Then came a monitoring report speaking truth to the lack of diversity in presentations and voices being heard. The emotions of the gathering quickly changed. There were points of personal privilege that attacked the monitors and the monitoring agencies, claiming hidden agendas behind the report advocating for the SEJ to finally elect a women of color. Many endorsed candidates who fell under that category, but sadly the members of the Southeast Jurisdiction heard “woman of color” to mean “black woman.” The comments were… “We already elected a woman…” “We already elected a black person...” and then there were rumors questioning the sexuality of a candidate. Some members in the SEJ were so focused on maintaining their institutional power that they could not hear the whispers of the Holy Spirit moving through Stuart Auditorium.
As a queer, young person of color, it was hard to watch a group of people define diversity by numbers and percents without regard to the impact of the people and lives within the communities served in the Southeast Jurisdiction. The conversations were hard to hear, but I left with some hope for the SEJ. We elected and consecrated several progressive folks as bishops. There were also young leaders standing up, proclaiming the call of the Holy Spirit for the leadership to look more like the Kin-dom of God and focus less on numbers and percents. Finally, we began tough conversations about inclusion on many levels in our church that will greatly impact the SEJ as we move forward serving God and making disciples for the transformation of the world.