Some people have compared the anticipated split in the United Methodist Church to a divorce. It has me thinking about my own divorce a number of years ago. My marriage was officially over, but nothing was finished. My ex-husband got to start-over and I had to deal with the detritus of our marriage. I had the conversation with the banker about splitting up our joint checking account. I created a new Amazon account and learned that all of my Kindle books were his, because the account was in his name. For six months his mail was delivered to my house. I forwarded credit card statements and Christmas cards, until I finally filled out his change of address form. For a year I received fundraising solicitations addressed to the two of us. I made phone calls, wrote letters and the solicitations kept coming. I had to figure out what to do with the stuff – the dining room table that he brought into the marriage, the vacation photos of us that hung on our walls, the art we had purchased on the trip where we got engaged. When he had already re-married and moved out of state, I was still trying to get rid of the enormous treadmill he had left behind.
The most important work I’ve done post-divorce has been emotional and spiritual. I had to recover from betrayal and work through grief. I had to begin to envision a different future. I’ve worked hard to get past blame so that I could be honest about what I did and did not do that contributed to the ending of our marriage.
The protocol agreed to by some leaders in the UMC still has to be voted on at General Conference in May. Whatever happens in the next few months or years, a split, if it comes, won’t solve everything. Those of us who remain in the UMC will have the hard work of restructuring an unwieldly denomination that is out of touch with the world around us. People who share my demographic (white, straight, cis, middle to high income) need to look at what we did or didn’t do that led us to a place where such harm has come to LGBTQ persons. Many of us were silent for too long, leaving the fight for full inclusion to the fringes. Many of us have ignored the racism imbedded in our denomination and have abetted racism in our culture through our silence. We have focused too long inward, letting anxiety about shrinking budgets and diminishing worship attendance keep us from focusing on the work that matters – following Jesus in healing the sick, giving hope to the despairing, feeding the hungry, and serving the poor.
Let us pray that a denominational split will split us open and allow the Holy Spirit to do a new thing among us, the people called Methodists.