The Reason I stay

The last few weeks (years) my global church, the United Methodist Church, has been struggling in the conversation about homosexuality in the church. Do we ordain? Do we serve? Do we prosecute? There is deep division. There is pain and hurt and pride on both sides. There are times where the conversation is lacking compassion, and really lacking the true elements of real and productive conversation. Local churches have been taking a stand, closing doors, waving flags or staying silent.

This week, Rev. Schaefer was suspended, and will likely lose his credentials for performing a same sex union. And the division in the church is cut even deeper. Many people will leave the church, because they cannot stand to be told one more time, “you are not worth enough, you are not welcome here.”

Intended or not, this is the message the UMC is sending. So to counteract this harmful message, and to remind ourselves why we love the church the way we do, there is a movement being hosted by the Reconciling Ministries Network called “The Reasons I Stay.” Here are my reasons:

Because nothing is accomplished by my leaving.

If I leave, nothing changes. If I stay, while policy and polity may not change, I have the opportunity to continue to offer something difference than what our Book of Discipline declares. I can share that you ARE compatible with God! You are worthy and lovely and perfect just as God made you.

Because like all humans, the church is not the sum of her faults.

There are so many beautiful and wonderful things about the UMC. Our Wesleyan tradition. Our hymns. Our drive for mission. The United Methodist Women. Our potlucks! Seriously, there is so much good happening in the church.

Because my local church lives out love, grace and acceptance.

My home church here in Seattle does a really good job at living our mission. We aren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination. But we try. We host a soup kitchen, and have a Vets shelter in our gym. We tend our rain garden and have prayer services and family night outs and a new youth group. We volunteer at a family shelter and bring meals to new moms and break bread together. Trinity accepts me, challenges me, loves me and teaches me daily to do the same for others.

Because standing on the side of love, not legality, is always the right place to be.

Is this the stand for our generation? I believe so. And when I’m old and grey(er), I know I will look back and be proud to have stood up in a church that was mostly sitting down.

Because I belong. Because you belong. Because there is a place at the table for us all.

We say it in our liturgy.  I aim to mean it.  “All who intend to lead a Christian life, together with their children, are invited to receive the bread and cup. We have no tradition of refusing any who present themselves desiring to receive.” ~United Methodist Book of Worship (pg. 29) And I can think of no place more beautiful than the Communion Table to begin to repair the hurt and pain the Church has committed.  When we gather together, and share bread together, we are reminded of our common bond, and that God’s love is for ALL.

Because I felt safe growing up in the UMC, and I want others to feel that too.

I am blessed to have had an incredible faith community that helped raise me.  They are a large part of who I am today.  And while I have strong reason to believe that we stand on very different sides of this conversation, I know that they love me.  They created a space for me to learn, grow, ask questions, assert myself and find myself.  The opportunities I was given through Youth Group, small groups and Sunday School have led me to a life of ministry.  At no point as a child or youth did I feel as though I couldn’t turn to my church family for support.  I’m not special or naive enough to think that I deserve that kind of support simply because I am a heterosexual.

Because at the end of the day, I love this church. This messed up, beat up, struggling, hurting, painful, screwed up beautiful mess of a church.

For these, and many many many more, are the #ReasonsIStay.

Amen.

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