By Irene DeMaris
We knew where the speaker was heading. Every word he spoke clearly led to one extremely specific topic. Each and every word we held, waiting on baited breath. From the words he useds at previous rallies, it was clear that my youth group’s beliefs would be in conflict with this man’s words. Before entering the rally the group had had a conversation about what we should, and would, do. The speaker hit the topic hard and we all rose to our feet; we walked out of the room and others followed us.
This happened at CONVO 2003 (the PNW Conference’s annual youth convocation), the last I attended as a youth. The youth group I was with was from Vancouver First United Methodist Church; most of the group had been spirituality formed by a pastor who had come out several years earlier at Annual Conference. This pastor had shown us that belovedness knows no bounds and illuminated the injustice in our churches and our world. When this speaker spoke against inclusivity and the sacred worth of all, my youth group and others like us decided that we would live out of faith with our feet and walk out.
My life is intrinsically bound with The United Methodist Church through the PNW Annual Conference. I am a daughter of this conference. No matter how hard I try, I am utterly and holistically a PNW United Methodist woman. The PNW Conference taught me that God loves me, God loves you, and God loves all of creation. We are all of sacred worth.
Because of this bond I have with the PNW, I am a committed United Methodist; a committed Christian seeking justice. Seeking the inclusion of the oppressed and at the same time, seeing myself as the oppressor. I have seen diverse opinions on human sexuality in the conference as a youth delegate to AC in the early 2000s to when I worked for the conference office years later. I have been at national UMC events where I have been in the minority wearing my rainbow ribbon with pride. I know we are divided on this issue in the national and global connection, I also know that we are still not of one mind in the PNW.
In many ways, the PNW is prophetic. We live with the tension of disagreement, but work towards seeing each other, to be relational and not put each other in boxes. Yet, this is a justice issue and God stands with justice. We must live into the hope, possibility, and promise of God’s justice. It’s our sacred duty as those who name themselves as Christian.
The church notoriously struggles with its prophetic voice. The world is caused to confront itself when the church speaks prophetically. As Christians, our case and point is Jesus, but before him were the foremothers and forefathers who paved the way for his fight for the Kin-dom of God here on earth, now, not later.
In Isaiah 58:6, it is written:
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?”
This is our call to action from inaction. Inaction at its very core is taking the side of the oppressor. Core to our Methodist faith is a grace that overwhelms the world with God’s love.
Oppression is not of God and God does not stand with the oppressor. I cannot, we cannot, stand by as the Church while the world is oppressing our LGBTQ sisters and brothers. We must walk with, align ourselves, and become co-conspirators amplifying God’s message of justice. We have this chance during General Conference to agitate and challenge the church to live into grace, into the message of the Kin-dom taught to us by Jesus. I pray that we are up to the challenge and I will be there, co-conspiring to facilitate and create justice in The United Methodist Church.
Irene DeMaris is weeks away from being a Master of Divinity; a theologically trained laywoman seeking justice in a broken world. She is currently working with the Methodist Federation for Social Action and as a part of the Love Your Neighbor Coalition focused on reproductive legislation at General Conference 2016. When she isn’t thinking about religion and politics she drinks way too much coffee, walks her dog around Seward Park, and is active in her faith community, Valley & Mountain.