stories of revolution by love of neighbor

This was originally posted at In Our Words, a blog a friend of mine from DePaul started. As it is part of my reflections on General Conference, I have decided to re-post it here with a few edits so those who do not follow IOW or who didn’t see my facebook posts of this article could know a little more about my activities at and reflections on General Conference.

Dancers from the flash mob
Photo from UMCOM GC Photostream

For the last week of April and the first week of May, I spent my time in Tampa, FL. No, it wasn’t some sort of Girls Gone Wild-esque Spring Break misadventure. Instead, it was a misadventure of much more epic proportions, or so it felt at times. It was the General Conference of The United Methodist Church, or, more simply, a conference of 1,000 United Methodists from across the world coming together to talk about the structure, management, and social stances of The UMC for the next four years.

Among hot-button questions this year were restructuring the church, the “official” proposal of which, in my opinion would move away from our democratic, participatory model to a more streamlined, hierarchical business model, and human sexuality, meaning legislating the sacred worth of queer folks.  As if that’s a good idea.

From the get-go, I was uncomfortable with process. In so-called “holy conversations” around sexuality, some delegates expressed a belief that queer folks should be stoned to death, among other like beliefs, and in the restructuring discussion, young people were often forgotten or disregarded, even mocked. Actions were taken that could be extremely harmful to ensuring that the voices of women, people of color, and United Methodists from outside of the US would be heard in The UMC’s leadership.

As a young, progressive, female-identified individual who srongly supports LGBTQ inclusion in The UMC and who is passionate about making sure the voices of marginalized communities have a place at the table, I can hardly imagine a situation in which more of my integral identities could be denied, harmed, excluded, and the like so continuously, especially in a space where I should be able to feel relatively safe.

I went emotionally numb about halfway through the conference. This has always been one of my defense mechanisms; when things get too emotionally difficult in a public space, I shut down. I become bitter, jaded, and emotionally cold, though never let it affect my continual work for justice and the like; I simply guard myself against more hurt by distancing myself emotionally.

It was at this point that I helped bring together a group of young adults to plan the revolution. We hoped to bring before the General Conference a list of grievances, listing the ways we felt young people had been harmed by the discourse. One among our number came up with the twitter hashtag #wearenowhereumc with the double meaning of “we are nowhere” and “we are now here” to remind the General Conference that while young people are often forgotten, we are now here, as well.

It was going to be a hashtag young people could use to vocalize their grievances that we would then use for our project. However, something changed; when we launched the hashtag, the young people who began using it framed it in a positive light, expressing hopes and possibilities regarding the role of young people in the church. My jaded and emotionally guarded exterior began to break down.

The tipping point, though, was the day after the hashtag launch. For some time, a group of young adult supporters of LGBTQ inclusion had been planning a flash mob. It would be a huge attention-grabbing dance to “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from the musical Hairspray, aimed at celebrating the role of young people and LGBTQ folks in The UMC, and reminding The UMC that we are now here. The flash mob (seriously, watch it!) went off better than we could have ever planned; the crowd loved it and we grabbed everyone’s attention. For me, though, it had an even deeper importance.

In the midst of my frustration and moments of pessimism, there were times when I wondered seriously for the first time why I stay in The UMC, why I shouldn’t find a church that affirms me just as I am. For me, though, the flash mob and my participation in it served to remind me of why I’m willing to stick it out and continue working for more inclusion, of LGBTQ folks, of young people, of women, of people of color, of non-US members.

There may be moments, some of them unbelievably long, when The UMC may act like we are nowhere, either like those voices are not available or that they are not even part of the church, as is often the case with young people, but the truth is, and always will be, that we are now here!

No matter how much certain people want some voices silenced, for queer folks to sit down and take the church’s blows without standing back up and resuming our struggle, or for those crazy, radical young people who keep envisioning something different for the church, though it may require drastic change, to sit down and be silent, but we’re not going anywhere.

Change is coming; they can’t stop the beat. The song’s chorus really resonated with me as I faced my frustration and inner turbulence, because it reminded me “you can’t stop the motion of the ocean, or the rain from above / you can try to stop the paradise we’re dreamin’ of / But you cannot stop the rhythm of two hearts in love to stay / ‘Cause you can’t stop the beat!”

Be it The UMC or the US government, or the state of North Carolina, change is coming. WE know it is right around the corner and inevitable, and those in power can either accept that or lash out in an extremist attempt to further marginalize certain voices and maintain their power, but the truth is, they can’t stop the beat! We are now here, and we’re going nowhere.

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Comments on: "You Can’t Stop the Beat: Bringing Change to The UMC" (8)

  1. Wesley Steinbrink said:

    Kara,

    Expressive dance! Such exuberance! What would that be toward though? Where is any mention of God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit? Did I miss it?

    By the way, I know what LGBT is, but what pray tell is the Q of LGBTQ exactly?!? How does this Q fit into the Biblical narrative – or not?

    We accept all into our services, but there is a need for repentance and renouncing of sinful ways – for each and every one of us. Love from a parent’s view is not acceptance of everything their child does. Love is wanting the best for someone whether it hurts them or you for a while or not. Do not misunderstand, we do not want people in abusive relationships. Love is a decision.

