Ministry to the Marginalized passed!

Report from annual conference 2011

Rev. Gregory Dell, one of the heroes of our movement, gave a powerful and deeply moving talk to a standing-room only crowd at yesterday’s MIND lunch. He began by recalling a civil rights march he joined in his youth that was met with racist violence and the reaction of a friend’s worried mother: “I can’t stand intolerance.” “We are called to be intolerant of intolerance,” he told us. “I would suggest that Jesus be our model for faithful intolerance,” he added, and spoke some about what it means to love our enemies. Then he told the story of a 14-year-old boy who had sent him an email while Greg was on trial for marrying a gay couple in his congregation. The boy was gay, had been taught by church and family and everything around him that this was evil, had prayed and prayed in vain to be changed and had decided, finally, that there was no hope and he should kill himself. On the afternoon that he planned to take his own life, he heard a radio interview with Greg, who said that the church was wrong to condemn homosexuality. “I thought this guy must be crazy,” the boy wrote. “But then I thought, what if he’s right?” The boy decided to wait, ”to see what the jury decided about you,” he told Greg. The jury, of course, convicted Greg. His voice cracking with emotion, Greg told the MIND lunch that he never heard from the boy again and doesn’t know what he did when he heard the verdict. He went on to say, “An institution that supplies a 14-year-old with reasons to doubt his own worth – to doubt that worth to the point of self-destruction, is guilty of complicity to commit murder….I believe I am called, in fact I believe all of us here are called to intolerance for that which is so destructive.”
The story brought home the human costs of institutional religious bigotry. It reminded us that lives are literally at stake and why this work that we are doing to end our own denomination’s prejudice and discrimination is so important. As if on cue, the afternoon’s plenary discussion of resolutions began with one of the multiple items addressing the UMC’s exclusion of LGBT people. Once again, Bible verses were hurled at us like weapons, but this time, Bishop Park addressed the body and asked the body to speak in ways that did not hurt or condemn one another or wound the body. With many items still on the agenda, conference business was reconvened late at night after the ordination service. At that point, our Ministry to the Marginalized resolution was debated – AND PASSED! The resolution requires the conference to take out ads in LGBT publications that explain, “we do not share our denomination’s belief that ‘homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching’ and we are deeply sorry for the harm that this belief has caused. We are working within the UMC to change its prejudiced policies.” More than one person in the room had the 14-year-old boy who wrote to Greg Dell on their mind as we took this groundbreaking vote.
Vick FlippinFor the seventh year, we handed out armbands to all those attending and participating in the ordination service. 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. The silent, visible witness of blue armbands on white clergy robes was an expression of both dissent and of hope for the future of the church.