I am writing this on Thursday morning in San Diego. Joe Agne, Becca Tice, Kaylin Gray and I are attending the Western Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church. The Western Jurisdiction includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming. Delegates from all the United Methodist Conferences in these states meet every four years to make decisions about the direction of the United Methodist Church in the West.
Joe, Becca, Kaylin and I are not official delegates. Rather, we are here to participate in conversations that seek to strengthen and advance the inclusiveness of the United Methodist Church. To be inclusive means that we affirm that God loves us all, that we believe that the way of Jesus is about reaching out to all, and that we are convinced that the church should actually embrace this way of Jesus amid all the complexities of today’s world.
Among many things, such inclusiveness includes intentional efforts to end racism, including being honest about white privilege. Such inclusiveness includes working to end poverty and to build relationships that cross socioeconomic divides. Such inclusiveness embraces people with a wide variety of abilities and disabilities and celebrates the fundamental worth of us all. And such inclusiveness means understanding that people have differing sexual orientations and gender identifications, that this is the way God made us, and that we are all children of God.
I sometimes find myself assuming that everyone both shares and values this same understanding of inclusiveness and that all of us are trying to make our world more affirming and welcoming. I am only fooling myself when I think that way. Personally, I know I have a long way to go. I think we all do. So does our nation and world.
That’s one of the places where our beloved church comes in. We are intentionally creating a stronger, more diverse, more inclusive and more welcoming faith community. We talk a lot about inclusiveness and we behave in inclusive ways. Many thanks to you all for this and for all you have done to create our wonderful church family. Yet, our church has a way to go, too.
So today I offer several invitations – to you, to me, to us all:
>I invite us to continue addressing our racism and to have honest conversation about white privilege.
>I invite us to continue addressing the issues of poverty and to develop additional authentic relationships that cross socioeconomic divides.
>I invite us to continue valuing all persons regardless of our abilities and to reach out more intentionally to a broader spectrum of persons with differing abilities and disabilities.
>I invite us to continue our advocacy for LGBTQA persons and to expand our efforts to be both affirming and welcoming.
>I invite us to rededicate and redouble our efforts to create an inclusive community in as many ways as we can.
I will say yes to all these invitations. What will you say?
Please keep our beloved church in your prayers. I remember you in mine. I’ll see you Sunday.