conference in Portland, OR, he would support such a change.

So why am I sharing all this with pastors and reconciling congregations?  I am inviting you to financially support Love Prevails and their prophetic stand.  It is not only because of Julie’s involvement, but that is a motivating factor, for sure.  It is because you can help Love Prevails “show up” and make a difference.  You can make a tax deductible donations toward a $9,000 matching grant.  Kairos CoMotion (www.Kairoscomotion.org), is the 501(c)3 financial sponsor of Love Prevails. Mail your contribution  c/o Margaret Talcott, Treasurer, PO Box 45234, Madison, WI 53744, or go to their website and contribute through PayPal.

I hope you will seriously consider joining me with your own financial contribution to help the UMC become a more inclusive church where ALL people are valued.

Love peace.  Promote Justice,
Rev. Jim Todd (jimtodd75@verizon.net)

Letter to General Council on Finance and Administration

Dear General Council on Finance and Administration,

We received with joy word of your October 21, 2013 decision to extend benefits to “same-sex spouses” and “civil spouses.” We rejoice that the restraining effect of ¶ 806.9 in the 2012 Book of Discipline finally met real life with recent state and federal decisions regarding marriage and the reality of shifts in employment practices.

For our agencies to provide the best possible support for ministries of the United Methodist Church, from local congregations to international mission, they need to hire and support those gifted and called for particular ministry needs. These people are single and they are partnered. Those who are partnered will be in a range of relationships. When formal commitments are made and yet benefits are restricted, we not only limit the pool of the best possible employees, we diminish our witness to the inclusive love of the gospel of Christ by revealing categorical discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer people within the life of our church.

Thank you for caring for the life of the General Agencies and the lives of LGBTQ people through an extension of partner benefits.
At the same time, the restraining effects of discriminatory legislation are ongoing, affecting the lives of individuals, families, congregations, and the very mission of our church to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Now that you have disclosed your assessment of the organizational needs of the church, we point to a need for additional disclosure about how the financial restrictions based on the notion of “incompatibility” impact other resources and the vitality of our ministries.

There are numerous effects. More and more people are divesting from the church because of the ongoing discrimination towards LGBTQ people. More and more people are walking out the doors, taking with them their prayers, presents, gifts, service and witness. The financial restrictions related to sexual orientation limit education about healthy sexuality and the church’s ability to minister to all God’s people.

We urge the General Council on Finance and Administration to assess and disclose where else you see negative results from continuing the current financial restrictions in the Book of Discipline. If you see effects on the lives of individuals and ministries beyond General Agencies, we urge you to speak to the church about this before General Conference 2016 so appropriate changes can be made.

It is time to pull back the curtain on the effect of intentional discrimination within the church—Disclose it. Failing to do so is to be complicit in continuing the discrimination.

In expectation,
Rev. Amy DeLong
Laci Adams
Alison Wisneski
Rev. Dr. Julie Todd
Laura Ralston
Dr. Mary Lou Taylor
Brenda Smith White
Rev. Wesley White
Mary Anne Balmer