Dear Ones:

I am weary today, raw and deeply exhausted. Yesterday, Rev. Tyler Schwaller and I spent three hours with the appointive cabinet. Kayla Bonewell and Dana Johnson were with us for the first hour, and then kept vigil outside the room. Tyler began with Bible study, drawing our attention to the history and legacy of covering over stories that embarrass us, refusing to hear the stories that confront our complicity with injustice. I gave testimony about queer ecclesia, queer love, queer faith, queer delight, queer fearlessness, queer resistance, prophetic witness, honest relationship, my ministry, my call, and the harm inflicted on us queer folk through the policies and practices of The UMC. Kayla preached about her call, her ministry, her story, and the impact of the cabinet calling her wedding a chargeable offense. We were connected, centered, unafraid, honest, and that felt holy, and Spirit-led.

I asked each member of the cabinet why they signed the complaint. I named to each member the particular relational betrayal I felt upon seeing each signature.

There was a great deal of listening; how much was heard remains to be seen.

Friends, I learned the term “gaslighting” by queer and trans people of color – activists and friends; I learned the experience as a queer person in The UMC.

We came to no resolution. We are all in discernment. We are scheduled to meet again, next Monday.

I do not know how this story will unfold, or where it will leave us.

Here is what I know:

*The Wesley Center served breakfast to over 115 students this morning, and we expect 150 tomorrow, and I made 8 recipes of curried red lentil soup for our final Tuesday Table tonight, and I love the vibrant, vital, real, relational, transformational ministry happening in and through this community. Our core values are: hospitality, community, courage, authenticity, justice, healthy & sustainable leadership. We know who we are, and are being faithful to our call.

*Jesus valued relationships over rules, justice over unity, liberation over law & order. Building walls and enforcing borders is incompatible with Jesus’s teachings.

*The UMC is sacrificing its soul for the sake of structure. The UMC is sacrificing its integrity for the sake of maintaining an institution.

*Confronting fear is faithful. Acquiescing to fear is not.

*I have not yet heard a compelling argument, rooted in faith or scripture or belief, for filing this complaint. If the Book of Discipline is your sole or primary source of moral authority, well, then, you’re not even following the Book of Discipline, and you’ve certainly lost your way, and maybe you should come and share a bowl of soup and listen to some students and remember what it’s all really about.

*Seeking justice, practicing kindness, and journeying together in tenderness and truth is what’s required of us. (that’s biblical, y’all.)

*Systemic power analysis is sorely lacking in denominational conversations about unity, difference, and “not being of one mind.”

*Take thou authority. you have more options, and there are more possibilities than you imagine. What could become, if we stop acquiescing to fear?

*Active complicity in oppression, choosing to follow unjust laws that inflict harm because you have bought into that being your role or responsibility, destroys the oppressor as well as the oppressed. maybe even more so.

*I do not know how, exactly, to repair the harm done to LGBTQ people through the policies and practices of condemnation, isolation, silencing, and erasure. But I know that the first step is to stop inflicting any new harm, which means stop filing charges and formalizing complaints.

*And, finally, I have such deep and profound gratitude for all the amazing, wise, tender, powerful, vulnerable, creative, courageous and faithful people in my life. So many of them/you, in my life because of and in spite of The UMC. I couldn’t have done yesterday without Tyler. And I cannot do life without y’all. and we need each other and we are intricately and intimately interconnected and blessed be, that power.

Finally, from James Baldwin: “it is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”

And, I believe: it is certain, in any case, that faithful collectivity, allied with tenderness and creativity and enfleshed love, is the most ferocious enemy injustice can have.

Rev. Anna Blaedel

Anna is a campus minister, phd student in theology, and queer UM discontent, whose spiritual practices include the sacrament of brunch, sharing silence with strangers and beloveds, waking up before dawn, walking in the woods, and riding the subway.
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