One of the core tenets in conflict transformation work is that facilitators must remain neutral. When conflict transformation ministers step in to a situation, neutrality (or the appearance of neutrality) is essential. We cannot work faithfully with people in conflict if we are perceived to align with one opinion or another.
Maintaining public neutrality can be quite a challenge. I have felt that challenge keenly in the last week. The recent events of the Special Session of General Conference have occupied much space in my heart and mind. I am struggling to love all of the people called “United Methodist” and to do no harm. I am searching for the ways that I can do good. I want to continue to be in love with God in the midst of the Methodist people who taught me about Jesus.
There have been many, many opinions expressed very publicly in the wake of General Conference. Social media, news outlets, and blogs continue to dissect what happened in St. Louis. United Methodists across the spectrum of opinion are wondering what is next for the United Methodist Church. I have taken time to discern what my response as Director of Conflict Transformation should be.
I realize that I have been given a luxury in public neutrality. I am white. I am highly educated, a “religious professional”. I am biologically female and I identify as female. I have been married to my first husband for 28 years. I have one biological child. I am neuro-typical, typically abled, and middle-aged.
For the most part, I can blend in and hide the parts of me that do not conform to the norms of educated, professional, straight, white America. When you look at me, you cannot see that my husband and I needed medical assistance to have a child. You cannot see that I have experienced debilitating migraines most of my adult life. You do not see that I have been living with anxiety and depression for 23 years. I take three anti-depressants every day so that I can be functional.
Until I started writing this blog post, I had not thought deeply about how public neutrality can be a privilege. I had not thought about the all the ways that I have been able to “pass” as I go through my day. With the exception of being female, I have not experienced public humiliation.
I have tried to minister to all persons. I have not always done that well. In private, I struggle with conflict situations that do not resolve. I get frustrated. I get angry. I get sad. And I feel all of those things in the wake of this past General Conference. I grieve for the great harm that has been done to my LGBTQia kindred. I also grieve for my siblings in Christ who have been labeled as bigoted, repressive, and unChristian. When one part of the body hurts, the entire body suffers.
This blog post is far from adequate. My words, at best, are inadequate. The most faithful thing that I can do today is confess my sin. I pray for the grace to be more like Christ tomorrow.
Yesterday, I worshiped in the midst of United Methodist people. I walked towards a table that was open to me and to all. I confessed my failure to love. Together, we took in to ourselves the body and blood of Christ. We departed in Christ’s peace.
The peace of Christ be with you.