Anna’s reflection on the referral to trial

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This morning I awoke early, kissed my sleeping beloved’s shoulder, wrapped my bare flesh in the soft and beautiful shawl made by a dear one I haven’t seen in over a decade but whose love crosses time and space, lit a candle rolled with beeswax and myrrh and blessed by students, and sat. Breathed. Prayed. Did tarot, and texted Tyler. Worked on Sunday’s sermon.

Today we hear from the Committee on Investigation.

At Thursday’s hearing, the Committee chose not to ask me a single question. Tyler and I bore witness to truth. We proclaimed the sacredness and holy delight of queer and trans lives and loves. We testified to the Gospel call to intersectional justice, and prioritizing the needs of the most vulnerable. We invited them to imagine and create a more just, more holy, and more loving church. We offered the theological and biblical, moral and ethical, legal and judicial arguments needed to dismiss these charges, and bend toward healing. We grieved the preventable and avoidable nature of the harm and loss inflicted.

And then the email came.

“It is with a heavy heart,” it began. The Committee on Investigation voted to refer the bill of charges to trial. I am “charged with the offense of practices declared by The United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings, specifically being a self-avowed and practicing homosexual, pursuant to Paragraph 2702.1(b) of the Book of Discipline.”

I receive this news with deep sadness and grief. We offered and invited ways to do this differently, and had hoped against hope that this might be an opportunity to create something more just, holy, and loving, together. Investing and wasting precious resources on a trial is cause for lament. So too, the relationships broken through this avoidable and preventable harm. We will only become a more just and loving church and world when we confess our complicity in evil, resist and divest from participation in it, and commit to doing it differently. I do not know what the vote was, or if anyone on the Committee tried to resist. Counsel for the Church, Rev. Bob Ward, had the chance to recommend dismissing the charge; instead he certified it and recommended a trial. The Committee on Investigation had the chance to dismiss the charge; instead they certified it and are initiating a trial.

I grieve what and who the Iowa Annual Conference and UMC is becoming. Is this the church you want to be?

– Rev. Anna Blaedel
Theologian In Residence

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