Thursday, May 6, 2004
We have had a wonderful witness at General Conference. Our
Watermarked: Witness of Assurance continues to wrap the conference in
the language of baptism. Baptism affirms radical equality and radical
grace naming us Beloved Children of God. Baptism also initiates us
into the church and commissions us into ministry. We continue to
trust in the faithfulness of God to the action God takes in our
baptism. We continue to challenge the church for breaking the
promises of baptism for forsaking integrity in relationship to its
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender members.
The church continues to practice the sin of exclusion. The church has
also chosen to lie. By refusing to acknowledge "Christians disagree
on the compatibility of homosexual practice and Christian teaching"
by 55%-45% margin, the church lied. The percentages themselves show
the division we experience. Faithful United Methodists do disagree!
In hopes of just a crumb (because a crumb might taste pretty good
when we haven't gotten anything in a while), reconciling delegates
with heavy heart negotiated to the tiniest portion giving the church
the chance to take the smallest step of improvement. The church
The institution of the church failed. And yet, we have experienced
Church each day in the witness we have been giving to conference.
Some of the miracle moments include:
* The transformation of a dingy gym into a welcoming space! With the
Shower of Stoles, balloons, and a rainbow from wall to wall, the
space became home for Reconciling Ministries Network, Methodist
Federation for Social Action, and Affirmation for a Common Witness.
* The daily water witness of water bottles for delegates in the
afternoon labeled H2O (Hearts to Open). Thousands of bottles were
distributedsome even included hand written notes from MOSAIC
* The daily baptismal remembrance witness when white robed volunteers
held water bowls for delegates to remember their baptism as they
entered each morning. Many chose to somehow dip their hands in the
water and give themselves a fresh Watermark to remind them of God's
love and grace.
* The overflowing lunch crowds at the transformed Smithfield gym
space to hear speakers such as Bishop Kelly, Bishop Tuell, Bishop
Yeagel, Rev. Gil Caldwell, Rev. Dr. James Forbes, and Delegate Mike
* A Parent's breakfast that created tears of gratitude when Bishop
Melvin Wheatley was honored with the Hilton Award for service on
behalf of the LGBT and allies community. Bishop Mutti and his wife
share their family story including the loss of two sons to AIDS.
* A lively student march and rally ending in baptismal remembrance
that flowed into a family reunion where family members shared ending
with an address by Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto celebrating the commitments
of loving couples.
* A Reconciling worship service with celebratory music, the preaching
of Janet Wolf and Bishop Sprague doing two baptism (One being his
grandchild!) while we sang "Rain down, rain down, rain down your love
on your people. Rain down, rain down, rain down your love God of
* Tuesday of the second week started a daily prayer witness with
volunteers lining the entrance in prayer (standing, kneeling,
sitting, eyes open, eyes closed). Spontaneously we broke into
song "What does the Lord Require of You?" that reverberated through
the entry area. Many entrants were brought to tears,
others sang along. It continues to be a powerful witness.
From these meager descriptions, I hope you can sense how reconciling
persons from across our church have come to Pittsburgh and created
church together. And not just for themselves, but to feed the
Today Soulforce in collaboration with our bishops gave us the gift of
space to walk on the conference floor and create a "River of Life"
processional. Hundred of Reconciling volunteers surrounded the
delegates, singing and giving them small cardboard Baptized in Christ
coins "Washed with the water of baptism, Led by the Spirit each day,
This shell in my pocket reminds me that Jesus will show
me the way."
Surely, Jesus WILL show us the way! Creating church wherever we go,
we are beloved Watermarked Children of God permanently and powerfully
part of the family!
Rev. Troy Plummer
Reconciling Ministries Network