Let’s Get Back To Kin-Dom Building
By Rev. Kimberly Scott of UMC Next team
The Kin-dom of God is like a community where all are welcome at the table and feast at the heavenly banquet of grace. As an African American youth growing up in inner-city Las Vegas, the aspiration of The United Methodist Church to have “open hearts, open doors, open minds,” spoke to me of a world of transformation and healing, of equality, justice and possibility, and God’s voice wove together with my mentors and pastors and teachers and friends to call me into the Kin-dom building work of Ministry as an ordained Elder in The United Methodist Church.
Yet, as an African American Queer woman who is a cradle Methodist, I have often felt systematically silenced in The United Methodist Church since answering my call to ministry. This reality became brutally evident at General Conference 2019 when for the third time I could not find a single person on the delegation floor that represented the perspective and voice of an openly queer African American woman. I am part of what I deem the “Silent Minority” because I sit at the intersections of a trifecta of identities whose voice the church has never fully embraced, valued or appreciated. As an African American woman who just so happens to be queer, the “black church” is not ready to tackle this issue of sexuality and rest of The UMC seems to be in denial of the “race issue”
Even in the Desert Southwest Conference, a Reconciling Conference, which I have been a part of since age 10, I have had to battle just to be fully authentically me as an African-American, Queer, Woman. I have had to contend with less homophobia than racism and sexism since answering my call to ministry. In accepting my first appointment, I was fearful that the congregation would not accept me as their first openly lesbian pastor. Little did I know my sexuality would not be the issue. The issue would be the acceptance of a “strong black female” in a position of pastoral leadership and authority. For some, I brought too much of who I was to the pulpit. My singing was too loud, my preaching too prophetic, my perspective too radically inclusive.
UM Next proved to me that we have a lot of work to do around intersectional justice. For queer people (Q), people of color (POC), Queer Persons of Color (QPOC), and Trans (T) people who attended UM Next, much time and emotional energy was spent on simply educating those around our table on the depth of the work needing to be done around intersectionality, if we are truly serious about doing something new or different as Methodists. My siblings; Q + QPOC POC+ T persons were brought down from the spiritually liberating high of UM Forward’s Our Movement Forward Summit held days earlier that intentionally centered our voices, to a UM Next event that seemed to separate us and silence our collective voices as Q, QPOC, POC +T people.
Yet we gathered as the minority in the 600+ hopeful for the gathering’s outcome. What seemed to be missing from the UM Next event was the understanding that while on the surface the issue at hand causing division in our denomination is human sexuality, the reality is that the United Methodist Church that we know today was built on a rocky foundation. A rocky foundation that included Methodists turning a blind eye to the issues of colonization of bodies, land, and slavery for the sake of spreading the Gospel. The UMC was built upon the rocky foundation that was a part of the annihilation of Native American people and Native lands as the church expanded westward. The church was built upon a rocky foundation that segregated African American into a Central Conference and then reversed this practice without reversing the harm in order to once again expand its reach.
A few days prior to my UM Next experience I was honored to be amongst the leadership team who organized the Our Movement Forward Summit (OMF) in Minneapolis. It was a blessing to plan and participate in a summit that centered the voices and the leadership of the most marginalized. In attendance at the event was upwards of 300 persons. QPOC, POC, Q +T persons were still the minority, but the difference was the majority of the most privileged in our midst were willing to listen and learn of the efforts of the most marginalized.
When I answered my call to ministry, the first sermon that God laid on my heart was “An Untimely Commissioning to Speak Just Might Save a Life…” It was based upon Moses’ call story in Exodus 3 and 4. Like Moses, I did not feel prepared or worthy for the call. I did feel like I had the ability to communicate the words that needed to be spoken and I was afraid. At that point, God placed into my lap the words of retired UMC Bishop, William Willamon.
“The truth that must be spoken to power is often a disrupting truth, disregarded truth, a truth that dislocates the powerful and puts the prophetic speaker in peril.”-Bishop William Willamon
I’m thankful for the experience that I had at UM Next yet the reality that hangs over my head is that if we are to walk into a new Methodist movement, the most privileged of centrists and progressives must be willing to listen, learn and treat Q+QPOC+POC+T persons with dignity and respect, and that might mean centering the voices of QPOC, POC, +Q+T voices to lead our conference forward. This will require understanding that true discipleship focused ministry starts with humbling oneself and being servant-minded and realizes “Whoever wants to be first must be least of all.” Like a child, servant leadership is a leadership that comes in humble service to the community without “status or power, like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who lowered himself from heaven to be amongst us lowly creatures. None of us are worthy, yet God has once again given us a gracious opportunity to get it right and get back to Kin-Dom building….