Wednesday, May 08, 2019

A Non-Confirmation Affirmation

A young woman decided not to join the United Methodist Church last Sunday.

In one sense that’s rather unremarkable. After all, every Sunday there are millions of people who don’t join the United Methodist Church.

But the young woman’s decision was noteworthy, and I want you to know about it. She gave me permission to tell her story.

She attended confirmation classes for weeks, learning about the church, the theology and history of Methodism, and about what it means to be a member. And those classes were happening during a significant, tumultuous season for the denomination.

In February the General Conference met and tightened our restrictions on participation of LGBTQIA persons in the denomination. That decision was then upheld by the Judicial Council at the end of April. And then Confirmation Sunday was May 5th.

And because the young woman does not want to be a part of a church that excludes people, she decided not to become a member. Her decision did not make headlines; her story will not go viral. That’s not why she made her decision.

She made her decision because she doesn’t want to be a part of the United Methodist Church as long as gay people are only conditionally accepted here. “You are welcome up to this line, but not beyond” is not her theology, nor does it represent her understanding of who God is, nor does it reflect her interpretation of the Bible.

She is a young woman of principle, of courage, and of high integrity. I have the utmost respect for her and for her decision.  It was not an easy decision, and she made it with much prayer and discernment. Nor did her decision take any of the joy away from the other nine who decided to be confirmed and join the church; no judgments here, on anyone’s part.

A part of why she gave me permission to share her story was to help people recognize the writing on the wall for the UMC. This is the future of the denomination, as it has come to be.
We have not shattered in one explosive Thanos snap moment. Rather, the United Methodist Church is gradually disintegrating, just steadily eroding, one decision at a time. And no conference resolution, petition, or piece of legislation can even begin to reverse that slow yet unrelenting decline.

A young woman did not join the United Methodist Church last Sunday. Do you see her? Do you hear her? Will you affirm her story?

I baptized her a year ago; she professed her faith in Jesus Christ, made her baptismal vows, and was affirmed by the church surrounding her in that moment. So she is a disciple, but not a member. Which is wonderful of course, and at the same time heartbreaking.

A young woman made a decision to not join the church last week. And we need to hear her voice, respect her integrity, and affirm her story. And then we need to go to work so that no young person makes that decision ever again.