The Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church took place in mid-June, and I was a delegate of my church. I took a point of personal privilege to speak at the very end of the conference, and the video was recently posted. This was not necessarily the thing that most needed to be said, but it is something that I feel strongly about, and I thought I might as well say it because I had prepared to say it during the debate on legislation that would have called for a moratorium on church trials, but didn’t get a chance because the resolution was tabled (which I was kinda pissed about). (Thank you, Darlene, for suggesting I share it as a point of personal privilege.)
For more context, please see the links in the transcript below.
I saw that Robin and Darlene came to stand beside me, but I didn’t realize until I finished and turned around that many other Reconciling delegates, some of whom I didn’t even know, were gathering behind me. It filled my heart so much to see that powerful, loving little crowd, and I imagine it was a powerful message for those who were watching to see such support coalesce behind a call to end church trials. There were also several elders who afterward came up to me, looked me in the eye, and thanked me with such sincerity and intention. This also filled my heart.
Also. Speaking on a mic to hundreds of people (many of whom probably have some degree of antagonistic feelings toward you and your message) is scary, but the most disorienting and disturbing thing is hearing your voice super amplified a split second after you hear it coming out of your own mouth. So confusing.
My name is Rachel Ternes, and I’m a delegate from Arch Street United Methodist Church. My point of personal privilege is just something to consider in the wake of having tabled the resolution on ending church trials.
I am a commissioned missionary of the United Methodist Church, serving through the Global Mission Fellows program of the General Board of Global Ministries.
A few weeks ago, all the current US-based young adult missionaries of the UMC were gathered together for a week from our sites of service all over the country. On our last day together, we received news of the judicial decision that Bishop Karen Oliveto’s consecration was ruled against church law. We have diverse theologies and positions and politics, but in that moment, 30 young adults who have committed two years of our lives to serving “the least of these” circled up and prayed and cried with each other, and grieved at how the legalistic decisions of our church seemed determined to send a message of judgement louder than the message of love that we missionaries strive to share with the world every day. As a young person and a missionary serving as the connection between the church and the world, trust me when I say that church trials break the hearts of young people in our church who want to participate in a community that exemplifies the unconditional, nonjudgemental love of Jesus Christ. And church trials dangerously harm our witness in the world. Recently, whenever the UMC has made it into secular, mainstream news sites, and the attention of people outside the church, it’s been because we are putting one of our own members on trial. What kind of witness is that?
The harm to LGBTQIA individuals is real, and the harm to our witness is real. We cannot wait for the [Commision on a] Way Forward before we do all in our power to prevent church trials. To put it off, and prevent us from considering such efforts is to violently silence the voices of members who are already violently marginalized.