GC2012: The Spirit of God Keeps Moving

By Tim Tennant-Jayne, Affirmation Co-spokesperson

On Monday the 30th, the wind was really blowing here in Tampa, FL.  First the wind would blow the tent walls of our Love Your Neighbor Tabernacle out by several feet. Then the traditional form of the tent would re-assert itself and the walls would snap back into their “proper place.” As we crossed the street for a Die-In style protest, another burst of wind led one coalition individual to cry out “Auntie Em! Auntie Em!” Even in the midst of death we still have life.

So has it been with the legislation here at General Conference 2012.

Many of the items favored by the full coalition did very well in the smaller sub-committees.

Then the next day they were often defeated by the full Committees seeking the traditional church with which they are currently familiar. This was true not only for the same-gender orientation and gender identity items, but also for the rest of our slate of issues. Thus, the hopes and high expectations which many of us nurtured as we arrived in Tampa are now being tempered back.

Yet hope remains. I look at the long, long arc of justice for many historical concerns. I see that 40 years in the wilderness is a long time. But I also see that there is still much promise. God's Spirit continues to blow through our Tabernacle and though what is still our church. Some of us hope for acceptance by our denomination. Many of us seek to make this a truly loving church for the generations which follow us. All of us want The United Methodist Church to be a church of Jesus Christ, a church that lives out Christ's Gospel in the methodical manner of John Wesley.

So we continue to engage in street theater displays of what loving your neighbor means today. We hand out newsletters, rainbow bandanas, and lanyards. Our members lie down and “die” in front of the Convention Center as same-gender couples, and then later “die” inside the building on the convention floor. We hold a flash-mob dance to celebrate our lives and our presence in this church.

We greet and welcome all guests, whether bishops, street people, international delegates, or visitors to General Conference. We offer them food, drink, and a comfortable place to rest.

In the end, we continue to make progress as we always have, one person at a time. We tell our stories and our pain, and we listen to theirs. We offer to pray for them and their concerns.  We take the time to get to know delegates and visitors from Florida, from the New England conferences, from the Western Jurisdiction, the international people from the Central Conference countries, and from where ever people have come. It is not a fast process. But then true faith in Christ Jesus, in God's Love, and in the power of the Holy Spirit has never been a quick thing.

I must make special mention of Dr. James Cone's sermon this past Sunday. Dr. Cone has been writing and preaching about liberation theology, and specifically black liberation theology, since the late 1960's. Much of queer liberation theology has been adapted from his work. He offers himself as a voice speaking for those who have no voice. Cone reminded us of God's powerful love, and that Jesus never said anything about “love the sinner and hate the sin.” Christ did not see that separation. Christ came so that we can know God loves us. All of us are compatible by the grace of God's love.

The wind and the Spirit continue to blow here. The Tabernacle walls are still billowing. It is much harder to see the Spirit blow through an organization like The United Methodist Church. But we continue to see its presence and it effects. Please be with us in prayer for God's love to lead the delegates.