    Please read your Bible, especially Matthew and find out what Jesus is really saying – about love, sin, and judgement. It is enlightening. (Matthew 15:19 includes in a list of sins, sexual immorality (pornea in Greek – which includes homosexuality)

    Blessings

    • the Q stands for queer, a claim which has been reclaimed by members of the LGBTQ community for a number of purposes. Many people identify as such if they don’t feel they strictly fit into one letter category or another, of if they’re just not comfortable with the terminology for whatever reason. Additionally, it has been generally reclaimed by the community as a kind of catch-all to encompass everyone, regardless of what their identifier might be. Basically, it’s a unifying term in that regard.

      • Wesley Steinbrink said:

        Thanks Kara Crawford for the quick reply. I understand your take on it, but I also looked it up via Google search and found that everyone is equally split on it being Queer and Questioning. Questioning makes me think of those who have questioned their homosexuality and changed to heterosexuality. There is Stephen Bennett – “Stephen Bennett, a man who struggled throughout his teenage years and early adult life, living the homosexual lifestyle until he was 28 years old. …Today, by God’s grace and through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, Stephen has been happily married for almost 20 years to his beautiful wife, Irene, and he is the father of the couple’s two children.” (Bennett, 2012)
        and Joe Dallas who has a similar story (Dallas, 2012). This is the basis for the Transforming Congregations (Booth, 2012) that is affiliated with the UMC.

        Bennett, S., (2012), “About SBM Worldwide, Inc.”, Retrieved May 26, 2012 from: http://www.sbministries.org/members/sbm/adminpages/about

        Booth, K., (2012), “Transforming Congregations”, Retrieved Mat 26, 2012 from: http://www.transcong.org

        Dallas, J., (2012), “GenesisCounseling”, Retrieved May 26, 2012 from: http://www.joedallas.com

      • You’re welcome. I’m always glad to help others understand, even if just a little bit more. Based on the tone of my post, I’m sure you can figure out for yourself that you and I have a difference of understanding, and there is little chance that either of us would be persuaded by the other, because I’m sure you’re as firmly set in your understanding as I am in mine. But I’m glad I was able to help clear up the issue around language; I recognize that the “Q” isn’t necessarily a common addition outside of the community, but for inclusiveness’ sake, I always feel obliged to include it so I don’t exclude those who don’t fall into the strict “LGBT” categories. So thank you for asking, because even though we may disagree, I find it significant that you were willing to reach out and ask.

  2. Wesley Steinbrink said:

    I appreciate that you have allowed these comments to be posted. You seem to make an assumption that may or may not be correct. I would ask do you believe as Ron (Ron, 2003) or as Justin (Justin, 2003?)?

    B., Ron, (2003), “Love that Does Not Count the Cost”, Retrieved May 18, 2012 from: http://www.gaychristian.net/rons_view.php

    Justin, (2003?), “What I Believe”, Retrieved May 18, 2012 from: http://www.gaychristian.net/justins_view.php

    Blessings

    • I apologize if it seems I misjudged your opinions. The simplest way to answer your question is that I don’t believe as either of them, based on what I read and what I understood to be their opinions. Admittedly, due to time constraints and the length of the articles, I did not read the whole of both in great detail, but I think I read enough to get the basic principle of each.

      As for a more nuanced answer, I can really see where Justin is coming from in certain parts of his piece, particularly with his rationale against the verses/passages/rationale typically used to support the idea that homosexuality is a sin. But I don’t fully agree with his conclusions. My specific understanding is complex and difficult to explain, but I tend to have a more liberal understanding of things…not in any way abandoning scripture or tradition, but also bringing in my reason and experience to my understanding [in the spirit of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral].

  3. Hello Kara…this is Wesley’s wife Jeanette…Have you ever thought about reading the book of Jude? It’s the short book right before Revelation. Short. sweet and to the point. Helps me to Keep my priorities straight. My husband was being nice I am not so nice when People try to take the Word out of context. You are abandoning scripture and tradition in every way possible. And How simple is the Word of God. VERY Just read it! If you can’t obey it why not abandon it! Why is it hard to explain when you have put this blog up to explain things. CRAZY!! You act as tho you have All this knowlegde down but, don’t really want to display it any.

    • I’m sorry you feel that way and that I came across that way. I was trying to say that it’s too complex to simply write into my comment. I didn’t in any way mean to talk down to your husband or anything of the sort, and I’m deeply sorry it may have come across that way. Definitely not my intention.

      I haven’t read Jude in a little while, though I have read it before. I will go back and re-read it. Always looking for suggestions on what to read, so I appreciate that!

      I believe that God is far bigger than we could ever imagine, and personally (not saying your interpretation is wrong, just giving my interpretation) don’t believe it to be quite so simple. It’s messy, there are contradictions, there are things that we no longer agree with culturally and socially (such as polygamy, slavery, the idea that women should just sit back and let men run the show, and the list goes on). You’re welcome to have your own understanding, but this is mine and I recognize that we don’t agree, but I simply ask for your respect.

      On that note, I really want commenters on this blog to be respectful to everyone else, and so if I believe any more comments to be disrespectful (to be honest, this one came close), I’m going to use my editorial power and not allow them through in the future. Even if it pains me, as I don’t wish to censor anyone’s opinions. I will never censor things because I simply disagree with them, because that’s not who I am. But I will not allow disrespect for other individuals or groups on this blog.

      I hope that you can imagine the possibility that God is big enough to extend grace to both of us, should we accept it, and that both of us, in spite of our differences (or because of them) might be welcomed into God’s expansive, wonderful (sometimes dysfunctional, but nonetheless beautiful) family.

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