Rev. Hutchinson is possibly one of the most effective and dynamic clergy in the West Michigan Annual Conference. "On loan" as we might say from the African Methodist Episcopal Church he has in three years more than quadrupled the membership of a once struggling small church. He is in the words of our Discipline, more than "effective." With hearts aching for Ben, and for our denomination this morning at the breakfast table Cara and I had a conversation with the kids (21months, 4years, 6years) about good laws and bad laws. Cara explained that bad laws hurt people and deny people basic rights and when there are bad laws it is the responsibility of the Christian community to address those laws, work to change them, or protest them. This is the work of justice. Our son's typical response to any conversation regardless the content, whether it is "Hey it's time for bed" or "Wanna get ice cream?" is typically some variety of shouting, bouncing off the nearest piece of furniture, and complete disengagement from the conversation. Today over his bowl of oatmeal he simply sat for a few seconds with a look in his eye of deep contemplation. It is entirely possible that I am romanticizing the moment but I believe he paused and considered the things he was hearing because to a four year and a six year old who have friends in their lives with two mommies, and whose own mommy and daddy have gay and lesbian friends, that those friends cannot be married simply does not make it any sense; it doesn't seem right. And so his moment of contemplation was, I can only hope, his way of wrestling with something that doesn't seem right. If that's the case then we can put one point on the score board for successful parenting.
When The Rev. Hutchinson and his partner are married on Friday there will be a large number of West Michigan Conference Clergy dressed in full clergy apparel at the courthouse in solidarity. We'll then travel to his church in celebration of his wedding and in protest to our denomination's current position on the matter. The kids will be with me. I want them to witness and celebrate the wedding. I want them see the intersection of love and justice and to participate. Over some ice cream (the ice cream is also admittedly a "carrot" to keep their attention through day) after the event we'll talk about the things they saw and felt and heard because I believe that when they are the age of determining whether they want to be followers of Jesus Christ and whether they are going to be part of the church that days like Friday are going to make all the difference in that decision. I don't know when our church is going to change but I do know that if it is not soon the likelihood of my own kids staying in the church is not likely because they will not tolerate worshiping in a denomination that does not fully accept their gay and lesbian friends. So I want them to witness the side of the church that does love and support and include our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. I want them to witness the collision of that love and acceptance with the injustice that tries to exclude and I want them to remember "I was there on that day…" in their own work for inclusion and justice.
This morning when I sat down to begin work on Sunday's sermon I was energized when realized the text I had chosen from Mark's gospel for this weekend. I will be preaching from Mark 9:38-41, the text which includes Jesus's comments that "No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us…" This was Jesus' response to the disciple's concern that folks were performing miracles in Jesus' name even though they were "…not one of them…" I find it deeply comforting and disturbing that 2,000 years later we struggle with the same thing as the disciples, which is an inability to believe and to accept that a person who is "…not one of us…" could possibly be doing the same work of God as us. In this case the "us" is heterosexual clergy persons unable to accept or believe that a homosexual clergy person can do the same work of God as the rest of us. Truth be told, The Rev. Hutchinson does his work better than most of us. He is one of those who every time he speaks I want to be better. Every time I hear from one of his church members I want to be better. I believe this is the consensus of most clergy who know him and this is why we will show up on Friday. The Rev. Hutchinson is a beloved child of God, called and anointed for God's ministry in the church and we will show up to support and affirm that call and we will pray and walk and sing and preach and proclaim the day that he can serve in The United Methodist Church.
I covet your prayers for Ben and for all who gather to support him on Friday including me, your pastor and my two oldest kids. You are welcome and encouraged to join me and you can keep up with the event on this Facebook page here https://goo.gl/6BuHcg .
Grace and peace, Pastor Matt