by Arthur McClanahan*
“The Spirit is calling, moving, inviting,” said Rev. Anna Blaedel during the 2016 session of the Iowa Annual Conference. “Be
the church. Now. Be
the body of Christ,” she added.
Rising to a moment of personal privilege, surrounded by colleagues and friends offered a glimpse into her life story and journey of faith. “I have been a United Methodist almost my entire life.” She recalled the time when her parents came to faith when she was four and when she was baptized at the United Methodist Church in De Ridder, LA. “I was baptized, confirmed, called, commissioned, and ordained into this church,” she added.
Click here to see the video of the moment of personal privilege
For Blaedel, campus minister at the University of Iowa Wesley Center, it was important that members of the Annual Conference know, “This has been my place of spiritual belonging, of vocational calling, my faith community, my faith home.”
The Iowa Events Center was quiet as she said, “I am a self-avowed, practicing homosexual. Or, in my language, I am out, queer, partnered clergy.” Noting that for many “this is not news,” Blaedel acknowledged, “by simply speaking this truth to you, aloud, here, I could be brought up on charges, face a formal complaint. I could lose my job, lose my clergy credentials, lose my space of spiritual belonging, of vocational calling, my faith community, my faith home.”
'Horrible, harmful untruths'
Citing the fact that The United Methodist Church is not of one mind about homosexuality and that for LGBTQ persons this is a painful reality she observed, “This institution is instilling in me and other LGBTQ people some horrible, harmful untruths. That we are unloved, and unlovable. That we are unworthy. That we are incompatible, disordered, divisive. That at our core, at the core of our createdness, there is something shameful, sick, sinful.”
Addressing language within the Book of Discipline
, she said, “That, friends, is incompatible with Christian teaching.” Challenging the controversial paragraph Blaedel added, “Allegiance and adherence to unjust laws in incompatible with Christian teaching.” Relegating LGBTQ persons to a shunned status and “Welcoming us and our ministry only if we hide, be quiet, and stay in the shadows is incompatible with Christian teaching. Isolation and oppression are incompatible with Christian teaching.”
She talked about “the persistent pain and weary woundedness of being raised in and called to a church that continues to call my being and my loving a chargeable offense, that continues to identify my being and my loving as incompatible with Christian teaching.” From her anguish she wondered, “I do not know if it is faithful or just plain foolish of me to continue giving my prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness to a denomination that continues to call me and so many I love an abomination, an issue, a divisive distraction.”
Challenging the denomination that is closed to so many, Blaedel asked, “How can I be in honest study, prayer, and conversation within this connection when I am not, when we LGBTQ people are not, safe to speak the truth of our living, and our loving?”
Church as a more inclusive community
She invited the church to be a more inclusive community. “How can the hand say to the foot, ‘Therefore go,’ I have no need of you? How can the ear say to the eye, ‘Therefore go,’ I have no need of you?”
As in past moments when the church excluded persons, because of their race or their gender, Blaedel said that it’s time for change…” It's so long past time… Stop the complaints, stop the charges, stop the prohibitions, stop the harm.”
the church,” she said. “Be
the Body of Christ.”
The assembled body of the 2016 Iowa Annual Conference Session was silent for moments after Rev. Anna Blaedel finished her moments of personal privilege. And then significant, extended applause.
(Note: Within hours of Rev. Blaedel’s personal witness a complaint was filed against her. There will be more to come on this developing story.”
*Arthur McClanahan is director of communications for the Iowa Annual Conference