by Katie Wineland
Thursday night was a powerful night of solidarity for the Common Witness Coalition. First, during plenary session, Mark Miller--one of the most gifted worship leaders in The United Methodist Church-- took a point of privilege on the floor of the plenary to express the brokenness and hurt he has felt as an openly gay man taking part in some of the conversations around human sexuality at General Conference. Before he was ruled out of order, he invited LGBTQA individuals to stand with him in plenary hall, and coalition members and others stood in solidarity with Mark within and beyond the bar.
After plenary and closing worship, the Common Witness Coalition held a silent demonstration at the doors of plenary hall. Hundreds of us, wearing rainbow stoles, joined hands and formed a silent—silenced—tunnel at both exits. Delegates and bishops, church members and visitors walked by us as they left the hall for the evening; some ignored us, but many also spoke words of blessing and words of prayer. A few people hugged and prayed over each of us, and many joined hands and stood with us. Once everyone had left the hall, we broke our silence with a song— “we are all your sons and daughters, and we are singing, singing for our lives.”
As we joined in the Tabernacle for worship and conversation following the demonstration, around my table we discussed what it really means to be in solidarity with the LGBTQ community. Many of us were keenly aware that the silence of the demonstration eliminated any distinction between LGBTQ individuals and allies. Each of us who stood in the line truly stood in solidarity-- a radical posture of being with-- indistinguishable from the LGBTQ community. With this vulnerable posture of solidarity comes risk, especially for those of us seeking ordination in this church, and I was keenly aware of that as every bishop of The United Methodist Church walked past us. But I also had hope as some bishops joined us, standing in solidarity and entering into the silence. To be sure, there is risk involved in action, but the greatest risk is inaction and complicity to injustice and exclusion in the body of Christ.
Katie Wineland is a rising senior at Bluffton University in Bluffton, Ohio studying Biblical Studies, Peace & Conflict Studies, and Mediation. She is seeking ordination as a deacon in West Ohio Conference, where she is also a Certified Lay Missioner in Hispanic Ministry and a six-time lay delegate to Annual Conference.