That hashtag, a friend used following General Conference, and is something I feel like I can identify quite strongly with.
The following letter is my reflections/reactions to my time at General Conference and moving forward as someone who identifies as United Methodist.
Dear United Methodist Church,
I just called to say I love your people, ALL of your people and the people that you are trying to keep outside. Because “y’all come in now” really means ALL come in and many people are living that out in their daily lives.
But church, I’m getting a bit dismayed on why your so set on making “y’all” mean those who look like, identify like, and act like us.
And church, I even love your connectionalism (and the fact that’s a word that only Methodist understand). I love how we send missionaries from everywhere to everywhere to learn from communities and support communities to uplift themselves. That we’re no longer sending missionaries in to place to tell them how to fix their problem instead are reclaiming the word for what God meant for it to be. And that we as the United Methodist Church know first hand what’s going on in Africa, Philippines, and throughout Europe, from fellow United Methodist.
But church, I’m upset and beyond dismayed, that you continue to hear the stories of militarization, of occupation, of war, of extreme poverty, of destruction of God’s creation, of the health consquenses of the years of human right violations, environmental racism, and war. And continue to justify United Methodist dollars being invested into supporting these activities because we need ‘a strong Methodist voice at the table’. Oh church, “strong voice” has NOT worked yet so what makes you think that it will work some how magically in the future. Even more, that we ignore the people’s request from the communities to stop investing in the companies and machines that are harming them and the facts that the missionaries we send are reporting to us. What DOES works is listening to the cries of the people and taking the actions along side them that they themselves are requesting.
And I can even say church, it makes me proud to worship in a denomintation that ordains women. It was the United Methodist Women who were like my second mothers growing up, taught me what it meant to live my faith in action, and empowered me to follow my call into mission work when many people thought I was crazy. It’s United Methodist Women who supported me into my mission work and continue to support me now even though the “official title” has changed. The one’s who have prayed with me and helped me better understand my women’s health issues of these past few years.
But just to be clear, NONE of my women’s health issues have anything to do with abortions. In the words of my southern grandma “Bless your soul church” for somehow thinking women’s health and abortion mean the same thing. While, I’m thankful that our church still supports women’s access to good and safe reproductive health especially the UMW focus on Maternal and child health care. So I’m not worried that the United Methodist Women will continue to work to ensure women’s and children health are taken care of around the globe. But I am concerned that to many of you church view women’s reproductive health to equal abortion.
I’m most thankful for the warm welcome and reception the Lumad (indigenous Filipinos) received during the week they attended General Conference. From flash tabernacles to concert performances and vigils, the people truly opened their arms, listening to their struggles and committing to journeying with them in their struggle for food, land, and justice. For me, they were the daily reminder that for many people including our United Methodist brothers and sisters, the daily struggle is for life and survival.
The Lumad kept me grounded during my time at General Conference and rooted in why I organize, why I’m still United Methodist in a denomination that calls for the resumption of peace takes in the Philippines, what my calling is to live in ministry on the margins for peace and justice. I know church that many of our fellow United Methodist in Africa, throughout Asia, and even yes in the Middle East and Europe are too focused on ministry in their communities to keep people alive from diseases, militarization, extreme poverty and wars.
Oh church, as the conversations played out about the splitting of the church over one issue. My mind couldn’t help but wonder, do both sides of the conversation here in the United States realize that the one issue which is their main focus, is much different to many others who are trying to keep their community members alive to be able to even have a church. That yes All truly means ALL.
Yet, when our Black brothers and sisters are dying one every 28 hours from being shot by police or vigilante groups, what are we doing to speak for justice to stand along side the Black communities in living out the words of “Black Lives Matter” through our actions? Are we even ready to admit that yes racism still exist and if we don’t do something to end it, it will continue?
When war and militarization of communities are the norm from Africa to Philippines, and communities are devastated from years of war-torn lives, what are we doing to keep them alive, to equip them to minister to each other, to live out our call for peace and justice through actions?
When we’re quick to blame the im/migrant for leaving their family behind and ask why are so many coming to our land, shouldn’t they stay home and take care of their families? Are we willing to admit that yes our US government policies are to blame for the gangs, the war, the no farms, and live in ministry with the strangers among us while pressing our governments to take real meaningful responsibility and work for justice for their actions instead of just passing the blame? Can we admit that it was colonism that played a huge roll in the oppression of the people?
My prayer is if you’ve read this far you understand that yes #ISurvivedtheMethodist and you can see that the discussions in Portland were not just about one issue but many that are connected. I also pray especially if you are an American United Methodist that you’ve found some part of this to challenge you to think differently especially if your United Methodist as the fate of our denomination (and the people of the world) depends on us getting outside of our walls and living with the people, for the people, in ministry just like Jesus did.
I’m still Methodist for now and am looking forward to Annual Conference for I’m blessed to live in an Annual Conference where for many Y’all means ALL and we practice Biblical Obedience. Where the people take time to learn more about what’s going on in other countries and how they actively work for peace in justice.
So church, for now, I’m going to go live my faith out in community on the margins in ministry for peace and justice. If you can’t find me, just look a little further out. Its not your people that concern me, it’s you church.
A life long United Methodist (and hope to keep it that way) Living a life for Peace in Justice