The Easter Orphans

Do you ever feel like an orphan?

Sometimes I do. Not often. My mom is alive and wonderful and amazing. But several decades with my father left scars on all of us. Sometimes we function in a robotic fashion. When I need my mom in the capacity of my mom, I push her “parent” button and that part of her is activated. She functions as my mom until my situation is resolved. And then we proceed.

But that’s not necessarily the kind of orphan I mean today.

I mean an orphan in the sense that you’ve been abandoned or left behind, or you’ve walked away from something substantial in your life.

For me, today, this means the United Methodist Church.

This post is going to be a Rant. And maybe a Reflection.

Do you ever feel like an orphan?

I used to. All the time. My father made our house a miserable place to be. A place for leaving.

I grew up in the church. I grew up going to church. That’s not the same as growing up being a Christian, but people usually assume that one means the other.

My mother grew up in the church, and she’s a Christian.

My sister grew up in the church, and she’s a Christian.

My father grew up in the church, and he is not a Christian. But most people don’t know that. Show up on Sundays and people don’t care what’s going on behind the scenes.

Maybe that’s unfair.

Maybe it’s not.

Do you ever feel like an orphan?

I did. I grew up with this terror in my life. Other people worry about their kids when they leave the house. Our monster lived inside.

On Sundays, we went to church. My father was revered. Monday – Saturday people reminded me how god-like he was. “Such a good person” “never met a better man” “honored to know him.”

It’s lonely, realizing everyone else sees a saint when you see a demon.

When I was 17, at one of the lowest points in my life (primarily because of my demon/monster/father) I was at a Young Life event. Young Life is a Christian organization. I went because it was expected, but I had a good time.

I don’t think I was a Christian yet. Not really.

And that January, my YL leader gave a talk that has stuck with me, more than a decade later. It was like I had been wandering in the dark, alone, unable to see anyone or anything, and suddenly someone turned on a flashlight somewhere in the distance.

It wasn’t bright. It wasn’t close by. But it was there. I could see it. And I walked towards it.

There’s no doubt in my mind that YL saved my life. I found solace there, a home. I became a Christian, a real one.

In college, I stuck with the organization, and it paved the way for becoming a youth group leader later in my life.

But after college, I struggled to find the same kind of raw connection. I had a church, but not the connection.

Until I married Dom and moved away and googled “United Methodist Churches near me” and found a wonderful, amazing, incredible church. It was a start-up. They met every other Sunday in the evenings for Dinner-Church.

My pastor was a real-life hero. She’s incredible. She’s inclusive. She believes that the mission is serving the community, that the church exists to serve the community, and that was apparent in everything that we did.

I loved that church. It was in the Pacific Northwest.

If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that right now the UMC is in turmoil. The UMC is a worldwide organization, and governing a worldwide organization is difficult.

The largest portion of the UMC is the United States, but the second largest is in Africa. Awhile back, people in the U.S. (and other places) start calling for the UMC to be more inclusive, to remove anti-LGBTQ language from the governing books, to allow clergy members to not only perform same-sex marriages, but to serve as clergy regardless of sexual orientation.

If you want the story, it exists somewhere. But I’m talking about the aftermath, if you will.

Do you ever feel like an orphan?

I don’t live in the PNW anymore, but so much of my faith derives from my experiences there. It was hard to leave an open, welcoming, loving, inclusive church that walks the walk, especially to come back to the South.

It was heartbreaking to see the results of General Conference.

I had a church here. But that church has failed my loved ones. We stayed, because the failures weren’t dealbreakers. Not yet.

General Conference was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I cannot remain a member of a religious organization that is exclusive, that doesn’t embrace and love everyone equally.

Today, I read this blog post by a man named Jon. I don’t know Jon. I’ve never met him. I hadn’t even heard of him before today. But we have a mutual acquaintance who shared Jon’s blog post, about his decision to leave Young Life after more than 20 years. His decision is rooted in YL’s LGBTQ exclusion. Until today, I didn’t even know this was an issue within Young Life. When I brought up this topic in college, I was told that YL isn’t issue-based. At the time, that suited me. I guess it never occurred to me to question further.

Do you ever feel like an orphan?

On Sunday, many people across the nation and around the globe will celebrate Easter. There will be sunrise services and singing, worship proclaiming the miracle of Jesus.

For the first time in my life, I don’t have a service to attend.

I plan to seek out a new church. But breaking up is hard. And that’s what this feels like. A break up. Abandonment.

But who’s abandoning whom?

I feel lonely. I feel orphaned. I hate walking around this Earth without my church family, without the support.

Then I take that loneliness and I close my eyes and I imagine what it feels like to be anything other than heterosexual. To have your inclusion and exclusion within religious organizations be debated on a global scale. For people to discuss your “rights” as if you’re not entitled to the same basic rights as heterosexual people.

This Easter, I am an orphan. A church orphan.

I hope that this experience reminds me, and other privileged individuals, how our LGBTQ siblings feel. I hope that all the Easter orphans (myself included) remember this feeling, and use it to reshape the world. To usher in a world where we stop discriminating people based on sexual orientation – or gender or race or where we were born.

This post is a Rant. But also a Reflection.

I’m not editing this. I’m not going back and making it pretty or changing the length. I don’t want this post to get caught up in the semantics and the aesthetics.

Do you ever feel like an orphan?

Today, it seems dark. The world feels like a dark place. But I think back to that January, when my YL leader turned on the flashlight that led me out of the dark.

Keep your eyes open, Easter orphans, and we’ll find each other’s flashlights.

And to those of you who are members of marginalized communities, we see you. We love you. You are welcome here.

-M

 

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