Pronouns Matter, and So Does How You Apologize

Jesi Lipp (they/them) attends St. Paul’s UMC in Lenexa where they serve on the Church Council and as a lay member of Annual Conference. They serve on the Great Plains Connecting Council, and have previously served on the Great Plains Mercy and Justice Team. Jesi was elected to be a delegate to the 2020 South Central Jurisdictional Conference.

Names are important. What we call ourselves is fundamental to who we are. Stories that remind us of this are found through our faith: Abram and Sarai becoming Abraham and Sarah, the naming of John the Baptist, Simon Peter as the rock the church is built on, Saul becoming Paul on the road to Damascus. And if names matter, then surely pronouns – which are used to identify us far more than our names are, many times over – cannot be any less important.

There are plenty of resources out there about why pronouns matter, including in the workplace and at schoolgender neutral pronouns, and how to use some of those newer pronouns that you might not be familiar with. And, since Merriam-Webster made singular they its Word of the Year for 2019, we can surely all dispense with the silly idea that singular they is “ungrammatical” or “wrong.”

But, of course, even if you read every pronoun explainer that has ever been published, there are going to be times when you mess up (I’ve been using they/them for 18 months now, and I still sometimes use the wrong pronouns when I speak in third person).

So what do you do when you make a mistake, either when you realize it on your own, or someone else points it out to you?

Correct it, and move on:

“We wanted to go to the game, so she – sorry, they – bought us tickets.”

“I was telling him about my day-”
“Taylor uses ze/zir pronouns.”
“Right, sorry. I was telling zir about my day, and ze was really sympathetic.”

Don’t stop talking and wait for the person to verbally acknowledge your apology so that you can then thank them for understanding and then they can tell you not to worry about it, they know everyone messes up sometimes, and hey, they still misgender themselves in the third person sometimes! You’ve now completely derailed the conversation and made it about your mistake.

Don’t tell the person you misgendered how sorry you are, that you’ll never do it again, you really do care about them and you would never want to make them uncomfortable, you’re learning and you’re trying and you’re really so very, very sorry. That kind of overwrought apology, however genuine, now makes them responsible for comforting you.

Don’t make an extended thing out of it. A quick “sorry,” correcting the error, and then moving on isn’t the bare minimum. It’s the maximum. For you, it’s maybe the first time you’ve spoken to this person in a month, and you really want to make sure they understand that you love and support them. But for them, it could be the fifth or twentieth time today that someone has misgendered them, and it’s exhausting.

This is, of course, where I point out that I can’t speak for every trans person out there. This is my opinion from my lived experience, and from talking with my trans friends about their experiences. The important thing to keep in mind is that it’s not about you. When you accidentally misgender someone, your response should be about making them feel comfortable, not making yourself feel better. And often, that means that less is more.

One Evangelical Pastor’s Journey to LGBTQ+ Affirmation

Rev. Daniel Kipp serves Elkhorn Hills UMC in Elkhorn, NE, and he has served Sabatha UMC (KS) and in youth ministry at Derby Woodlawn UMC (KS).

I am an Evangelical, “born again” in the Southern Baptist church, baptized in a Bible church, and preached my first sermon as a preteen in the Assemblies of God church (it was 45-minutes and 11-points of awesome sauce). I am also an LGBTQIA+ affirming United Methodist Elder.
 
How did this happen? The story is long but the answer is simple. I believe that part of God’s image, in whatever manner it is applied to the human soul, is revealed in human love. God’s presence burns brightly when one loves another selflessly.
 
Many have asked how I deal with the Biblical witness regarding human sexuality. For me, it is about circumcision passages like Galatians 5. “Being circumcised or not being circumcised doesn’t matter in Christ Jesus, but faith working through love does matter. (Gal 5:6 CEB)” The root word for “working” is an intensified version of the word for “work.” In other words, it is energizing work. What matters is having our faith light up with love.
 
I believe that Kingdom living is about having the light of Christ living (and loving) in us. Therefore, the way that we choose to love as Christ has loved us matters. God is revealed through the love of strangers, friends, parents, children, and spouses. Each relationship offers a new angle to what love is and how God feels about humanity.
 
I’m awkward and clumsy when talking about God’s love revealed through the identity of others. I’ve been thankful for the grace offered to me by my queer siblings in Christ. I’m angry that I require such grace; so, I am dedicated to recognizing love in all the places it lights up and I will do better. Brandon Sanderson, writes, “Sometimes a hypocrite is nothing more than a [person] in the process of changing.” This has become a motto for me, I’m not afraid to be a hypocrite as long as I continue to grow and change. 
 
A year ago I told a friend that I was affirming but I hoped that my children weren’t queer because life would be harder for them. My friend looked at me with grace in their eyes and said that they couldn’t imagine their gay sibling without their spouse. I almost fell over. I had just said that I was affirming and in the next breath showed my need for growth.
 
