Friday, December 13, 2013

Mary Ann Barclay deserves better.

My friend Mary Ann was reinstated in her United Methodist ordination process in Southwest Texas yesterday. Even though she was approved by her church and a district committee, her conference board broke their own rules by voting her out without ever interviewing her. Her bishop, after over 6 months, finally overturned their discriminatory action, granting her the right to an interview.

Many are saying that this decision just delays the inevitable—in a year she will meet with her conference board and they will vote her out. But I don’t think it will be that simple.

The individuals on this board now have to see Mary Ann as a person: read her writing, listen to her story, and look into her eyes before they will be allowed to deny God's call on her life. 

It is one thing to vote out an abstract lesbian, it is quite another to enter into another’s life and tell them to their face that they were wrong about their calling. To do that, board members of Southwest Texas will have to decide to ignore their conscience and the Holy Spirit.

History books will record Mary Ann’s name alongside Anna Oliver and Anna Shaw... both denied ordination in in the 19th century on the grounds that "there is no place for women in the ordained ministry of the Methodist Episcopal Church." 

Mary Ann’s persistence and confidence in her calling to a church whose discriminatory clergy rules deny her entrance echo those in history who applied to colleges, sat at lunch counters, and kneeled in churches… even though they were not allowed to do so by law. As Anna Oliver said in1880 when seeking ordination alongside men:
I am sorry to trouble our dear mother Church with any perplexing questions, but it presses me also, and the Church and myself must decide something. I am so thoroughly convinced that [God] has laid commands upon me in this direction, that it becomes with me really a question of my own soul's salvation. If [God] commands me to just the course I am pursuing, as only they that do [God's] commandments have right to the tree of life, I have no alternative.
Mary Ann has no alternative than to follow God’s call on her life to minister in The United Methodist Church. My hope is that board members will have no alternative than to follow the Spirit’s call as well.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Today changes everything

Today is so familiar.
Today two men in Birmingham refuse to give up their spot.
Today the opposition continues to blast their harmful water hoses.
Today Methodist bishops call on a colleague to stand down.
Today fear and bigotry fall victim to love and justice.
Today is so familiar.

You rocks cry out.
You rocks who have remained silent.
You rocks petrified by the fear of retribution and revenues.
You rocks stoned on the drug of appointment ladders.
You rocks threatened by ecclesial Pharisaic control.
You rocks cry out.

Today God is doing a new thing.
Today changes everything in The United Methodist Church.
Today a United Methodist bishop joins two grooms into one.
Today "Dearly Beloved" is spoken, and Beloved Community is made real.
Today Joe and Bobby are a sign of God's love changing the world.
Today God is doing a new thing.

Today is so familiar.
You know how today ends.
Today changes everything.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Same-sex couple to wed at RMN convocation—others invited to do the same

Originally published on RMNBlog

AnnandaThey met while in seminary. “Seeing her was the first time in my life I was taken aback by someone’s presence. I instantly thought who is this woman,” said Mary Ann Kaiser. That was the beginning of a love story between Mary Ann and Annanda—a journey that is leading them to the wedding aisle at Reconciling Ministries Network’s convocation Labor Day weekend.

“Choosing to get married isn’t all about us. It is a response to God’s call on our lives to be one,” said Annanda Barclay, second year seminary student currently serving at Central Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas. “It is a spiritual act. Civil rights are a beautiful thing and should be realized for all couples, but marriage is rooted in Christ’s expression of love. We now get to be a sign to the world of what that love looks like, in our love for each other.”
DSCN0112“We are crazy in love, still making each other blush,” said Mary Ann Kaiser, a youth director and justice associate at University UMC in Austin. “I know this feeling won’t be there forever, but as we bind ourselves to one another through this sacred ritual, we commit to spending a lifetime learning how to love this other person—pushing, challenging, and helping to grow into the women God has called us to be. Marriage is our answering the call to use our love to do good things for the world together.”

Both women feel called to ordained ministry. Mary Ann, a frequent contributor to RMN’s blog, is seeking to be a Deacon in The United Methodist Church, and is passionate about the intersections of church and society. Open about her relationship with Annanda, Mary Ann’s UMC District Committee on Ministry in Austin recently voted to pass her through to interview with the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry. Annanda, called to parish ministry, is passionate about developing new churches that are diverse. “As an African American, queer, woman, in a church that is predominately white, I feel called to stand in the intersections of race, ethnicity, age, socio economic status, and sexual identities, celebrating with them all as one worshiping body.”

