I cannot say I’m happy about how this General Assembly has turned out. In fact, I can say I’m pretty frustrated by the inaction that resulted from polity games and the art of confusion. There are plenty of places on the blogosphere where you can read the details of the conversations and votes, as well as their ramifications. What concerns me most is the lack of vision expressed by this GA.
This week many of us watched in horror as our church crumbled further into oblivion, losing its prophetic voice in the world because of fear and fear-mongering. I know I wrote in my last post that this GA is, in many respects, no different than other GAs as my sisters and brothers tried to act faithfully, and I still believe that. But I also feel there are those, a very small minority, who are trying to steer our conversations and our community with, to use Moderator Neal Presa’s langauge, “pervasive poisonous activity.” Though he later clarified that activity to be “suspicion and mistrust”, I believe it is more arrogant self-righteousness leading some to justify acts of violent hate against their own sisters and brothers in Christ.
I am deeply hurt by the inability of this GA to act in moving forward with the just cause of radical inclusion and pastoral care for our LGBT sisters and brothers who have waited so long to be recognized and lifted up as children of God (which cannot be done fully until we recognize their love as a gift from God, the same as heterosexual love). I am disturbed by our inability to speak prophetically against violence and those who might profit from violence as we pushed off to another assembly the MRTI’s recommendation to divest from Caterpillar, Inc. in protest of their actions to knowingly supply Israel with equipment used to destroy homes of Palestinians (thus, missing an opportunity to let Israel know that while we stand with them in their right to exist as a nation state, we will not justify their disproportionate attacks against civilian populations, nor will we condone or participate in profits from violence) and that the violence has to stop on both sides for any peace to be realized.
I am sad that so many of our younger people have felt disenfranchised by our system and that their voice was basically ignored and then lost in this General Assembly. With our vote against allowing our pastors to make the kinds of pastoral decisions they make every day, we have once again put shackles on the grace of God’s Holy Spirit when it comes to LGBT persons who wish to celebrate and honor their love through the gift of marriage. And for this reason alone our young are voting with their feet as they walk out our church doors, giving silent voice to the reality that we as a denomination are becoming increasingly irrelevant to a society that has largely moved on.
I grieve the mistrust and suspicion of one another that blinds us to our prophetic call to speak and act in compassionate justice. I grieve the pain and hurt of those who continue to be pushed to the sides again and told, “We’ll get it in two more years. Just hang in there.” I grieve the lack of trust of God’s Holy Spirit to guide us to do what is right in the eyes of God. I grieve our inability to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and stand with the poor, oppressed, marginalized, and threatened. Instead, we sit in an overly-airconditioned convention center, spending tens of thousands per day on overpriced everything, and make policy statements to which no one is listening anymore.
I grieve, ultimately, that we have lost our voice to the fear-mongering of a small minority who seek to cloud our judgment in order to protect their own fragile egos and hide their own trembling fear.
What all this tells me, is that we still have a long way to go to realize the “kingdom of God has come near.” It tells me we have done a terrible job raising our children to trust in the goodness of God and to listen for the nudgings and encouragements of God’s Holy Spirit toward the people on the fringes of our society. It tells me we have, in 2,000 years, failed to share Jesus’ teachings with any real conviction or trust in their truth. It tells me we have a lot of work to do in our churches.
I am convicted in my own complacency as I write this from my $116 per night hotel room. I am convicted as I think about my own children and what I hope for them and what kind of parent God is calling me to be. I grieve, but I also pray. I pray for hope through the hard lessons learned through 10 years of attending these assemblies—justice is not easily attained, and healing must start with forgiveness.
I am packing my bags and will walk away from this place thankful for the hospitality of Pittsburgh, trying to find ways to channel my grief and anger into constructive steps toward faithfulness, and renewed in my conviction that God will not abandon us even when we abandon God. I will not call this GA apostate, as I truly believe in my heart of hearts that our commissioners and delegates were trying to be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, even as I believe they succumbed to temptations of fear.
I am thankful to those who took the time to be here, to serve as commissioners and delegates, and to those who made this week possible and continue to work tirelessly for Christ’s Body. Though I am confident in my convictions, may I grow in my humbleness to recognize my own short sightedness as I seek to love my neighbors and even more my enemies. And I commend the same to my sisters and brothers in Christ.
God of grace and mercy, forgive me of my arrogance and heal me of my self-righteousness. Lead me on the paths of compassion and justice. Help me to grow in my love, especially for those who frustrate me and who I may perceive as my enemies. Calm my fears and strengthen my courage to stand peacefully in the way of hate and violence. Amen.