I want the United Methodist Church to be a beacon declaring God’s presence in the world. Methodist churches should be hallowed harbors for people who are resisting evil, injustice, and oppression in their communities. I am committed to declaring the image of God in all people. I will continue to blunder and accept grace and work toward a church that is fully open to all. To those of you who continue to reveal God’s image to me, thank you.

A New Day in the Great Plains

Clergy are currently meeting in Lincoln, NE for our annual Orders and Fellowship Gathering. Bishop Saenz answered questions regarding the Protocol on Wednesday, January 15, and we were very encouraged with his leadership. He supports the Protocol and shared that he will live into the spirit of the Protocol and honor the abeyance by not processing charges for LGBTQ+ clergy and clergy who officiate same-gender weddings before Genera Conference. This is huge news! Thank you to everyone who wrote the bishop and shared your stories. We know he has heard us and will stop the harm that charges and trials have caused our LGBTQ+ siblings. We are so grateful the Bishop is joining with his colleagues in support of the Protocol and helping us move forward with grace and hope. He cast a vision for the Great Plains that would seek justice for people of color, women, LGBTQ people while making space for a diversity of theological views. In the Great Plains UMC, there is a place for us all. As Junius said, now we work to help pass the Protocol and to inspire people to remain and embrace a bold new future.

Rev. Junius Dotson Shares Message with the Great Plains

Rev. Junius Dotson is the General Secretary for Discipleship Ministries, a member of the Great Plains Annual Conference, serves as the Co-Convener of national UMCNext Convening Team, and is one of the 16 who negotiated the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace. Your can read his full statement on the Protocol that was introduced this month here. We are so grateful for his leadership. He also has a message for us right here in Kansas and Nebraska:

Great Plains UMCNext:

Your energy and passion to create a vibrant and renewed United Methodism is making an impact. I believe your work is absolutely essential to the future of our church.

We have an enormous task ahead of us.

The first order of business is to pass the Protocol.

The second is to articulate a clear and compelling vision that inspires people not just to remain but to also embrace a bold new future.

I have a vision of an inclusive, diverse UMC that celebrates the core of our Wesleyan theological tradition with its emphasis on saving grace, perfecting love, personal piety and social holiness. I dream of a refreshed emphasis on making disciples of Jesus Christ and sharing the good news of God’s liberating love for all people. I dream of a church reaching a new generation of people who are passionate about Jesus, growing in discipleship and sharing their faith with others. I dream of a church that is developing new mission partnerships and growing in its global witness.

Thank you for being on this journey!

— Rev. Junius Dotson

UMC POLITY Q & A

Based on suggestions from our session at Leadership Institute, our team has started a new section to our newsletter to help explain the polity of the UMC. We have asked Rev. Amy Lippoldt to help answer these questions. 

Q: What actually changes on Jan 1, 2020 when the Traditional Plan goes into effect?

A: Perhaps not much. Since much of the Traditional Plan was ruled unconstitutional, its attempt to have ever escalating consequences for non-obedient clergy and Bishops was thwarted. Eight petitions did pass and they could cause real trouble for queer and pro-inclusion clergy. Much will depend on who is enforcing the Discipline and how creative or strict they want to be.
Newly effective legislation does the following:

  1. A marriage license now counts as “proof” of someone being a “self-avowed practicing homosexual.” A public statement of any kind does the same.
  2. Bishops are no longer allowed to consecrate, commission, or ordain “self-avowed homosexuals.” But a recent Judicial Council decision also said that anyone elected by a clergy session is properly credentialed and must be commissioned or ordained, a Bishop can’t refuse. This recent ruling seems to be in direct opposition to a Traditional Plan petition. Judicial Council will have to clarify itself, most likely through another case sent to them by a Bishop or Annual Conference next year.
  3. Boards of Ordained Ministry and district committees are to approve candidates who meet all the qualifications in the Discipline after a “full examination.” The General Board of Higher Ed and Ministry has issued a statement saying the current process in the Discipline constitutes a “full examination” and no further questions or documentation is required to meet the “new” standard. GBHEM is saying no question about sexuality is required, in their interpretation.
  4. There are changes to try and keep Bishops from quickly dismissing complaints. Bishops now have to write out why there is no basis in law or fact for the complaint and share that with the person who submitted the complaint. And in a “Just Resolution” “every effort shall be made” to have the author of the complaint agree. Importantly, this does not say they HAVE to agree. Just that a sincere effort shall be made. It will be up to Bishops to interpret this and how much power they let a complainant have.
  5. Regarding trials, there is a mandatory penalty of one-year suspension after a conviction for performing a same-sex wedding, and loss of credentials after the second conviction. Keep in mind that we have not had a guilty verdict after a trial in several years. This does not mean people aren’t being harmed by complaints but only that other means of ending the process have been used, rather than an actual trial. As of Jan 1, the church is also allowed to appeal cases to the Judicial Council if there are problems with the process. If a jury would just refuse to find someone guilty, the church still has no appeal.

