By Rev. Vicki Flippin
In the century before Jesus was crucified, the general Crassus defeated a great slave rebellion. As he entered Rome, the road was lined with 6000 slaves hanging on crosses. The message of that moment was clear: FEAR. Fear the consequences if you break the rules and the chains of your bondage.
Fear is a familiar companion to LGBTQI people who are called by God into ministry in our denomination. Fear of rejection, fear of being outed, fear of losing income and health insurance for their families. The 150+ crosses lining the walk into the Convention Center this morning challenge us all to remember the fear that our church imposes on LGBTQI people everyday. Each cross contains a stole from the Shower of Stoles project and represents LGBTQI people called to ordained ministry, and barred from ministerial service or asked to contribute to a church that asked them to be silent about their sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as, those who have ministered to LGBTQI at great cost.
For Christians, the cross signifies fear AND hope: for the empire of Rome, the cross meant shame. Rome lined the roads leading to the city center–the place of power–with the bodies of those who dared defy its rule. We worship a God who knows what it is to fear the deadly consequences of truth and love. We worship a Christ who was humiliated, hurt, and silenced, AND whose love, justice, and courage transformed the world.
At the end of our walk into the center of power this morning, we also require each individual participating in the voting this week to move through a line of many of the 111 LGBTQI United Methodist ministers [now 123+] who came out last week in an historic letter--the very leaders who may be further harmed by our actions. These courageous and principled Christian leaders in our midst refuse to be held captive by fear, choose to follow God rather than unjust church law, and boldly claim for themselves and for LGBTQI children and adults all around the world that God's concern is not about who you love, but how you love; it is not about your sexual organs, but your heart for God's people. So will YOU follow their lead? What do YOU fear as you walk into this place, and how will you live out these sacred words on this day: "Perfect love casts out fear" (I John 4:18)?