“This looks and sounds really, really familiar. And my stomach really hurts.”
I found myself thinking that in one of our last Q & A sessions on Tuesday, Amy was visiting the 14 different delegations of the Southeastern Jurisdiction and answering any and all questions given to her.
If this United Methodist stuff seems unclear, I get it.
It’s a lot – understanding episcopal elections, delegations, etc. The best analogy I can think of thinks of when a justice is nominated for the Supreme Court, and he/she must go through hearings with the Senate, etc. That’s what this was like. Fourteen different groups of people from as far away as Mississippi and Kentucky, then other groups closer – including our home state of NC, then GA, SC, and FL. Some groups have smaller numbers, and some groups are large. They each had 14 minutes with Amy to ask her anything. And some of those groups took that VERY literally.
When Amy and I met on Saturday, we concluded that we were making a mistake by having me introduce her. One of the things Amy (and I) are passionate about is trying to show love to all people . . . and while that typically makes us think about sexual orientation, it means so much more.
Amy is passionate about is helping the church look like the Kingdom of God. That includes equality for all people – people of color, gender, etc. Two white women do not represent the diversity in the Kingdom of God. Because Amy could have two people travel with her throughout the day, I was her timekeeper, and Uieyon Kim was her introducer. (Yes. I kept her time, and I was not on time for our adventure, I was EARLY!! And FYI – I only messed up once . . . I said – “You have two minutes,” when actually it was 2 min. and 59 seconds. So, after she answered a question quickly, I said, “Amy, you have two minutes,” and a very loving, kind man (not) said, ‘Is that the first two minutes or a new two minutes?’ I was mortified.)
Because I was the timekeeper, I had the privilege of listening to Amy’s answers to the questions sometimes “thrown” at her 14 different times.
One of the final sessions was contentious from the listener’s end. They had their questions ready to go, and let’s just say they weren’t “rooting for her to succeed.”
It reminded me of a situation of someone else whose entire mission in life was to point people to Love. To Divinity. To God.
Jesus went across to Mount Olives but was soon back in the Temple again. Swarms of people came to him. He sat down and taught them.
The religious scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him.
Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt.
Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. Jesus stood up and spoke to her. “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?”
“No one, Master.”
“Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way.”
I do not have the grace and patience of Amy. I would have lost my “cool” . . . but she did not. She kept reiterating what she stands for . . . and it is so deep, so complex, and also yet so simple.
“Do no harm.”
“I will always seek to be true to the Gospel. Yet, I will do that and try my best not to harm – anyone.”
This week and the elections did not go the way we wanted. It is what it is.
After 25 different ballots, they could finally elect the third bishop last night. A write-in candidate. Amy withdrew yesterday morning in the spirit of respect and diversity.
Even though Amy was not elected, her impact is exponential.
And whereas the different delegations may not have embraced her answers because she isn’t a punitive kind of human being and she really does live “all means ALL!” the words she said HAD to have left a mark. Even if it is one, they weren’t pleased with.
I’m pretty sure that day, the Pharisees and religious scholars were drilling Jesus, and he didn’t give them the answers they were looking for, they left disgusted and angry. But the impact was STILL made.
It is my hope and prayer that not just for the delegation this week but also for us – all the time, every day, we can hear and live Amy’s words.
“Do no harm.”
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, lived by that as a tenet of his life/faith.
So does Amy Coles.
And so does Jesus.
Let’s try it too . . .
In all things, words, spaces, relationships, etc.
Do no harm.