As has been the case for years, a whole lot depends on the people involved in the process. The Traditional Plan wanted to make the process airtight, to remove any room for people to do other than kick out clergy who want a fully inclusive church. They succeeded in making things more complicated but it is far from airtight.  

Do you have a question for the UMC Polity Q&A? Send it to Rev. Amy Lippoldt.

Omaha-Area Churches Collaborate on Sermon Series Concept and Advertising

Omaha-Area Churches Collaborate on Sermon Series Concept and Advertising
by Rev. Chris Jorgensen, Hanscom Park UMC in Omaha, NE.

A group of six Omaha-area Reconciling (or actively discerning) churches have joined together to promote a shared sermon series in January 2020. The sermon series is called “New Year’s Revolution: Resisting Evil, Injustice, and Oppression in 2020.” The execution of the sermon series will be different at each church, but we will all share advertising based on our United Methodist baptismal covenant which requires us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. We are employing shared branding inspired by the design of the baptismal covenant t-shirts . We will be advertising on NPR, posting 120 fliers around the city, and distributing 4,500 invitation cards. Each invitation card is personalized for each individual church to include congregation-specific events on the back side of the card. We plan to resist the harm being done to LGBTQIA+ people inside and outside of the church by growing our inclusive and affirming congregations through invitation to people who might be interested in joining God’s work of love and justice.

Because the collaborating churches are part of the same district network, we were eligible for funding via a conference Network Grant. If you would like to see a copy of our grant application, please contact me at cjorgensen@greatplainsumc.org.

For your planning assistance, here is the outline that two of the congregations (Hanscom Park UMC and Urban Abbey) have decided to use for the sermon series. 

January 5 (Epiphany)
Theme: RESIST

  • What does it mean to resist evil? How do we resist evil, injustice, and oppression?
  • What does that have to do with baptism?

January 12
Theme: EVIL, INJUSTICE, and OPPRESSION

  • How do you identify evil, injustice, and oppression?
  • Sometimes it is not as obvious as the Massacre of the Innocents.
  • Maybe sometimes it is, but we just don’t want to see it because of how it benefits us.
  • Do we overlook the Massacre of the Innocents because our hero Jesus survived by fleeing to Egypt?

Scripture: Massacre of the Innocents

January 19
Theme: IN WHATEVER FORMS THEY PRESENT THEMSELVES

  • The subtlety of evil, injustice, and oppression: microaggressions, garden variety discrimination, systemic issues.
  • Welcoming versus actually affirming and giving voice & power to newcomers.
  • How can our efforts to affirm and include go beyond just welcoming?
  • How do we bear fruit that shows deep repentance instead of just pay lip service to including all?

Scripture: John the Baptist

January 26
Theme: JOYFUL RESISTANCE 

  • Sustaining resistance, resilience, eschatology, joy.

Scripture: Magnificat

#ResistHarm Launches Nationally

The national movement we have been waiting for has arrived! The movements we love (UMCNext, Mainstream UMC, Reconciling Ministries Network, Uniting Methodists, MFSA, and more!) have come together to organize our resistance efforts to the harm that has been caused by the anti-LGBTQ Traditional Plan. 

The #ResistHarm website is a gold mine of prayers, education, worship resources, direct action guidance, clergy support, and action ideas. Seriously, go check it out right now.

It is exciting to see folks, just like those of us in the Great Plains, doing this work of resistance all over the connection.

There are many ways you can support this effort:

  • Like their Facebook page
  • Sign up for their emails
  • Change your profile picture to include the #ResistHarm frame
  • Participate in the Jan. 4 and/or Jan. 5 GP #ResistHarm Kickoff

Our team will continue to learn from this movement and be a part of the growing resistance! We aren’t alone and the movement for resisting harm is growing!

Repent & Resist: Ash Wednesday 2020 — District Organizers Needed!

Great Plains Repent and Resist Ash Wednesday is looking to solidify leaders from each district (especially Elkhorn Valley, Great West, Hays, and Hutchinson) who will be willing to help lead this important action in the new year! A District Organizer is someone who is willing to: 

  • Find a location for this act of repentance to happen on Ash Wednesday
  • Find individuals and churches to participate on Ash Wednesday
  • Host or find leaders to host the act of repentance
  • Be in touch with Rev. Ashley Prescott Barlow-Thompson as needs arise

District Organizers have received a welcome packet detailing how to get started on finding locations and welcoming people to sign up. In January, they will receive a resource packet with worship ideas, hourly themes for each hour of Repent and Resist and more information on hosting this powerful event. 

Check out our facebook page to find out more about leading in your district and contact Rev. Ashley Prescott Barlow-Thompson at ashleypbt@gmail.com to sign up. We’d love two organizers in every district and many of our districts are in need of one or more leaders!