It all started with a tweet
“Let’s play a game: how often can #UMCGC
sing songs and lift prayers written by queer folks,
while silencing us otherwise? #itstime #calledout”
We were singing and clapping and stomping
(because the rhythm of the song really requires it)
Mark Miller’s kicked up version of “O for a thousand tongues to sing”
in opening worship Tuesday morning when I wondered, out loud,
how many of the thousands of tongues singing were in queer heads?
My mathematical partner would answer 400
and then remind me that such calculations are “arithmetic”–
not quite rising to the level of mathematics.
What would the body of Christ be, I wondered,
without those LGBTQI tongues to sing?
I tried to imagine, adapting John Lennon’s lyrics:
“Imagine, there’s no gays in UMC,”
At least the self-avowed, practicing kind,
(cause the so-called “Good News” folks say they don’t object to the celibate kind)
But it wasn’t easy, even though I tried.
Wouldn’t the body be so diminished without those tongues
as to no longer be a body worthy of the body of Christ?
No longer worthy of praise?
Without the diversity of parts, once celebrated by Paul,
wouldn’t the body return to the dust from which we came?
IF we managed, through parliamentary procedure of course,
to cut out those LGBTQI tongues,
we might be left with a denomination in name, the UMC,
But it would not be the body of Christ.
That body would be elsewhere, enjoying the gifts of those
like Grace Cox-Johnson whose beautiful stoles enlivened opening worship,
or the colorful, out, trans, non-binary, youthful fabulousness of Aaron Pazan,
or the incredibly creative, detail work of a mind-reader,
worship team planner and floor manager like David Bone,
or the emotional lyrics and toccata rumblings of Mark Miller,
or the prayerful movement of a Randall Miller,
or the inspiring words of liturgical artists like Marcia McFee,
or the global musical sounds of Jorge Lockward,
or the ones whose full witness is shielded from view by our discrimination.
And that says nothing of all the other ways LGBTQI people are integral
to the denominational body,
like the powerful story I heard today of the woman, her orientation unknown to most,
who created a celebrated UMC ministry.
Then there’s the prophetic, poetic voices of the Indigo Girls,
Emily Saliers, a preacher’s kid, daughter of Don Saliers,
whose sung responses grace the UM Hymnal and
whose reading of psalms brings them to life.
And Amy Ray, in church 3x a week growing up,
who loved her clergy-magician-uncle using tricks
to illuminate Bible passages
(see these 3 ropes, poof, they’re really 1, a symbol of the Trinity).
Indigo songs sooth the souls of weary delegates,
volunteers and Bishops Friday night.
The concert became church, albeit in a UCC sanctuary,
with voices of belief, witness, prayer
and the struggle to hold the system accountable to the gospel good news.
Should the body UMC look in the mirror, reflected there are beautiful parts–
racial, ethnic, gender identity, sexual orientation–
not enough, but some, all integral gifts of the whole.
And what of allies, those cut out of the body by mandatory penalties,
or silenced in their welcome?
And young people (can I get an amen for the youth delegates report?)
If those queer voices, who form the body of Christ,
leave the church that uses their gifts while excluding their bodies,
I fear what would be left is not a body,
more of a shell of our former selves,
(and here I can imagine Voldermort’s twisted shadowy,
parasitic existence, before his return).
Because, if they go, the body goes with them.
And so I can imagine that I don’t do this work
of witnessing to the inclusion of the gospel,
of insisting the UMC live into its motto
of open hearts and minds and doors for “them”
but for myself–
because I want to imagine myself as part of the body of Christ.
Today, I joined the body singing, “I won’t harm you with words from my mouth.
I love you, I need you to survive.”
No need to strain to hear all those tongues to sing.
So I do commit to be part of the body of Christ,
wherever it goes.
Therefore, I go.