Every time the major church denominations increase their corruption or marginalization of certain groups of people, all churches feel the fallout. The combination of harmful doctrine with a largely unchurched public means that to the average person, what happens in the Catholic church or the United Methodist Church might as well be true of the United Church of Christ or PCUSA or ELCA.
Within this larger context, I’ve found that the poems in Forgive Us Our Trespasses take on a new meaning.
Since publishing that book, I’ve gone through periods where my own copy sits unopened at the top of my bookshelf for weeks or months. And then something happens, personally or in the world. Suddenly, I need to return to those poems, to look again at these words I half-formed and half-found.
The United Methodist Church’s recent decision to double-down on its exclusion of LGBTQ people from ministry, marriage, and full participation in the life of the church has prompted another return to these poems. The most cutting account from the General Conference to me was that LGBTQ people were actually barred from reentering the meeting space for closing worship, so they held queer communion outside in the hall.
I cannot emphasize enough the quiet rage and deep sympathy I feel for anyone who is prevented from partaking in one of Christianity’s most fundamental sacrament. Communion connects us across distance and eras of history to everyone else that has ever taken it, cycling all the way back to that last supper that started it all. Communion resonates very strongly with my spirit, and I don’t believe that anyone who so willingly comes to the table should be denied because that’s not how God treats us. Yet that’s how the Church treats so many.
I made a Twitter thread after the conference sharing some select pieces from Forgive Us Our Trespasses, pieces that maybe take on new meaning for hurting Methodists who have quite literally been betrayed and abandoned by their spiritual families. Just a few days later, the night before a board of directors meeting for my regional UCC conference (on which I serve), our conference minister asked me if I would read a couple poems as part of our opening devotional. I agreed and, again, with the UMC on my heart, chose pieces that provide assurance and affirmation in some way.
It turned out the conference minister, a gay man himself, had the UMC on his heart as well while crafting the devotion. My work rounded out a theme of women’s words from past to present (in honor of Women’s History Month) and I dedicated the reading of my pieces to those in UMC pained by this decision.
the women i like
drink wine and say
wisdom is the long delay of cherished hopes
and lost faith is lovingly reassured in our hours of darkness, but
a gentle benediction
We have some dual affiliated UCC and UMC congregations in my regional conference. This decision is a bigger deal than a non-churched public might think and the ramifications have yet to unfold. When a church claiming to follow Christ takes such an active effort to close off its community to a particular group of people, it causes a deep pain. In Searching For Sunday, Rachel Held Evans touches on how, as a society, we rarely think of the loss of a spiritual family as akin to other major forms of grief we experience. Yet for some, it feels exactly this way.
I am small with a small platform and a small reach. Forgive Us Our Trespasses is crafted in a weird form of poetry and sits at some obscure number in the depths of Amazon’s rankings. But my hope right now is that it acts as a net for any falling UMC folks pushed out of sanctuaries they once trusted. It’s a tiny net and most people probably don’t know it exists. But it’s here and I feel like it has something to say in this moment as it has in many other moments since its publication.
I don’t know how or if these poems will resonate. That’s the beauty and the mystery of them–this collection is both from me and beyond me. It’s difficult to describe this space I feel it occupies, but I do sense that this is one of those moments to share this book.
It exists and so do you.