Reconciling Ministries Network is holding its convocation (ChurchQuake: Embracing Freedom) over Labor Day weekend in Maryland, where same-sex marriage is legal. “We thought it was important to give our community the opportunity and space to commit their lives in covenant to one another,” said RMN Executive Director Matt Berryman. “The RMN community will be gathered for worship, fellowship, and study, and I can think of no better time for a marriage to happen, for couples who have discerned this sacred calling, than when they are surrounded by those who will love and support them into the future.”

Local area Reconciling clergy are prepared to assist couples who have gone through premarital counseling and have determined with their pastor that they are ready for marriage. Couples interested in exploring this possibility should visit, which will give details concerning appropriate premarital preparations with your pastor, and securing a Maryland marriage license. Convocation leaders will work with the couples to schedule wedding ceremonies when friends can take part. There will also be a celebration at convocation recognizing all same-sex couples who have been married at convocation or before, closing with a gala reception, including wedding cake. RMN is committed to marriage equality and is pleased to provide this opportunity to live this out at convocation.

Mary Ann and Annanda said they chose convocation because community is important to them. “Marriage is not just a covenant between two people and God, but a covenant of the community surrounding them as well,” said Mary Ann. “There will be a day when things get tough, and to know that we have a community who were present on the day we made a promise and who remember the vision that started the whole thing, means we have someone to turn to give us strength. And that same community will help us celebrate for the next great thing—like adopting a child. Marriage is a communal event.”

Even though marriage equality is getting significant attention in the movement right now, both women feel strongly that it is not the most pressing need for the LGBTQ community. “Homeless youth who have been shunned from their families, same-sex, bi-national couples who have no immigration rights—those may not be the primary need of the privileged middle, upper class LGBTQ community, but needs like these are essential to equality,” said Mary Ann. Annanda agreed, adding that they plan to work for LGBTQ equality together as a couple. “Marriage isn’t foremost about us. It is about sharing the abundant gifts we have for each other with the world and community around us.”

Couples interested in exploring the possibility of getting married at convocation should talk to their local clergy person and then visit Be sure to save the date—see you at convocation!
. . .
555411_10150973304415600_600561527_nThe Bride: Annanda Barclay graduated from Illinois College with a BS in International Studies and Spanish. She is a seminary student who is passionate about creating new frameworks in church development, so all people are welcomed and valued in the church. Annanda hopes to become an ordained minister in The PC (USA) and is currently an intern at Central Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas. She is a board member of More Light Presbyterians working for LGBTQ equality in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

MaryannThe Bride: Mary Ann Kaiser is a recent graduate of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. She has a passion for working in the intersections of church and society. Her love for religious approaches to questions of ethics, particularly in the realms of race, gender, and sexuality, led her to internships at WATER (Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual) in Silver Spring, MD and Texas Freedom Network in Austin, TX. She has also worked for the Wesley Foundation and as a hospital chaplain. She currently serves as Youth Director and Justice Associate at University UMC in Austin and is pursuing ordination as a Deacon in The UMC. In her free time, she blogs for Reconciling Ministries Network.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Called to be extremists

Originally published on RMNBlog

Today, on the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” and on the morning after the act of terror at The Boston Marathon, here are words of intersection… As we hear the word “extremist” being used in the media to describe unimaginable hate, Dr. King's letter beacons us, still to be a different type of extremist.
Excerpt from MLK’s Letter From a Birmingham Jail, 50 years later:
Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you."  
Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream."
Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." 
Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." 
And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." 
And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." 
And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . ." 
So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? 
In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime—the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. 
The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.
Click here to read the full letter.

Monday, February 25, 2013

How the United Methodist Men aren't being very United Methodist

Originally published on RMNBlog

Gilbert C. Hanke speaks about scouting ministries during the 2012 United Methodist General Conference in Tampa, Fla. Hanke is top staff executive of United Methodist Men. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.

On February 19, Bishop Swanson, Secretary Gil Hanke, and the board members of the United Methodist Men issued a statement which boiled down to three main points:
  • Whereas we received lots of angry and hateful phone calls and letters from conservatives following our first two statements in favor of the inclusion of Scouts who identify as gay
  • Whereas we value retention and expansion above every other value
  • Therefore, the United Methodist Men are calling on the Boy Scouts of America not to change their ban on gay scouts and scout leaders because we need more time.
I am a member of the United Methodist Men. They helped pay my way through seminary and I witnessed the power of men’s ministry at many of the churches I served. That is why I am deeply saddened after reading this statement over their lack of courage to be United Methodist.

