Prayer for the vulnerable

To all in Upper New York, beloved of God and called to be a holy people:
Grace and peace to you from Abba God and our Savior Jesus Christ.
—Romans 1:7, amended

Beloveds of God,

Grace and peace to you, in the name of the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. We hope and pray that you are healthy and whole in body, mind, and spirit. We know that God is with us, our rock and our redeemer, ready to help us through any storm.

We write to you today to let you know that you are in our prayers and on our hearts. In this unprecedented time of responding to a global pandemic, we know that there are many challenges. Some among us are struggling with social isolation, chaffing against restrictions that will do good for the whole but hurt for the individual. Some among us are struggling to hold together groups of people or organizations we love, all while being limited in what we can do. Still others among us are essential workers, doing all they can to care for the whole and yet taking great personal risk to do so. To complicate matters, financial instability is prevalent, and illness and grief are often close at hand.

It is into this space of uncertainty, anxiety, and fear that we speak and act as people of God. The words of the Creed of the United Church of Canada remind us of our faith and God’s resilience:

We are not alone,
we live in God’s world.
We believe in God:
who has created and is creating,
who has come in Jesus,
the Word made flesh,
to reconcile and make new,
who works in us and others
by the Spirit.
We trust in God.
We are called to be the Church:
to celebrate God’s presence,
to live with respect in Creation,
to love and serve others,
to seek justice and resist evil,
to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,
our judge and our hope.
In life, in death, in life beyond death,
God is with us.
We are not alone.

Thanks be to God.

Dear ones, we are still called to be the church! The church has seen crisis before, and the church is capable of adapting. The form of the church is different right now, but it is still the church. For now, our primary work hasn’t changed: we work to stay connected to the Divine as well as to one another so that we can better love the world.

You may have heard that the United Methodist General Conference has been postponed until 2021 in order to keep participants safe. While we at UNYFI believe this is a wise and important decision, in safety first, we also know that it postpones justice for the LGBTQIA+ community, and that it means postponing safety for the LGBTQIA+ community. Being part of a church that names and lives God’s love for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities is also a matter of life and death, and we grieve the justice delayed.

We continue to commit ourselves to working toward full inclusion in The United Methodist Church, in the Upper New York Annual Conference, and in our local churches. For now, we simply encourage all of you to be as safe as you can be and to reach out to vulnerable loved ones. The definition of “vulnerable” has expanded recently, and we particularly notice that older people, those with compromised immune systems, and those with underlying health conditions are particularly vulnerable. We worry that LGBTQIA+ people often have less access to quality medical care. We also worry for our Asian and Asian American siblings, who are experiencing regular outbursts of hate and racism.

Dear ones, we are able to be a beacon of light in the world, no matter where we are or what we are doing. May God’s light continue to shine through us.

In God’s Love,

UNYFI

UNYFI stands with The United Methodist Church

Upper New York for Full Inclusion was created in 2019 out of a deep desire from moderates and progressives to reclaim our church as an expression of God’s love in the world. As we look toward the future and a possible split in the denomination, we remain deeply committed to inclusion and to staying in The United Methodist Church. We love the mission and ministries of The United Methodist Church. The wholeness of our global connection matters to building the kin-dom of God.

UNYFI stands with The United Methodist Church. The Upper New York Conference should too.

For UNYFI, a call for full inclusion comes out of our belief in God’s love and grace. We believe that our role in the Body of Christ is to live as expressions of God’s love and grace in the world, and that means making working toward a church where all of God’s beloveds have a place to be, to be celebrated, and to share in God’s work.

We dream together of a church where all are free to be fully human in Christ, where imago dei (made in God’s image) is seen in each other person. We imagine a church where all are free to be in ministry, not fighting for their right to do ministry. We work toward a church free of hypocrisy when it declares its doors open.

What will happen to The United Methodist Church when current policy stops getting in the way of the Holy Spirit?

We’ll fight better, love better, take care of one another better. The church will grow as its members grow within it. God’s inward and outward reach will be extended by removed barriers. The kin-dom itself will grow.

Give yourself a moment to really think about a fully inclusive United Methodist Church. Let yourself feel that joy, even for just a moment. Then join us in working to make it happen.

