I am a fairly recent and definitely late to the party Twitter user. I have had an account for a few years, but only recently began actually using it – both posting and following others. I tend to shy away from (sometimes run away from) conflict and much of Twitter is just pot stirring, name calling, side taking 280 character shouts that lead to conflict. It’s so clearly not my natural habitat.
Yet, there I am. As in real life, I tend to be guarded and thoughtful with what I say. Many of my tweets are passing thoughts about the comedy and exhaustion of raising middle schoolers, some are about our deaf cat and blind dog, many are meant to shine a light on adolescent mental health, and some recently have been to express my unfaltering support for full welcoming and inclusion of my LGBTQ sisters and brothers in my beloved United Methodist Church. When it comes to responding and re-tweeting, my activity has been even more limited and generally benign – (see my words in the first paragraph about shying away from conflict!). In recent days though, I have felt compelled to respond to tweets of others voicing support for full inclusion of individuals in the LGBTQ community in the life and ministries of the United Methodist Church and in one case have now found myself in a bit of an argument with somebody who does not share my beliefs. So much for shying away from conflict.
More than not shying away, I am jumping in with eyes and heart wide open to a conversation where there is more dividing people than there is bringing them together. It is, quite frankly, making me feel nauseous and anxious. But I haven’t jumped into the conversation just for myself. I’ve jumped in for my kids, and their little family of church siblings who have all grown up in our local congregation. These are teenagers who in so many ways both big and small are struggling to know themselves and their faith right now. They have grown up hearing their parents, Sunday School teachers and youth group leaders tell them that they are all wonderfully made, deserving of grace, and loved by God. Every single one of them. Period. Hard stop. No questions.
But they are hearing divisiveness in the global Christian community, the global UMC, and their own congregation. They are rightly wondering how the same church that taught them every person is wonderfully made, deserving of grace, and loved by God – can also be the church who is now openly arguing and disagreeing if people who identify as LGBTQ should be fully included in that ALL, only partially included in that ALL, or not included at all in that ALL. My son and daughter have both asked me how this can even be a question – there is no space in their world view for exclusion from God’s love and acceptance.
This past Tuesday, as I sat and watched my man-child prepare for his piano lesson in the sanctuary of the only church he has ever known, I felt a profound sadness. His questions are so simple and come from the purest place of love and faith. But I can begin to see a distrust of “the church” creeping into his thoughts and there have been moments in recent weeks where I have felt a similar distrust brewing within myself. It’s a horrible feeling. So instead of sitting with the feeling and remaining a bystander, I took to Twitter with my thoughts…
I tweeted this response to a blog post that I felt was lovely, articulate and voiced so many of the concerns I find myself struggling with right now. And in doing so, I invited a person who has diametrically opposed views to mine into a conversation. It’s a conversation which I am committed to having in the most grace filled and respectful way possible and a conversation I will have so my kids and their peers know that I still unequivocally believe that things I have been telling them since birth are truth. We are ALL wonderfully made, deserving of grace, and loved by God. ALL of us. Period. Hard stop. No questions.
As I type this delegates from United Methodist Conferences world wide are gathering in St. Louis for the special called General Conference 2019. The General Conference is the decision-making body of the United Methodist Church. The special called 2019 General Conference will focus on moving the denomination past its decades-long struggle with issues around homosexuality. Proposed plans offer ways to stay together and ways to split. I honestly don’t know what the outcome of the General Conference will be, but I do know there is fear, and hurt, and anxiety on all sides of the conversation.
In my office at the church I have a framed print that says simply “Love God. Love People. The End.” and a felt letter board that currently says “Grace In. Grace Out. Amen.” These two little mantras sum up my core beliefs and values. These are the words I have been reminding myself of over and over again in recent weeks. For the sake of my kids and their peers, I have to believe that there is a way forward. And if finding that way forward requires me to continue stepping into uncomfortable conversations, than so be it.