You see, even if you agree passionately with United Methodist doctrine and polity, there is nothing in our Book of Discipline that would support young men being excluded from a church sponsored troop based on their sexual orientation.
The Discipline talks about all people being of sacred worth, and calls on United Methodists to be in ministry with all people. My United Methodist Church professes an open table and believes that God and God’s prevenient grace is in and with all people, even before we are aware of her presence. John Wesley believed that fellowship, study, building relationships, and conversation with others could be a means of grace where we are transformed into something new. Jesus showed us what love looked like as he again and again embraced the marginalized.
That is our theology.
It is not our theology to make decisions based on people’s threats of taking their money and leaving… that is the theology of capitalism.
It is not our theology to base our polity on what will attract the most people and retain them… that is the theology of consumerism.
It is not our theology to hinder the access of children and youth… that was the theology of confused disciples who mistakenly believed they were gatekeepers, deciding who could and couldn’t come to Jesus.
The United Methodist Men say we just need more time to preserve retention and expansion of scouting programs in The UMC.
A quick history lesson:
  • When Israel was in Egypt’s land, Pharaoh said we need more time… he valued retention and expansion of his empire
  • When the Methodist Church was split over slavery, the South said we need more time… they valued retention and expansion of their churches
  • When Lincoln was considering The Emancipation Proclamation, white slave owners said we need more time… they valued retention and expansion of their plantations
  • When women were fighting for their right to vote in this country, white men said we needed more time… they valued retention and expansion of their power
  • When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was sitting in a jail cell in Birmingham following civil disobedience concerning unjust and immoral laws in the Jim Crow South, white pastors (including two Methodist bishops) said we need more time… they valued retention and expansion of the way things have always been
  • When the Methodist Church was considering racial integration of our churches, church leaders said we need more time… they valued retention and expansion of their offering plates
  • When women were fighting for the ability to live out their Baptisms and faithfully answer their call to ordained ministry, white males said we need more time… they valued retention and expansion of their authority
The chorus of the privileged majority gets sung again and again, “we need more time,” and the latest group to join the refrain is the United Methodist Men. More time means more boys subject to bullying and exclusion. More time means higher rates of suicides among gay adolescents.
But perhaps the most crucial reason we don’t have “more time” is because we need to stand up and be United Methodist Men. We are not a church that has any more time for injustice.

. . .
To read the United Methodist Men's full statement from Feb 19, 2013, click here.

Friday, January 18, 2013

A forgotten Civil Rights hero

Originally published on RMNBlog

BrIf you've never heard of Bayard Rustin you are not alone. But you should know him. Bayard Rustin is perhaps the most significant organizer for social justice and civil rights in American history. He was the man behind Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, teaching King everything he knew about non-violent resistance, civil disobedience, and organizing a movement. Certainly The Movement would not have succeeded like it did without MLK's brilliance, but King would be no more than a prophetic preacher if Bayard Rustin hadn't introduced him to the ideas of Gandhi and given King the strategy to change the world through peace.
So if Bayard Rustin is so important, why has history forgotten him? Why isn't he celebrated? Why was he hidden by The Movement itself?
Bayrad Rustin was gay.

When those opposed to The Movement learned of Bayard Rustin's sexuality, they sought to use it  King_rustinagainst the entire fight for civil rights-- even from the floor of congress. As result, Bayard Rustin worked from the background, hidden from public eye and left out of the history books.There is no justifying the horrible injustice that has been done to Bayard Rustin. However, we can't change what our heroes of the Civil Rights Era choice to do to protect a vulnerable movement. What we can do is reclaim his name, sacrifice, hard work, and character today.

That is why today, I am introducing a petition to President Barack Obama to award Bayard Rustin posthumously with The Presidential Medal of Freedom. We need 100,000 signatures by February 17th, 2013. Together we can help honor a man who gave his entire for the Civil Rights Movement. He deserves to at least stand behind, if not next to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Click the picture below to sign the petition and share this with your friends. Below is a video and other links to more information about Bayard Rustin's life of service.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Letter from an Albany Jail

Originally published on RMNBlog

You have probably read his Letter from a Brimingham Jail, but have you read Dr. King's letter from a cell in Albany, GA? In it King makes the argument that when "the non-violent resistor refuses to cooperate with a law that is out of harmony with the laws of God and the laws of morality, he must break the law-- but in doing so, practices civil disobedience and accepts the penalty, thereby practicing moral obedience and transforms the jail into a haven of liberty and freedom."
Over Labor Day weekend Reconciling Ministries Network will be holding its convocation in D.C. themed "ChurchQuake: Embracing Freedom". There is a story in the Bible of Paul and Silas locked up in a jail cell for their civil disobedience. And when they began to sing songs, the earth shook and their chains were released.
I have to wonder if Dr. King had that story in mind when he transformed a jail in Albany into a haven of liberty and freedom.

Here is the letter, in Dr. King's own typing (from the King Center Archive):

- by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. -