Early in my 20’s, before seminary and before serving in the church I took a job with the United Way of Douglas County. This agency was designed to raise funds for a myriad of public agencies through the work of Philanthropy. At the time – I thought that philanthropy meant “to raise money”. What I came to find out was that the origin of the word truly means “lover of people”. That struck me as the perfect job description for my life and ever since I have considered myself a Philanthropist. When my call was solidified, this picture deepened as I learned from Jesus Christ what it meant to be a lover of people.
Yesterday that description was put to the test!
As many of you have read through news reports, followed the live feed or read the hundreds of blogs that have been generated by this conference, yesterday was a tough day. The debate about Human Sexuality took the floor, the level of politics rose and the atmosphere of protest enveloped the room. I was moved by the protest as it was one of the best acts of civil disobedience I have seen. Those in support of embracing homosexuals into the life of the church in all forms – including membership, marriage, ordination and eradicating homophobia – stood as we discerned and debated each petition. The first petition to aid the church in eradicating homophobia passed by a considerable margin, however, all others were not supported.
As the support began to vary on the issues and to be more precise, for the open inclusion of homosexuals in the life of the church, tears began to fall, people began to stand with the protest group and many began to sing “Jesus loves us”, progressively getting louder during the business session.
I stood too.
I stood for many reasons. I stood because I believe that homosexuals should be included in the life of the United Methodist Church and the Church at large. I stood because I want people to know authentically who I am – a person who is heterosexual who supports the efforts of those who are discriminated against whether it be for race, gender, sexual orientation or whatever category human’s come up with. I stood because I am a philanthropist!
This vocation I’ve chosen as it forms my pastorate does not keep me from loving every person I come into contact with whether we agree on topics of debate or not. If you know me – I try to love first and debate in the midst of that love.
This approach may seem weak to some but believe me it is very hard work. Yesterday I felt the unveiling of why I am here. There is much work to be done as a Philanthropist for Christ and I can help through the vocation I profess. I invite you to consider this as your vocation too. In the sobering of this waking day and as I go back to yet more sessions of debate, I still have hope for the United Methodist Church. I still want to be part of this amazing body who struggles with this and many issues for the work of making disciples for the transformation of world. And even though we are very broken I am ever reminded why we need the salvation of Jesus’ Christ’s grace. As a Christian and disciple I believe this IS the first job requirement to be a lover of people.
Grace to all and love, Jan
PS: Eduardo – great job on the floor last night. Please check out his blog to the right – we finally were able to add it!