By Rev. Monica Corsaro
May 11, 2016 | Portland, Oregon
Breweries, vegan pizza, hipsters, public transportation with the wafting scent of pot in the air; that is the setting this year of we United Methodists gathered at General Conference 2016. Portlandia as some of us call it affectionately. I have been attending General Conference since 1996 and this one feels so much like a family reunion for me, gathering and seeing activists that I have known as long as my daughter has been alive. It feels like home since getting to see so many here, volunteering and doing hospitality from our Pacific Northwest Annual Conference.
So friends and family, what is a day in the life of a progressive delegate at a General Conference like? You may say we experienced the worst depending on if you are a fan of Robert’s Rules of Order or not. And yet, we get to see the best of us as well!
So here it is for you, a day in the life: We woke up hearing and seeing the powerful preaching of Bishop Gregory Palmer, Bishop of the West Ohio Conference. Four years ago when he was the Bishop of the Iowa Conference, we bonded over stories of the Underground Railroad, so in my book he is perfect…and today he reminded us that we are all perfect too…or wait, better than that, we are all “beloved, period.” Bishop Palmer went on to challenge us, just imagine if we acted that way? If we were really concerned about truly reaching disciples for Christ and not saving an institutional church, how powerful we would be? Using hymns we all knew, he moved us to be better than we are now, and inspired and reminded us how great we can be; especially when we invite the Holy Spirit in!!!! Oh the power when we gather as United Methodists!
I then spent the lunch hour remembering all those who have died both abroad and here in the United States of AIDS. It was poignant, moving, sad, authentic, and beautiful. The name of those we knew were read and honored. Oh the power when we gather as United Methodists.
I then went and grabbed lunch at the Love Your Neighbor Coalition sponsored meal at the Inn…where there is always room for one more. I got invited into a conversation with two mamas talking about what it was like going through the experience of having a child going through gender reassignment. At times there were tears, at times laughter, they were so honest in expressing their loss of a son who was now going to become a daughter, and a daughter who was going to become a son. They also expressed the loss and the pain they felt knowing their children had to go through painful and such invasive surgery to be who they really are. It was a holy moment. Where else could two progressive Christian women talk about their babies becoming newly resurrected and new people in Christ. Thank you Love Your Neighbor Coalition for always making a safe place. See how powerful we can be as gathered United Methodists.
And now I end my day sitting and monitoring one of the many legislative committees of our General Church on behalf of our delegation. And believe it or not, this has been wonderful too; yes, we know I am wonky. But I have been able to meet and relate to delegates from Northwest Texas, Nigeria, East Ohio, West Ohio, and so many more places. And today has included authentic Christian Conferencing that has been collaborative and even fun, just think how powerful we can be when we gather as United Methodists!
Maybe our church is in a place of the two mamas I met today. We might need to say goodbye to what has been, we may grieve, we may feel pain, but at the other side we know our denomination can be better and resurrected anew. We have many important votes to take in these next two weeks and I hope we can boldly try to create a new movement for Jesus the Christ. We may look a little different, we may act a little different, but if at our core we are United Methodists newly formed, fully welcoming, how powerful that will be!
Rev. Monica K. Corsaro’s eloquence as a speaker and strong activism have made her a sought-out preacher in Seattle and across the nation. She is an advocate for the full inclusion for gay lesbian, bisexual and trans-gendered people in The United Methodist Church. As the co-covener for the Religious Coalition for Equality, she helped to pass an anti-discrimination law, a domestic partnership bill, and Marriage Equality in the state Washington.
Photo credit: Bishop Gregory V. Palmer delivers the episcopal address on May 11 during the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS