By Jessica Brodie
PORTLAND, Ore.—Calling their concert “one big love-fest,” indie folk rock duo the Indigo Girls headlined a Reconciling Ministries Network benefit concert May 13 during The United Methodist Church’s General Conference.
United Methodists and other fans packed the nearby First Congregational United Church of Christ for the sold-out concert, where the longtime, Grammy-award-winning band performed hits like “Galileo,” “Shame on You” and “Closer to Fine” to wild applause.
“We’re here to support and recognize the work of the Reconciling Ministries Network,” Indigo Girl Emily Saliers told the UMC-heavy crowd, lifting up love for all people, including those of differing sexual orientations and races.
Saliers is the daughter of Dr. Don Saliers, a United Methodist theologian, poet and musician who was the William R. Cannon Distinguished Professor of Theology and Worship at Emory University until his retirement in 2007. He is now Candler’s Theologian-in-Residence. Prior to the concert, early that evening, Saliers and her father performed at the UMC’s General Board of Church and Society reception and spoke about the role music plays in justice and awareness.
Her musical partner, Indigo Girl Amy Ray, is also a United Methodist, and the two have been performing together since elementary school. Both identify as lesbian and are active in social justice issues.
The concert was designed to support and bring new awareness for the Reconciling Ministries Network, which mobilizes United Methodists of all sexual orientations and gender identities to transform the church and world into the full expression of Christ’s inclusive love. Many in attendance wore T-shirts that proclaimed “It’s time,” referring to the RMN’s campaign targeting General Conference, which is considering legislation calling for recognition of same-sex marriage and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning clergy.
Saliers and Ray gave anecdotes before each song, explaining the message and some of the songwriting inspiration.
Before the song “Pendulum Swinger,” Saliers shared how the opening lines were written about her friend, Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, Church and Society director.
Saliers also shared how the song “Come a Long Way” was about her second coming-out: as a Christian.
“My first was coming-out as queer. My second was coming out as a believer,” Salier said.
Ray shared her deep UMC roots—her grandfather and great-grandfather were both United Methodist ministers—and how she grew up in the UMC but left around the time she realized she was gay.
“That’s why we’ve got to change,” she said, noting the church needs to do a much better job of welcoming LGBTQ members.
The RMN has a General Conference press conference scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Monday, May 16, at The Jupiter Hotel in Portland, where UMC leaders and others will speak about the ongoing human sexuality debate.
Jessica Brodie is the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate.
By Jessica Brodie