My seven years here as your Conference Minister have proven to me the value of living in an interdependent, we-need-each-other kind of way. I have spent a good deal of time over the last weeks reflecting on all that you made happen while I was here as a witness to those good works. What is so amazing is how you find a way to build those partnerships across such great distances.
One pastor holds up a sign in front of a New Mexico Court House that says that she will perform same sex marriages, and a year later Arizona becomes a marriage equality state and 150 clergy are seen holding the same signs and in one day do over 200 marriages.
A church in Yuma, AZ gets a call in the middle of the night letting them know that a group of women and children have been abandoned by border patrol agents at a Walmart parking lot, and a coordinator in Silver City, NM organizes churches in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and Washington to provide resources to help them.
The Arizona legislature passes a regressive Immigration bill, and Southwest Conference leaders gather overnight to write a resolution calling to boycott the State of Arizona. One church in Sun City, AZ agrees to wait two years to host an annual meeting while another in Albuquerque, NM steps up to host the next annual meeting so we can honor the boycott. The boycott works, and a year later three new bills are introduced to the Arizona legislature, even more regressive than the first. Every single one of them is defeated – all on the same day.
I could go on. This is what you do; over and over again. You have helped me understand the value of these relationships and the strategic value of adding together a conglomerate of disparate pieces whose total is always greater than the sum of their parts.
As I leave for another setting in ministry, I have a challenge for you. Help me help the denomination play this game. Or, to borrow more biblical language – let your light shine!
See the Wider Church and its vast array of partnerships as players on this field with you.
There is no Marriage Equality resolution in 2005 without a vast network of Open and Affirming churches affecting the way the body thinks, moves, and has its being; without the Bill Johnson scholarship fund a decade before that; without Bill’s ordination by a courageous Association in San Francisco 25 years before that.
We are a complex multiplicity of peoples and places struggling to find common cause, common voice, and common purpose. Our failure to see not only the beauty of these connections, but the impact of their collective energy is a lingering impediment to our future success.
Take what you do so well and dream bigger dreams with wider horizons. You are among the few who do this so well. Let’s play this game on a bigger stage. Let’s establish partnerships that broaden and deepen your impact.
I will be watching, and looking for those places where your gifts will serve others; where new partnerships will create new opportunities; and where new visions will inspire new hope.
Thank you for the time we have shared, the work we have done, and the roads we have traveled together. I leave with a clear, strong sense of what a better future looks like thanks to you.