I'm spending three days at UMC Next having learning and conversing with about 600 people. Everyone who has been part of any church committee knows that after the meeting adjourns there's a meeting in the parking lot where you talk about the meeting that just happened.
So that's where I was tonight. Except it was raining really hard so we weren't actually in the parking lot. I was drinking a milkshake. It was delicious. Then I drove home.
The meeting after the meeting, just like the UMC Next gathering itself, was a mix of centrists and progressives. I heard some hurt from progressives, which I think it's fair to say was also heard in the full gathering. I also shared my own kind of hurt. Mine is of infinitely less quantity and quality than those who are LGBT+. It is real, but I acknowledge it is much, much smaller. The hurt I spoke of stems from a frustration that I want to be an ally and an advocate and also sometimes feel like I get attacked or yelled at simply for being a white heterosexual male. Some of you reading this right now are saying YES! and others are saying YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! and I acknowledge that both of those view are correct. I'm telling you how I feel sometimes, and I'm aware that it may be analogous to a person complaining about stubbing his toe while kicking a turtle. I have more sympathy for the turtle than for the jerk that kicked it. Let me explain my frustration in Wesleyan terms, and then with the help of Rey and Finn take a step back.
My hope for UMC Next is that a large majority of United Methodists, at least United Methodists in the U.S., will be able to walk together into the future hand in hand in the spirit of Wesley's sermon Catholic Spirit. Wesley takes as his text 2 Kings 10:15. Jehu meets Jehonadab and says, "if your heart is as my heart, take my hand." If our hearts are the same, even if we disagree on particulars, then take my hand and let's walk together. That's what I want to do.
Now go back a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away to one of my favorite scenes in The Force Awakens (which in this Star Wars geek's opinion is one of the best movies in the series). Finn (John Boyega) is on the run from the First Order. He's standing next to Rey (Daisy Ridley), who is now guilty by association. When they're spotted by stormtroopers, Finn grabs Rey's hand and tells her to run. He keeps tugging her hand while they're running until Rey says, "Let go of me! I know how to run without you holding my hand!" After hiding briefly they take off to run again. Finn - again - grabs Rey's hand and Rey yells, "Stop taking my hand!"
So here's my aha moment on the drive home. I want to put myself in the role of Jehu (Finn) and not Jehonadab (Rey). I want to say, "If your heart is as my heart, take my hand," or "I want to help save you, so take my hand." In today's context, that's not what I need to say. I do believe that we need to hold hands and move forward together. But I don't get to demand it. I don't get to offer a hand to someone on my terms.
A better approach in today's context for me, and maybe for some of you reading this too, is a question instead of a command. "I think my heart is as your heart. Can we hold hands together?"
I hope the answer is yes.