by T.C. Morrow
I went to Tampa with an eye toward hope wherever it might be found. I had a great conversation on one of my flights down, I ran into fellow Wesley Seminary alums that I wasn't expecting to see, and I had the privilege to welcome people arriving to Sunday's Love Your Neighbor worship service with Dr. James Cone preaching. There was great music, fellowship, worship and good news in some of the legislative action, like support for the DREAM Act.
Yet in the midst of such positive points there was a lot of pain.
We must name the wrongs and the harm that have come from keeping the status quo in the Book of Discipline on language describing “homosexuality.” We must lament and we must call out for justice. But we are also an Easter people. From the midst of unfathomable pain comes new life. As I sat in the Tampa airport waiting for my flight home, I read an email stating hope that the time at the General Conference will provide renewed energy for BWARM, the Baltimore-Washington Area Reconciling United Methodists. I know the experience, as exhausting as it was, has given me renewed energy for equipping welcoming spaces for ALL to hear the gospel and to be in life sustaining Christian community. It may be too soon for many, but I kept looking for points of hope throughout my week in Tampa.
Though pained that the General Conference could not agree to state that we the people of the United Methodist Church do not agree about homosexuality, I do find great hope in the fact that Rev. Adam Hamilton and Rev. Michael Slaughter proposed the amendment and spoke to it. I am sure that they have each taken some heat after their speeches on the floor on Thursday and I hold each in prayer.
On Thursday after the General Conference failed to pass the Hamilton amendment and failed to pass removing the “incompatible with Christian teaching” language, a group of advocates for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons in the United Methodist Church gathered around the communion table on the floor of the General Conference, sang "What Does the Lord Require of You, " and shared communion together. I joined the group and sang and sang. I can't carry a tune, but I can be present. Taking communion in that space, in spite of the votes that had just occurred, was very Spirit-filled for me.
I pray that this witness that occurred at the end of the Thursday morning session, and other events like Dr. Cone’s sermon, the Love Your Neighbor luncheons (videos at http://gc12.org/blog/) and the Friday Altar for All event, may give hope to thousands of gay and lesbian United Methodists, and our allies, across the world who are in deep disappointment. It is okay to be disappointed. It is okay to be hurt. But I pray that none settle into despair. We are an Easter people. Hang onto the moments of hope you had, whether you were in Tampa, watching online or receiving updates on Twitter. Those moments of hope will enliven our own ministries within our local congregations and indeed empower the Common Witness Coalition’s efforts for the full inclusion of LGBT persons in the life and ministry of the United Methodist Church.