Rev. Debbie Gara: South District Clergy Reflection on 2019 General Session

The day after the vote.

A lot of my United Methodist sisters and brothers  are processing and sharing their feelings about the outcome of our special general conference. I didn’t think I would, I mean, how much can one say? So many are so right on with how I feel and I keep thinking I could not express it better, or as succinct and eloquent. It’s kind of an online group therapy session where we can hear one another’s stories and express support and love, a place where we can come and feel the community and connection and love. But,  I think there may be something good in doing this, if only to help my own processing and then to go ahead and put it out there to invite my current story with you. Also , since I’m on a transitional leave right now (to be Grandma, I’m writing this between bottles and cuddles and silly songs and stinky diapers) I can say what I want without some of the risk and sensitivity of being on a church staff. I need to be completely me  right now. . .

I’m so humbled and astounded just thinking about our cal-pac and so many delegates who have been through this agony. The exhaustion. The pain. The days devoted to the way forward committee. Preparing to address congregations and districts and conferences, preparing to preach. I’m so grateful. I’m so sorry. And I’m so happy to see your community of support such as I witnessed last night thanks to Sandy’s live video. Please care for yourselves these days right now as you return.

As the hours roll in and the day turns into the next day, I am realizing this is the grief process in it’s full glory. This deep feeling of depression that blankets everything. This gnawing ache that makes smiling and laughter not quite real. The sudden stab. The waking up or after getting away from it for awhile and then realizing again it’s true. But it can’t be. It’s just not supposed to be. But it is.

I’ve done this. I’ve done this. It’s familiar.

It’s like something I have loved all my life has been taken away. So much of my identity. My formative years. My dad. Who I am. So much of My call. My vocation. So much of the basis for every decision I’ve made. My faith exists without the UMC. Right, but so much has been about the denomination, the church, us. The thing is, while this exclusionary language has been in place for a long time, at least in relation to my Ministry, there has been this sense of hope and true believing that it would finally change. And an energy around working on it. I felt so alive and right when I was involved in the reconciling discernment process at FUMC, and the times when I facilitated classes around awareness and understanding. We were working toward healing. And educating. It was part of a process, a journey like others in history. I never really believed that it would be like this. It makes sense when you do the math and know the voting history I guess, but I never went there. I had hope and remember realizing it would probably need to be something like what the one church plan was about, years ago. I never realized the extent of the determination from the traditionalists to have their way fully.

So I’m all about resurrection. But I’m also all about the necessary grief. I appreciate our leaders and others who are going right into the light and positive. I don’t doubt that God is still God and God is here and that we are called to respond. But I need to experience the loss right now. I need to cry and feel and honor the grief. I’ve learned how important that is. Of course God is in this. But God, for me, is immediately in the pain with me creating a more clear and clean darkness that can truly be filled.

I know, believe we will find a way.  I want to be a part of it. I love so much of who we are in cal-pac and the west.  (And others too, not in the west)

Frankly I’m also conflicted and confused by our Bishop’s statement last evening indicating his conviction and encouragement about staying with the UMC and continuing to serve this geographical area that has been “living  the one church plan for decades.”  I don’t really get that right now. The way I understand the traditional model that passed, we could not really do that without more messes and trials, etc. (though I know we don’t know fully what it will look like after judicial rulings). Right now I’m not able to imagine staying with the UMC this way. I’m in turmoil. I will look forward to hearing more about the vision (also shared from the Western jurisdiction) of how we can reconcile this and stay.

So, I will continue to grieve right now. Big time. And I will continue to do the best I can wherever I am to share the unconditional love and grace of the gospel, celebrating the profound and wonderful love God has created for us to share and commit together . . . not whether, but because we are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual and allied (along with all the other wonderful colors and things we are)!

Thanks for listening. Longest post ever.

Rev. Debbie Gara, Deacon.

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