Friday, September 27, 2013

After the Protest - Raw Thoughts

We had an amazing protest at school today, protesting giving Rev. Eddie Fox a distinguished alumni award, because he has been a voice against LGBTQ inclusion in the United Methodist Church.  Rev. Fox was not available to be at the awards ceremony, but this was our way to voice our disagreement with giving this award to a man who has worked to keep hurt in the Book of Discipline.  We stood outside during the awards ceremony with signs, chants, and songs. There were stories of hurt and stories of hope shared. We were bold in our statements against the award.
After the awards ceremony several people who were inside at the awards ceremony came out and thanked us. One elderly man in particular came out and told us to keep up the good fight.  He was from South Carolina and had lived through the civil rights movement there.  He told us that when protests and marches were going on in his community, there were many people who didn't understand why people were upset and wanted them to just calm down.  He told us to fight on.  I will always remember him and love him for his words of inspiration.
I know that things will quiet down for a while now.  The award will still be talked about and agonized over, but there isn't another protest planned.  There is also less urgency now that this protest is over. But I don't want anyone to think that this is finished. Because for some of us who were affected by this, it won't be over for a long time.  And I personally will never be okay with this award.  I will never just get over it.   
I left the United Methodist Church voluntarily about a year ago because I knew that being queer jeopardized my chance of ever being ordained, and I couldn't imagine never being able to preside over the table at communion, never being able to teach and preach, never being able to help parishioners in their times of deepest need. It is what I'm called to and what I dream of spending the rest of my life doing. 
I also needed to be fully myself to be fully present to the people I was to help.  I couldn't compartmentalize my life, because it wasn't going to be healthy for me and was going to hurt my ministry. I just want to be a whole me, with all my eccentricities, because I believe that somehow God can use all of me to help spread the gospel. 
So I left the UMC, and I came to a church where I can be myself.  I love where I'm at, but I also had not quite gotten over the hurt I felt at the UMC's Book of Discipline. Then I heard of Rev. Fox receiving this award and about how he has worked hard to keep the wording in the UMC's Book of Discipline that made me leave the denomination. I could feel a piece of my heart break.  My school hurt me, bringing all this stuff that I had been slowly working through to the forefront of my heart. 
If Rev. Fox hadn't been nominated for a distinguished alumni award by Candler, I could have probably worked through stuff and been able to appreciate the UMC for their strengths and occasionally go to services.  I would never become United Methodist again, but I wouldn't hold any grudges.  It was my decision to leave, I was never hurt by anyone, and I had actually been supported in becoming a certified candidate. I had to leave because I didn't feel that I was called to fight within that denomination, I was called to another denomination.
But this Rev. Fox debacle stirred up stuff inside me, and the more I heard about how he worked at General Conferences to keep the wording that is hurtful within the Book of Discipline and the more I delved into the logistics of his work, the more disgust I felt.  It's strange, but a distinguished alumni award given by my seminary made me unable to even consider stepping into a United Methodist Church in the near future.  I can't do it, even if it is the most reconciling and gay friendly congregation in the denomination.  I can't even go to our seminary's chapel services right now because they are too Methodist.  There is something inside me that broke, and I may never be able to walk into a United Methodist Church again.  The wounds of the words of the Book of Discipline run too deep, and I've learned too much about the battles at General Conference and how steep of a hill the Reconciling Ministries Network has to climb before the denomination will be fully inclusive.
I will carry a scar on my heart for the rest of my life because of this award. It cut me in a way that a lot of people can't understand, and I can't fully rationalize myself. 
All I can do now is pray and work for Candler to become more inclusive.  I want them to make policies that ensure that people who hold stances against the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people will never receive another award from our school.  We would not give distinguished alumni awards to people who are racist or sexist, we need to ensure that we would not give an award to someone who is against the equality of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. 
This has hurt our community.  I love my school, but I will certainly never be the same now that my school has given this award.  I have been damaged, and that is not okay.  It will never be okay. 

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