We invite you to listen deeply to the Divine, to ponder carefully what you hear in your heart, and to find hope for the future. Together, we can do incredible ministry, especially once we are able to freely work together with all the people of God, welcomed and celebrated in full inclusion.

P.S. Wash your hands, follow health department instructions, stay safe so we can build the kin-dom together!

First do no harm.

First do no harm.

Do good.

Stay in love with God.

—Reuben Job’s interpretation of John Wesley’s Three Simple Rules

In passing the Traditional Plan, The United Methodist Church has violated the Simple Rules put forth by John Wesley. The plan does harm, it does not do good, and it violates the love of God.

Recently, Mainstream UMC invited United Methodists to sign onto a letter “calling for a moratorium on all complaints, charges, and trials of LGBTQ clergy and for clergy performing same-gender weddings pending the outcome of the May 2020 General Conference.” This very popular idea has been supported by Bishop Ken Carter, the outgoing president of the Council of Bishops, among many others. In addition, Bishop John Schol of the Greater New Jersey Conference and the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops have released statements saying that they will not enforce unjust laws.

That is, bishops have a choice about if they follow the laws of God’s grace, or the unjust laws of the church.

In June, the Upper New York Annual Conference repeatedly voted its choice not to participate in the harmful and punitive policies of the Traditional Plan. This was our choice to make, whether or not it was ruled out of order. We also have choices about if we follow the laws of God’s grace or the unjust laws of the church, and we clearly picked God’s grace.

We call on all United Methodists in the Upper New York Annual Conference to continue to stand on the authority of God’s grace, and God’s grace alone. Our Social Principles say, “Therefore, we recognize the right of individuals to dissent when acting under the constraint of conscience and, after having exhausted all legal recourse, to resist or disobey laws that they deem to be unjust or that are discriminately enforced” (164.F). If any are asked to participate in punitive measures, we encourage resistance. We will not be moved, because our Resurrection story is that God’s love always wins in the end.

We, as Upper New York for Full Inclusion, ask you to stand in solidarity with the bishops doing no harm by signing the Support the United Methodist LGBTQ+ Safe Harbor Declaration.

We, as Upper New York for Full Inclusion, continue to urge Bishop Webb to follow the will of the conference and join his colleagues in doing no harm.

Prayer for the evening of June 7

Holy One, Scripture teaches that Jesus prayed, before his death on the cross, that we may be one in you. We lament our sins of commission and omission in which we have attempted to define “one” through human-made doctrine and poor translation and interpretation of your living Word. As you gaze upon all of creation and all of humanity with infinite love, so help us to see the divine in one another.

As we continue to gather together in Syracuse as the Upper New York Annual Conference, may our words and actions reflect your love and grace. Give us courage to speak your truth, and give us discernment to know when to speak. Grant us the ability to hear, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “in order to listen instead of hearing to be heard.”*

Embolden us, through your Spirit, when we want to remain in a place of comfort and complicity. Enliven us with your Spirit when we seek to live as an institution and not a beautiful, diverse, messy, and wonderful body united by your love. Enfold us in your Spirit when we feel weary and want to walk away.

We pray these things in the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Mother of us all.

Amen.


Carmen Perry, delegate to General Conference 2020

Prayer for the evening of June 6

Loving Creator, Risen Christ, Abiding Spirit: with humble gratitude we approach you desiring guidance, discernment, and wisdom. You entrust to us the care of the human family, and this earth which sustains life. As a human expression of the Body of Christ, we seek to do your will, even when we are stumbling along the path of life and faith. Please forgive us of our wayward wandering and with grace restore our vision of your goals. Infuse us with a passion to care for one another. Give us courage to speak out against injustice. And help us to treat every part of your creation with gentle kindness that together we may change systems and attitudes that oppress and harm your precious ones. Yearning to grow in every articulation of love for you, we offer praise and thanksgiving.

Amen.


The Rev. Beckie Sweet, delegate to General Conference 2020

Prayer for the morning of June 6

Lord, here we are gathering again. It’s been a challenging year since we were last together. Give us endurance though we are weary and let our fellowship keep us uplifted. Keep justice and hope at the front of our minds, and bring us back to the core of our faith when we wander. We’ll keep trying to be the Church we’re called to be. Be with us in this space.

Amen.


Marthalyn Sweet, delegate to General Conference 2020