Affirmation WILL Be At General Conference

By Walter Lockhart
In May 2016, the United Methodist Church will once again gather for worship and fellowship and to organize our common ministry as a denomination. General Conference has the opportunity to transform the United Methodist Church into a denomination that welcomes all people regardless of gender identity or preference of life partner, works toward justice for all the oppressed, and lives into the radical grace that God freely gives in Jesus Christ.

I want to be excited about our chances of success. I do believe in the power of the Holy   spirit to open hearts and mind of delegates and lead to many real changes in our beloved church.

As a realist, I am personally approaching General Conference with a different mindset. Our denomination is shrinking as part of an historic change in the role of church in the United States. Our numbers have shrunk and our influence in society is shrinking. We are challenged by distrust of different political and theological agendas that matches the distrust in the general society. Our church is worried about organization, budget, control and assets.

We are often looking for crumbs instead of living in the abundance of God’s grace. I am not hopeful that these existential issues will be solved. The lack of trust makes it hard for me to see how we will grow in justice and inclusion. The work is going to be hard and the journey will be up a steep and winding road.

I am a United Methodist. This is my church. So I must once again return to General Conference to insure that all voices will be at the table. How could General Conference have a conversation about LGBTQ inclusion without all of these voices at the table showing the path of real change? How can the church find a postcolonial relationship with our
African Churches without the voice of LGBTQ voices at the table insuring that our church stands against discriminatory laws that oppress or criminalize people? How can we discuss sexuality, birth control, marriage, or parenting without the full story of how God’s gift of sexuality is expressed? I am going to Portland representing Affirmation so that we can work to insure all the voices are at the table.

The last dozen General Conferences have been painful, challenging, and discouraging for LGBTQ people. However, we keep returning to tell the story of God’s love in all people and to insure that all voices are heard. I suggest we go to Portland with humility and grace. I do not know where the United Methodist Church will stray on its journey toward justice, grace, and holiness. If we stand up to power, insure all voices are heard, and listen for God’s presence, then we can be certain that we are working to be a part of the historic changes that God’s love is bringing to our world and church.

Come to Portland if you can. Join and give to the Love Your Neighbor Coalition if you can. Please pray for me to have humility and grace.