Michael GravesI often ask people who wonder why I didn’t go into politics, "Why would I when I can work for the church?"

This was my second General Conference. Four years ago in Tampa I had the opportunity to work with United Methodist Communications and this year I worked with the communications team from the North Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church. 

The role of a communicator at General Conference is one that is both complex and exhausting, yet rewarding and an honor. 

It's no secret that I’m an openly gay member of The United Methodist Church. Furthermore, most of my employers are United Methodist organizations. Navigating my identity as a communicator and gay man has contributed to both my favorite and hardest experiences here at General Conference.

I am, unabashedly, for full inclusion of LGBTQI members and clergy in The UMC. I have advocated for the rights of my fellow queer United Methodists to move forth in their candidacy without concern to their sexuality. Furthermore, full inclusion would allow our elders to preside over the marriages of their LGBTQI friends and family members. I have completed the Reconciling Ministries process coaching training, written articles and blogs regarding this subject, and participated in demonstrations at the local church level for full inclusion. 

I am also a conference communicator. My role in The United Methodist Church is one that requires me to remain objective in my professional life. In this role I am charged to bring the news of General Conference to the people of the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church. When I am not at General Conference, I help to tell the story of those we call Methodists.

Working at General Conference is not only physically taxing, but sometimes emotionally exhausting. It is increasingly difficult to watch my LGBTQI family protest for their ministry in the church to be recognized and their lives not be deemed "incompatible" with Christian teachings. I have moments in which I find myself wanting to dive into those demonstrations at the risk of losing my credentials as a member of the media and my role in my conference. 

And then I have those moments where I am filming, taking pictures of, or writing about these protests and movements. In those moments, I am happy to know that I am fulfilling a role that is essential—the role of the story-teller. 

That's really what we communicators are here to do. We work for the people of the UMC to tell their stories, your stories, of how the Spirit moves in your daily lives. This General Conference was hard. I cried a couple of times. I wept both in sorrow for those in our midst who are marginalized, but also in gratitude for the way in which United Methodists across the globe impact their communities. 

In this space, I do feel that I miss out on some important points of advocacy. However, I would not trade my job as a communicator for that opportunity as I am blessed to be one of the few people charged to tell our story. As General Conference comes to a close, I remember that I am loved by my church and my bishop, my team and my friends in the UMC. Most importantly I know that when we all make it home, we will continue to follow our Great Commission, and make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Photo at top: South Carolina Annual Conference communicators Jessica and Matt Brodie interview Elizabeth Murray, a page and marshall during the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Oregon. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS.