The Reconciling Vote
It was 182 in favor and 12 opposed. That was the count of the vote last Sunday regarding whether or not to become a Reconciling Congregation. At almost 94%, it was pretty overwhelming statement by almost 200 people who consider Aldersgate their church. Over these past few days I’ve looked back over the events of last Sunday. Over and over again I’ve re-lived some of those moments; the worship experience of one full service in spite of the extended worship time; the reverence that surrounded the voting, and sacred nature in the receiving of the totals; the service offered by those we didn’t even know as they helped count the ballots; the combination of the choir and band and the power of the music; the message given by Rev. Terri Stewart, the challenge she gave us as we move ahead. I could feel the prayers that surrounded this whole time in our church history, and the prayers offered again on Sunday morning, and then the feeling of unity that was tangibly felt during communion.
But what may be the most powerful piece of the events leading up to and following Sunday’s vote is the overwhelming response regarding “the twelve;” and by the twelve I mean the 12 who opposed becoming Reconciling. I’ll explain in a minute. For years I’ve talked about being a church that is able to disagree and yet stay at “the table;” I’ve talked about love being the foundation for who we are as a church. For years we’ve explored the life and teachings and actions of Jesus, particularly around the acceptance he offered to so many – as long as they were not oppressing or manipulating others. For the past five years we’ve sought, as a Core Leadership Team at Aldersgate, to provide as many opportunities as possible for all voices to be heard. And now here we are, on the other side of a vote that has all the potential to divide us. And yet, what has been so consistent in the responses following Sunday’s service hasn’t been around the numbers, or the positive feeling as much as it has been focused on the 12. There is a deep desire to make sure they are okay, and that they know that they are loved.
Some have asked if I know who they are. I don’t. I didn’t sneak a peek at ballots handed to me by anyone. I didn’t go through the ballots I had in my office. I wouldn’t do any of that. So, no, I don’t know who voted against any more than I know who voted for. What I do know is that at this point the twelve may be feeling isolated, or upset, or frustrated, or so many other emotions that could come from being on the short end of such a significant voting margin. I do, however, think I know this congregation well enough to know that it won’t cause them to leave. For some, like those on the other side of the vote, many will be relieved that it’s finally over, that we can finally move back to what we’re supposed to be focused on; God, Jesus and our neighbors. That said, the result of the voting will create some changes. It will focus us. It is a pretty overwhelming mandate to more clearly identify ourselves in solidarity with our LGBTQIA communities. It mandates us toward exploring just how we accept one another, love one another, live with one another, and become more and more like Jesus. We may think our work is done. It isn’t. It’s just beginning. So, to the twelve, our love for you has not changed. If anything, it has deepened. For the one hundred and eighty two, we have significant work to do as we enter into this new time. So let’s pray, let’s worship, let’s participate, let’s have our voices be heard and let’s continue to be the Body of Christ I saw around the communion table last Sunday. Holy Week is upon us and we have much to do…