Black folk just kept coming. The effectiveness of the ministry of Richard Allen and Absalom Jones could not be denied. St. George’s Methodist Church in Philadelphia thought they were getting some complaint black folk and quickly found otherwise. White folks started complaining and pushing back. Amongst a whole host of other things, seating became a huge issue. One morning a group of black folk sat in some new seats reserved for white folk and started to kneel in prayer. When a white trustee saw what was going on, he grabbed Jones and violently demanded that they move. When Jones pleaded for the group to be allowed to finish their prayers, the trustee threatened to call the authorities. The group walked out and never turned back.
While Jones became an Episcopal priest, Richard Allen remained a Methodist and led the rest of the spiritual revolutionaries to create Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church…which became the founding church of the AME denomination…which over two centuries later has over 2 million members. I ain’t heard no stories of any tears when the black folk left St. George’s Methodist. I ain’t heard no stories of any concessions made to try to stay at St. George’s Methodist. I ain’t heard no stories of anyone turning back toward St. George’s Methodist.
Centuries later, St. George’s Methodist is now St. George’s United Methodist.
Which brings me to our present moment.
This past week, I watched as United Methodists voted to exclude LGBTQ persons from their denomination. Centuries prior, they had done the same thing to Richard Allen and Absalom Jones. The only difference was the reaction.
Repeatedly, I watch Liberal United Methodists break down in total devastation. It was almost as if everybody thought that the homophobes weren’t going to declare they weren’t going to be homophobes anymore. I guess there was a thought that the homophobes could be converted through hope. Online, I saw people posting pictures and statements of defiance. Where in the hell were all these folks over the last couple of decades? Repeatedly, I have seen people that I love claim to be supporting LGBTQ people…when in reality they are just supporting their institutions and their finances. It is hard for me to believe that this is about LGBTQ persons anymore. I think this is more about the fear of having to walk away. I think the tears are about the fragility of Liberal United Methodists.
To all those who want to do more than mourn and try to convince everybody they’ve done their part…
Richard Allen and Absalom Jones can show you the way to Jesus.