AC19: Ophelia Hu Kinney delivers 2019 Laity Address

June 15, 2019

The 2019 Laity Address was delivered on Saturday, June 15, by Ophelia Hu Kinney, a lay leader at HopeGateWay in Portland, ME.
Kinney, the daughter of immigrants, began by talking about her mother. Food, Kinney said, is their common language. “It’s how we do relationship best.”
“A meal is worth a thousand words to my mother – it’s a declaration of love, a passing down of culture, and sometimes, an act of reconciliation,” she said.
Kinney told a story from her childhood: She had apologized to her mother for something she’d done wrong; despite saying she was sorry, her mother did not speak to her for a few hours. Kinney realized later that her mother wanted more than an apology.
“She wanted me to start making things right, and she wanted us to be in relationship again after I’d done her wrong,” Kinney said.
In their misunderstandings over the years – including her mother’s refusal to attend when Kinney married her wife –  it was a shared meal, not an apology that brought them back together.
Speaking of her mother Kinney said, “She measured, folded, steamed, and plated the work of reparation and set it before me and said, ‘Come, eat.’”
The lesson she learned from her mother, Kinney said, is that “being in relationship requires something of us – something more than just a proclamation.”
Focusing on the 2019 Annual Conference’s guiding scripture: Micah 6:8 (NRSV), Kinney said the path of action is outlined for us.
“And let me just say that what I love about what the prophet Micah has to say here – do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God – is that each phrase informs the others,” she said.
How do we go about doing justice?
By loving mercy and walking humbly with God.
And how do we show that we love mercy?
By doing justice and walking humbly with God.
And how do we know we are walking humbly with God?
By whether we are doing justice and loving mercy.
So we are not without a guide.”
In the aftermath of General Conference 2019, LGBTQ persons found themselves “in the epicenter of the Church’s pain and exclusion,” Kinney said, and she recalled how it felt to be rejected by “my own Christian community and my own family. The awkward weight of an uncertain future, and the worry that what is might never end.”
“But in my own story, I have a mother who did not understand but who agreed to be in relationship with me, and who therefore put in the work to do justice: to reconcile, to listen, to put down one’s presuppositions in the face of sure and ripening fruit.”
Kinney called on United Methodists in New England to recognize that “by nature of who we are, by nature of where we’ve been, what we do sends a strong message to the connection: what we do, even more than what we say.”
The harm done by the church cannot be undone, Kinney said, and will continue if we do not “change course from a status quo of dehumanization and choose instead to do justice.”
Whether doing justice means staying in The UMC or “birthing something new,” Kinney said we can’t simply sit on the sidelines and “abdicate this rich, deep history of justice-doing, mercy-loving, and walking humbly with God.”
Doing so would not serve LGBTQ persons or the church, she said.
“… the lives of LGBTQ persons in The United Methodist Church and in our world will not be saved by our believing the right thing. And, let this be a point of relief and liberation: neither will the Church!” Kinney said. “To profess to love means nothing if we aren’t to follow our words and do justice fueled by those beliefs.”
Then Kinney offered guidance on how we can best do that.
“Whatever comes next, for the sake of the Church, for the sake of Christian witness, for the sake of the lives and safety and sanctity of LGBTQ persons: let us move in the direction that our courage leads us,” Kinney said. “Speak boldly. And then do justice. Set the table. Call in the others. And look along the way for signs of resurrection.”
Kinney is Communications Specialist at Reconciling Ministries Network. She and her wife live in Scarborough, ME. 
Read the complete 2019 Laity Address here
The Laity Address speaker is chosen by a committee of the Board of Laity from entrants in the Laity Address Challenge, who submit the text of their address and a 5-minute video. Laity Address speakers must use the Annual Conference theme and guiding scripture as the basis for their address.