During these last two weeks I‘ve attended two major events in the life of our church, one of which, our Annual Conference (AC) in Wisconsin Dells, left me weeping tears of despair; and the other, Rev. Amy Delong‘s church trial in Kaukauna, left me rejoicing with tears of joy. The contrast between the two gatherings reflected all that we struggle with and all that we celebrate as people of God.
Annual Conference is first and foremost about doing “the business” of the church. It is here we ordain and commission new clergy, celebrate the retirements of others, learn about new ministry opportunities and this year, elect delegates to next year‘s General Conference. AC always has a tight agenda and this year was no exception. In this setting we are governed by the Rules of the Conference and there seems precious little room for the Spirit to move.
For me, this year‘s AC experience was to put it bluntly…demoralizing. Because of a situation which occurred within the confidentiality of the clergy session I was left wondering how I could, in good conscience, remain a United Methodist pastor much longer.
I carried the pain of that knowledge with me as just days later I traveled to Kaukauna to lend my presence and support to my colleague and friend, Rev. Amy Delong, who was being tried by the church she loved for the crime of simply being who she is. I knew the outcome of this trial would go a long way to determining my own future.
The three and a half days spent attending Amy‘s trial were painful and difficult, while at the same time being joyful and hopeful. The first night I was invited to read a piece of scripture and the words I read proved at the end of the trial to be true…”Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning (Psalm 30:5b).”
By now you will hopefully have read all the details of Amy‘s trial in the local press but let me simply say that I left this gathering of “peaceful, loving, angry people” filled with a renewed sense of God‘s love and grace for all people and eager to offer that same love to all who enter our doors or who live in our world. I pray you will join me in offering this same love.
Peace be yours,