Sunday, June 18, 2006

Letter from the Birmingham Convention Center, cont.

I experienced a foretaste of the kingdom this morning, in a beautiful worship at a local UCC congregation. We sang and prayed and broke bread together with joy, and all God's children, white folk and black folk, men and women, young and old, straight and gay were there. The sermons -- I am overly churched for sure this week -- focused on the kingdom and its radically inclusive nature. Like the bush that grows from the tiny seed and gives a home for the birds -- the mustard weed that grows uncontrollably. Hm, down here perhaps the kingdom of God is like kudzu.
It is not, however, like a bus. Or, better, the bus is not the kingdom. Some folks were lingering a bit long following worship and we were having a conversation on the bus about whether it was welcoming and hospitable to abandon them if they didn't hurry up. The kingdom may wait, but you're either on the bus or you're not!
Lots of folks in our pews are not on the bus. That seems to be the message in the ecclesiology committee, where the parsing of the PUP report has begun in earnest and the long knives are out. I just left their meeting where they were in an interminable debate about a motion to refer the critical parts of the report to the presbyteries for discernment.
Seems some folks feel like they haven't had time, even though the process has been underway with interim reports and guidance for half a decade. A five years that comes at the end of 30 years of discussion and debate about ordination. At a certain point, ignorance of an issue is a choice for which the rest of us cannot be responsible. You're either on the bus or you're not.
Of course, the report calls for precisely a season of discernment, but a season guided by and conducted under a different understanding of our polity. I am not a fan of the report because I am not patient with more discernment on the issue of ordination. You don't need to read far in this blog to know that.
Nevertheless, I do believe this report presents the church with an opportunity to twist free of the paralyzing polarization within which we have been locked for more than two decades. The delaying tactics -- oops, I mean the "motion to refer" aims to put us right back into our well-established divisions, locked in a stagnant non-relationship that is going absolutely nowhere.
This report does not do justice for queer folk, but it changes the terrain and, perhaps, opens a space in which we may stride toward that justice. I may be mistaken in that hope, but it is the only hope before the assembly right now.
Of course, they have talked it to death this afternoon, so I'm off to get some much-needed exercise. I've been on the bus too long today.

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