Greater NW Pride: Gathering



Last week, in Nashville, Tennessee, there was a national gathering of the Reconciling Ministry Network (RMN), “Connection 2020,” a gathering of United Methodist Church (UMC) LGBTQ+ people and non-LGBTQ+ allies. Over 200 people gathered at Belmont UMC Church from Feb. 27-29, 2020, with a thirst and hunger to hear and receive good news as the UMC goes forward into the General Conference of May 2020. 
Each day included sessions for delegates of the General Conference to meet and discuss tactics for moving forward with the Protocol plan, now legislation. Some of the general meetings included discussion of strategies of how to move forward. On Friday morning, there was celebration of the Reconciling movement in Africa, with worship with the Rev. Kennedy Mwita Thomas and Bible studies by the Rev. Grace Imathiu. 
Reverends Imathiu and Kennedy Mwita have a friendship, that brought about a joyous celebration of a new Reconciling church abroad. After preaching at the 2019 Kenya-Ethiopia Annual Conference, Pastor Grace was invited by Rev. Kennedy Mwita to preach at the all-church meeting of Moheto First UMC on September 1, 2019. Afterwards, the church then unanimously voted to become the first Reconciling Congregation in Africa. 
On Friday afternoon, there were some break-out sessions, in which there was more discussion of the Regional Governance-Christmas Covenant and CT Plan, along with sessions of looking at the vision of the UMC into the 21stcentury. 
I chose to go to two sessions that focused on the RMN movement as a mission opportunity, sharing some of the work we’ve been doing in the OR-ID UMC Conference. Much like our work, there are other RMN groups that are spending time in the community, hosting benefits in LGBTQ+ leather bars and coffee shop Bible studies, along with discussion of more drag queen and God shows. I also shared our work with LGBTQ+ staff and campers from last year’s Queer Pride Camp with young adults, and Q Camp: High School this year, Aug. 7-9, 2020, at Camp Magruder.
On Friday evening, Bishop Karen Oliveto brought the good news alive in her preaching about the Samaritan woman, ending her sermon with all of us dancing to “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift. Her point? When we’ve gone through the days of arguing for LGBTQ+ people, teaching others about equity and diversity in the Church, often times to a recalcitrant audience, there are times that we simply have to get into our cars, and “shake it off.”
Saturday morning included a breakout session for people to join their Jurisdictional area for a conversation of the way forward, with closing worship and prayers for safe journeys for all, not knowing that days later, downtown Nashville would be hit by a strong tornado. Our prayers are with everyone who lives in Nashville.
To gather: “to come together, assemble, or accumulate, bringing together and taking in people from scattered places or sources” (dictionary.com). That’s what Connection 2020 was all about: to assemble, bring people together, from scattered places, and fragmented lives, and provide an opportunity to see each other, eye to eye, and spend some time together that is different in quality from a Zoom conference call or FaceTime face to face gathering. Connection 2020 was rich in terms of the opportunity not to learn something new, necessarily, but to pause at this historic moment in the life of the UMC, and, with old and new friends, take a breath, reflect, think, ponder, pray, and worship our God in Christ as the UMC goes into a new and uncertain future, post-General Conference, 2020. But this much everyone knows: On the day after General Conference draws to a close, everyone is going to go to church. May it be so: Amen.

Brett Webb-Mitchell
Rev. Dr. Brett Webb-Mitchell is an openly gay Presbyterian pastor in the Portland area serving as the part-time LGBTQ+ advocacy coordinator for The Oregon-Idaho Conference of the UMC. He can be reached at brett@umoi.org. Become a subscriber to the Greater NW Pride blog to get Greater NW Pride in your email box!