This was my first year at Annual Conference to vote for General Conference delegates. It also was an intense one, as it followed General Conference 2019. I was proud to be part of the Room for All Coalition and be a part of something bigger than myself. But just as it always does, it wasn’t just in the meetings that God was at work. This is about the God moments that happened in the halls and the breaks and the hotel. The moments when God took me by surprise this Annual Conference(AC).
My journey as a Methodist has been relatively short. My first trip to AC was in 2009. That seems a lot longer to my daughter who has been going her whole life. Since I am new, I have worked hard to connect with the clergy close to me geographically in every single area I have been appointed. Being connected with colleagues is one of reasons I choose to be in a denomination. Most of these pastors I haven’t had deep discussions about my positions with regarding General Conference 2019. It’s easy to not wear that on your sleeve.
Until your daughter turns 11, that is. This year, Lydia adorned herself in rainbows fully aware that many of the decisions this AC were about our reaction as an AC to the exclusion and punitive measures of GC 2019. She insisted that I do the same. When your daughter tells you to wear a rainbow, you wear it. Because how would I tell her no? Then Lydia sat in the Clergy Spouse booth, creating artwork heavy with rainbows. Nick couldn’t hide either. Lydia was going to make sure AC knew her parents were progressive Christians.
It was late one night as I shared with the family the good news that the people I was voting for were going to be our delegates, that Zeke shared that he too was on the side of the rainbow. Then he asked the question, “How could someone not be?” Behind that question was the core of our theology as the UMC. Both my kids have been taught in UMC Sunday school classes, VBS, and after school programs the heart of our theology: Gods love you before you love him. God loves you. And you are to love others like God loves them. This is what I heard in this question. How can you keep people from being in a covenant relationship of love and call that Christian? How can you keep people from following God’s call on their lives and and not keep them from loving God by following their call?
But their question was not a rhetorical one like those above. It was one that expected an answer. So I did my best. I said what I know to be true, “For a long time pastors taught people that it was wrong for boys to love boys and girls to love girls.” Pause. “Your dad and I grew up in churches that taught that.” Pause. “But you know what, we studied and learned and we decide that was wrong.” Pause. “God can change people.”
When I served my first church in the UMC back in 2009, one of the geographically close people I met was Pastor Meg. Pastor Meg was a great pastor doing good work in her local church and even beyond at the district and conference levels. I ran into her this Annual Conference. She looked at my rainbow button, and said, “It’s good to know where you stand.” And introduced me to her wife.
God can change people. Meg still feels called to be a pastor, and I pray that God changes us people so that she can. I pray that people don’t have to choose between a spouse and their call. I pray that we can make room for people to love others and love God at the same time. God can change people. Come, Holy Spirit, Come.