Ministry to the Marginalized one step closer to reaching LGBT communities

Report from annual conference 2011

Yesterday was a busy day! We spent over four hours debating resolutions in Legislative Section 3, Ministries of Advocacy. Ministry to the Marginalized passed with 82%, which means it will be debated later today in plenary session. The hate crimes resolution that MIND and others sponsored passed with 100% voting for it! In addition, there were multiple petitions to General Conference, aimed at removing the numerous discriminatory passages of the Book of Discipline. All of them passed with similar margins as the Ministry to the Marginalized resolution. Throughout the discussion, opponents of our efforts hurled Biblical verses at us, purporting to show that all they were doing was “following scripture.” In reality, the use of select scriptural references to support prejudice and exclusion is a form of spiritual violence, and it made the afternoon hard to endure.
In other conference business, General Conference elections have settled several of the delegate spots: for laity, Fred Brewington, Jorge Lockward and Carolyn Hardin Englehardt after four rounds of voting; and Bill Shillady and Adrienne Brewington on the clergy side, after five rounds.
The MIND tableBack at the MIND table, interest in the Covenant of Conscience continued, with lay signers going over the 500 mark in the morning. As of 11pm, we had 143 clergy signers and 513 lay signers, from 50 congregations.
In the evening, Rev. Gregory Dell spent an hour with us at the MIND table, signing copies of Celebrating Life, a wonderful worship resource composed of some of the most powerful liturgy Greg has written. He was joined by Church Within A Church Executive Director Cathy Knight. MIND and CWAC are kindred organizations, and our witness this year is enhanced with information and resources from CWAC, not to mention Greg and Cathy’s presence. Be sure to pick up some of their material next time you come by the MIND table.

T-shirts, amrbands and Greg Dell!

Today will be even busier! Greg will celebrate communion at the COMPASS sunrise service, and will of course speak at the MIND lunch at noon. It’s also our t-shirt day. Please wear your MIND shirt, or buy one this morning at the MIND table if you don’t have one yet. The t-shirt is a sign of welcome to LGBT people in a hostile environment. For queer folks who sat through yesterday’s anti-gay speeches and who are walking into the arena today knowing they will have to endure the same again, the sight of someone in the t-shirt is a beacon of safety. Wear the shirt – it matters. And in the evening, please wear an armband at the ordination service. Better yet, help us hand them out!  The armbands are blue to symbolize tears: tears of joy as we celebrate with those being ordained, and tears of sorrow as we mourn with those who are also called by God but rejected by our church. In this year – with retired bishops, Black Methodists for Church Renewal and others calling for an end to the ban on ordination – it’s more important than ever to show that the people of the New York Annual Conference are a strong part of the movement to finally bring justice for LGBT people to the UMC.  
Long Island East District Superintendent Adrienne Brewington yesterday in her sermon at the memorial service said, “Jesus’s call to discipleship is a call to sacrifice and service, not comfort and security.” Words to consider as we think about wearing the armband…and perhaps asking a colleague who’s not worn one before to do so as well.