I arrived at the hotel this evening. Since I had not eaten a true meal today, I went to find something close to the hotel (which, by the way, is NOT near the convention center where the General Conference is held). I checked in and went to find a place to eat nearby. I was seated at one of the two-seat tables where other two-seat tables were close enough that a foreign patron might have suspected that we were all in the same party.
I was enjoying my time in silence when a couple was seated at the table next to me. They both were engaging, and I soon found myself in conversation with them. One was from here, and they had returned to visit family. They said they lived in California. After a bit of a visit about the food, the inevitable question came: “Are you from here?”
When I said, “No,” a follow-up question arose: “What brought you here.” I explained that I was here for the General Conference of the United Methodist Church and that I was a Methodist pastor. The man seated next to me said he knew exactly what this conference was all about. He then began to inquire where I and my church were on the issue of full inclusiveness of LGBTQ persons. I explained that my church was a Reconciling Congregation and that our motto was “All Are Welcome, All Are Accepted.” And I told him the caveat I quote every Sunday: “All Means All.”
At that point, his eyes began to well with tears. He told me he was glad to know there were Christians out there who were open and inclusive. He told me that he was blessed to hear that the United Methodist Church might someday see that everybody is a child of God and that God didn’t make throw-away people. As I paid and was getting up from the tight space, he grabbed my arm and said, “Keep telling people the Good News.”
I promised that I would.
And this couple … who blessed me and affirmed what I was proclaiming … they were both men. Men whom God sent to me at the beginning of this General Conference … and who reflected the face of Christ to me. So maybe … just maybe, Church … we will begin to break down the walls and live into our witness as disciples of the Lord who lived and died and rose for us … not some of us … all of us.