Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Global Young People's Convocation and Legislative Assembly Reflection

by R. Warren Gill III

I just got finished attending the United Methodist Global Young People's Convocation and Legislative Assembly in Berlin, Germany.

Because of the diversity that God has gifted us with in our time, after the GYPC voted in a very hurtful way, I was able to sit in a circle of wounded youth and young-adults from a world-wide connection as we reflected about what had happened that evening. There was pain in that circle. But there was also love and caring in that circle. This was a gift.

There was pain in the circle because earlier in the evening, the delegates gathered decided to uphold the United Methodist Church's homophobic stance on the marriage of lesbians and gays by our clergy and in our churches. The debate was not civil. One delegate implied that those of us inspired by the Holy Spirit to work for inclusion were not a part of the Body of Christ. Another called LGBT people aberrations. But the delegates also heard words of hope. They heard that God's love is every expansive. They heard that God loves queer people.

As we gathered the following day, the conversation took a much more civil tone, and supported the Majority Report of the 2008 General Conference by the legislative committee, Church and Society II. This report was not heard at General Conference and included some very supportive gems. It also reflects the actual disagreement that can easily be found in our Church.

Diversity in the church is good. Not only diversity in the ways we look, not only diversity in the way we talk, not only diversity the clothes that we wear. But because when we come from different places, we see the many different ways that God is working which shows the greatness of God.

If we believe as United Methodists that Wesley's quadrilateral is important, we simply must remember that in the Christian Church there is a tradition of difference.

The earliest of formalized Christian Creed, The Nicene Creed, is written to resolve conflict in the church, and has had limited success in the last 1700 years since it was written. At that time, there was only one word that could be decided on, and that word was open to multiple interpretations, and theological debates continue today.

The earliest church in Rome worshiped differently than the ones in Alexandria. We also hear from Egeria, a Spanish woman who traveled to Jerusalem, that the Easter Celebration she experienced there was significantly different from her homeland.

Diversity in the church has always been there. It is good.

God has called it good.

The Council of Jerusalem as we find in the book of Acts. The question was then about Circumcision. The question was must you be like me to be like Christ? And the answer from God over and over again was no. In Ephesians 2 and in Galatians 4, the answer again was no. Over and over again through scripture and tradition, God has told us that diversity is good. You do not need to be like me to be like Christ.

Our unity as the Church is made in our relationship to Christ. As we find in John 3:16, it is through our confession of Jesus that makes us united. Nothing else. Not our uniformity of thought. Unity and Uniformity are not the same.

Our tradition is a tradition of difference. Our scripture is a scripture of difference.

The diversity of opinion in the church today about God's queer people, is just one more way in which God has granted us the good gift of diversity.

And it has been a good gift.

In a city that was once divided, both physically and metaphorically by a wall, we are reminded that no matter how high the wall, and no matter how thick, it can come down. We must work for this change, and with the help of God, no amount of concrete can stand. As I toured a section of the Berlin Wall, someone had written on it, “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Let us pray that God makes us crazy enough to make change happen in the Church. Amen.

R. Warren Gill III lives in Berkeley and is a third year MDiv/MA student at the Pacific School of Religion. Warren is a long time member of the MOSAIC Leadership, and has served on the Board of Directors of RMN. Warren attended The Global Young People's Convocation and Legislative Assembly as a voting delegate from the Western Jurisdiction.

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