Everyone needs allies. The heart of the Methodist faith is our interdependence on others to make us, and keep us, Christian. When individuals and groups face discrimination, exclusion and violence, it is even more important that those on the sidelines intervene rather than simply remain bystanders.
As the United Methodist General Conference gets underway, the Religious Institute has produced what I think is an amazingly insightful guide for those who want to be helpful and not harmful
It bears a careful read, but I was struck by three aspects in particular:
Don’t try to fix it
Speak up but not over LGBTQ people
Actions speak louder than words.
I’ve written before about the tendency for others to want to ‘fix’ things. This guide puts it thus:
‘When we see people hurting and in pain, often our initial instinct is to offer a solution: to find some way to fix it. This may be rooted in compassion and concern, but it is usually not a helpful response. For one, it privileges the practical over the emotional and the systemic over the personal …. You cannot fix it, but you can do your best to open and hold space for that pain to be felt, expressed, and acknowledged in community.’
Liberation theologies should have taught us that those at the bottom should speak for themselves. We acknowledge the need to empower those who have been silenced for too long. This goes for LGBTQ Christians too, especially those who remain closeted by their fear. This guide suggests:
‘For far too long, [LGBTQ] voices have been silenced or ignored in these conversations, which means it’s all the more important to lift up their voices at this time …. As an ally, your voice is most helpful among other allies, potential allies, and actively hostile individuals. Those are the best spaces to share your experience, impart your wisdom, or shut down unhelpful dynamics.’
And most importantly:
‘When LGBTQ United Methodists are present and want to speak, the best thing you can do is “pass the mic” to them as they are more directly affected. Remember that LGBTQ United Methodists are not voiceless. They can and are speaking for themselves.’
Words are important but actions are crucial.
‘In fact, it is much more about what you do, how you show up, and answering calls to action. Words without action ring hollow.’
As an LGBTQ Christian, I am humbled by those who are prepared to sacrifice their own comfort and to risk abuse, embarrassment, misunderstanding and exclusion in order to see justice in the Church for people like me. Empathy is an extraordinary force for change!