I guess I’ll start with “we’re state approved!” Annanda and I had the most beautiful (and legal!) wedding ceremony on Saturday afternoon. Reconciling Ministries Network provided a wonderful space in the outdoor gazebo which was decorated by a local pastor. Annanda’s pastor at Central Presbyterian in Austin co-officiated the wedding with Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey – a UMC elder in Boston. They both put their credentials on the line by leading our very public ceremony – an incredible witness of their faith which only enriched the service.
The ceremony they put together was beautiful. We broke bread together, somehow managed to get through our vows without bawling (quite the challenge), had our rings which we exchanged in March blessed, and there was even an impromptu singing of “let there be peace on earth” by the attendees as we processed out. It was perfect. We are both so grateful to all who helped celebrate this day with us before we left. UUMC is indeed a special and gracious place.
As many of you know, the wedding was couched in the larger RMN Convocation – this year titled “Churchquake.” I could write a million blogs about it. My mind and heart are still swimming with gratitude for such a space of queer inclusion and advocacy, energy from the powerful words spoken from the pulpit and during the queer Bible study. And my hopes are still growing as I reflect on the strong call to Biblical Obedience by our lay people, our clergy, and our bishops, regardless of the consequences of breaking polity. It is time. Bishop Melvin Talbert announced that he had just received word that the entire college of bishops of the western jurisdiction are offering their support of biblical obedience – a historical promise. We hope and expect to see more same-sex weddings done by UMC clergy, same-sex weddings allowed in church sanctuaries, and other acts of biblical obedience in the near future. As was beautifully stated during one of the plenaries, this requires actions from all of us in the UMC, not just individuals. Why leave when we can act?
The entire weekend was powerful, but my favorite sermon included an incredible exegesis of the passage of Paul and Silas trapped unjustly in prison until an earthquake set them free. Rev. Vicki Flippin saw the church as that prison and a churchquake setting our LGBTQ members and leaders free. We have indeed started that churchquake already, but there is more shaking to do before the walls are to come down. You can listen to this challenging and hopeful sermon here. Each plenary session was bold – calling for biblical obedience despite the political consequences, naming the intersections of race, gender, nationality and class within this movement, and reminding us all that the work goes far beyond changing a few sentences in the Book of Discipline.
I find myself, perhaps more than anything, reflecting on how much wider and deeper our vision of queer justice must run. Our attention so easily goes to questions of marriage and ordination – necessary conversations for a church of course – but in the scheme of the queer movement they are the most privileged of challenges. Queer youth homelessness, queer youth suicide, issues around elderly queer folks, violence against trans men and women, the poverty level of LGBTQ folks, and the reality that LGBTQ people of color experience the brunt of most of theses challenges are issues far more life-threatening which beg for our attention but rarely get it. Expansive readings of the Bible through a queer lens, queer theology, and an invitation to LGBTQ folks to bring our entire culture to the spiritual table remains a distant hope for most of us. There is so much more work to be done – and those of us with the most privilege must keep a self-reflective eye on whose voice and concerns are heard the most. I have certainly felt the weight of my own privileges this weekend – and I am so grateful for that.
As I said, I could write forever about the weekend. I expect the experiences of Pastor John, myself, and the others from our SWTX conference will find their way into conversations about our ongoing role in justice and faith at UUMC. I look forward to that. I am so grateful for the support of UUMC, of our local RMN group, and the other individuals who helped me financially so that I could attend this conference. At the time, I didn’t even know I’d be getting legally married while there. I always knew the weekend would be great, but I didn’t know just how life-giving it would be. I will be forever grateful.