Dear Trinity friends,
Most years, I get the same pit in my stomach before the Rio Texas Annual Conference down in Corpus Christi. But the one that just occurred on June 5-8 was an exception. Let me explain.
I feel immensely honored to represent Trinity at Annual Conference along with the amazing Rolando Perez (we switch off years and act as each other’s alternate). And there are moments of fellowship and joy, to be sure. For me, they included:
– RMN worship, for which Sid wrote the call to worship complete with a nod to the resistors at 2019’s General Conference. (Servant Church’s Rev. Kelly Shoenfelt also gave her testimony about coming out, which you can find here — fast forward to 11:15.)
– An AMAZING sermon on degrees of separation from Bishop Karen Oliveto at the Methodist Federation for Social Action luncheon. Guess who introduced her? If you guessed Sid, you’re correct! You can find that video here.
– A tonic-and-cranberry at the local Irish pub with a bunch of progressive Methodists listening to a three-piece cover band rock out The Cure’s “Lovesong.” Sorry, no video exists of that one!
But I also go knowing I am going to face patriarchal language at worship. Knowing that prayers are going to be a little too “lord” for me. Knowing I go into a space that has consistently voted to make my LGBTQ+ church mates second-class citizens in their own spiritual home. And, frankly, these parts suck and often make me feel like an imposter.
The little me I carry inside that just wants to be loved often found herself wondering who was friend or foe. Who would respond positively to my stole and who wouldn’t. Whether a conversation was going to be friendly, or even occur at all. And if that feels a little like navigating the world as openly LGBTQIA+ every day, I am so, so sorry.
But fast forward to this year, in which no guessing game was necessary. It was clear where everyone stood. My stole was not “Please like us. Please let us stay.” It was my rainbow ID. It was armor.
In short, I found it incredibly freeing to have been released from the charade of trying to “get along” with folks who have indicated that they have no desire to be in church with me or those I love.
So wearing my warrior stole and holding my voting-remote in my hand, I began to furiously punch the numbers for progressive candidates to become the 2020 General Conference delegation. Texts were flying. “The Bish” called the results, sounding like he was auctioning off the UMC.
Clergy won a progressive seat. And another. Then lay people elected two progressives. Clergy finished up with a COMPLETELY PROGRESSIVE slate of 8 (4 to GC and 4 to Jurisdictional Conference). The laypeople allowed 2 conservatives to pass, but when all was done, fully 14 out of 16 delegates were progressive, elected by a conference that tends to be just a little more conservative than Trinity* (to put it mildly).
Progressives now have majorities in many U.S. Annual Conferences. Not all—and perhaps not surprisingly, most of the delegations that went conservative were in the Southeastern part of the U.S. But even in places you might not expect—like Florida and Louisiana—progressives have the numbers going into May of 2020.
What does this mean?
Those closer to the process say that we probably still can’t reverse the Traditional Plan with international voting (20% of the US delegates and a majority of the international delegates vote conservative). But progressives now have a solid base from which to negotiate divorce proceedings. And a girl can dream, can’t she? Stranger things than a bold reversal have happened. Says me, anyway!
What say you? Let’s get together and continue dreaming what Trinity can be—as part of a larger Methodist expression or not—on Sunday, June 23 after the 11am service. We’ll gather for a potluck and Town Hall meeting on current happenings in the United Methodist Church.
Bring your thinking cap, a dish that feeds 6-8 if you’re able (ingredient lists appreciated for those with allergies!), and be ready to share. There’s always room at the Trinity table for one more—and always more food than we can eat. And I feel really blessed by that!
Stephanie Molnar Mowen
Secretary, Leadership Council
Trinity Church of Austin
* One of Sid’s colleagues said, “Even though we’re not all bra-burning feminists like you, Sid, we will NOT be a church that discriminates.”