The Baptismal covenant of The United Methodist Church calls us to speak up and respond to this important question. “Do you accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?” Queer people have been oppressed in The UMC since General Conference in 1972. This is evil and unjust and must be stopped. Yet, queer people have also been lifted up and allowed to speak.
During General Conference of The UMC (the churches top legislative body that meets every 4 years) something happened before the legislation process even began. There was a change in the worship speakers for greetings to welcome us to GC. A pastor (Vicki Flippin) wanted to go off script and say something different by welcoming her context in particular (which is specific to the queer community) then what everyone else was saying in their native tongue. That’s where I came into play.
The director of GC worship (Laura Jaquith Bartlett) asked me if I would be willing to say the simple greeting of “Welcome! May the peace of Christ be with you.” I agreed. Some of you might be wondering why I agreed to do something when someone was turned away from saying about me? I didn’t want a white cisgender heterosexual speaking for me. Laura explains the decision of why I was chosen to replace Rev. Vicki Flippin “From the beginning of our planning process, our team has been committed to not simply talk about inclusivity, but to live it out. So when it became necessary to recruit another leader, I immediately thought of my friend Aaron Pazan, who was thrilled to have this opportunity. Aaron’s participation became an embodiment of our desire to include all persons, not only with our language, with also with our worship leadership.”
As an out non-binary trans person, I knew what I was getting myself into when I decided that I would be willing to participate in opening worship. I knew that I would get backlash from my own queer community for participating. But, I did it anyways. I wanted people to see that queer people were here and present in worship at GC. I wanted to show people that by speaking “Welcome! The peace of Christ be with you.” I was allowing my whole non-binary authentic self to be in the room and open about who I am.
From the words of my dear friend Mark Miller “No matter what the church says, decisions, pronouncements on you, you are a child of God. And there is no thing or no one who can separate you from the truth that you’re someone, You are family, you are meant to be, a child of God! You are a child of God!”