“There are at least two ways to picture a broken heart…The conventional image, of course, is that of a heart broken by unbearable tension into a thousand shards–shards that sometimes become shrapnel aimed at the source of our pain…Here, the broken heart is an unresolved wound that we too often inflict on others. But there is another way to visualize what a broken heart might mean. Imagine that small, clenched fist of a heart ‘broken open’ into largeness of life, into greater capacity to hold one’s own and the world’s pain and joy… Here heartbreak becomes a source of healing, enlarging our empathy and extending our ability to reach out.”
Parker J. Palmer–The Politics of the Broken-hearted (1)
On Friday, April 28, the UMC’s Judicial Council ruled that the consecration of our first openly gay bishop violated church law.
It is heart breaking and wrong, but not surprising.
It is not a time for analysis or blame or even anger.
My heart knows there are lives in danger, especially of LGBTQI young people, but also those looking for a word of Love from the UMC for themselves.
The same UMC structure and rules that allowed me as clergyWOMAN to be appointed as pastor in 1978, are no longer listening to Gods Spirit inviting new ways to be Beloved Community, i.e. the UMC Church.
I drew deeply on Parker Palmer’s words about standing in the tragic gap. Waiting in suffering between the place we are and the place we are moving too. Palmer suggests at least three things are needed to stand in the tragic gap:
- Acknowledge and Name the Suffering
- Move into the heart of the suffering to feel the pain fully
- Create a space for listening in silence for the voice of God.
I sketched standing in the gap some years ago, realizing it is not a pushing, nor a letting go. It is radically different than floating or even kayaking down a river, moving and resisting the current’s pull. In the Tragic Gap we name and sit with the suffering, and listen for the voice of God.
Friday was the decision. Saturday I drove through Arches National Park, dressed with layers to be warm, taking photos of ancient stones and petroglyphs. Sunday, April 30, I drove south to meet up with Rog and Nanc* who are part of my ‘tribe’: a couple who met at Wesley Foundation at Ball State in our college days.
When I got to Cortez, I found I was driven to search out the United Methodist Church, arriving after worship. As I walked around the outside of the building, grief overwhelmed me. I just wanted to connect to the UMC. Doors were locked, people were gone, until Pastor Norman Mark and his wife, welcomed me in. I apologized for my tears, explaining that given all that had happened in the last week, I simply needed to connect to some United Methodists. They were warm and pastoral to my grieving heart, and I am deeply grateful for their full welcome of me.
A couple of hours later I fell into hugs and kisses with Roger and Nanc* who are part of a Reconciling UMC in Indianapolis. I was so blessed to spend two days with them exploring Mese Verde. Part of naming suffering involves having someone HEAR the naming. Being able to name the grief both to Pastor Mark and to Roger and Nanc* was important to me.
Just in case I had forgotten the connection and that Beloved Community is present in the UMC, this morning as I drove out of Cortez, I noticed the Methodist Thrift Shop and stopped, again confessing to be one of the Queer Clergy. The women working welcomed me and said, ‘Oh, your one of our kind of people!”
4 thoughts on “Broken Hearted in the Tragic Gap”
It was a great reunion, seeing Mesa Verde with you. One clarification: North UMC was not the 1st reconciling church in Indy; that honor goes to Broadway UMC, I believe.
thanks.. i edited it.
Clergy and friends being supportive is welcoming and wonderful, but I think the women in the Thrift Shop who welcomed you with no friendship or pastoral obligation are maybe the most heartening part of this story. Even if the ‘church’ is tuned out, the community is still tuned in. 👍🏻
You are so right. Theirs was the best part of the story.