[Originally posted on my other blog, found here.]
…I must speak out about the travesty of justice that was perpetrated yesterday in Fort Worth, Texas at the United Methodist Church (UMC) General Conference (GC).
On April 30, 2008, the UMC voted again to exclude gay people from full inclusion in the church. We are not permitted to serve in positions of ordained leadership. We are told that we are “incompatible with Christian teaching”. We are told that people should refrain from discriminating against us, but in the next breath we are told that a pastor may discriminate against us. In short, our ‘sin’ is too great for the UMC to handle.
There had been hope that we could at least get the UMC to recognize that there is disagreement in the church on these issues, but thanks to some deft maneuvering by Rev. Eddie Fox and Bishop Timothy Whittaker, the proposal that would have allowed for that never even saw open debate, let alone a full vote. Good work, gentlemen!
I’ve been trying to figure out what else to say, but Sue Laurie has posted a marvelous letter that says what I wanted to and more. I’m only excerpting it here, so please click through to read the full text.
We witness in good faith. We are confident in our place, but it is confusing to learn and re-learn that the voters do not care about us as people or as Christians and they do not care that they wound the Church.
They do not care. It is beyond our comprehension. As we hear eloquent speeches based in the gospel of Jesus Christ, we cannot stop ourselves from feeling hope. As we hear gay-bashing speeches or “kinder, gentler” bigotry in coded language, we cannot believe that those weak, hateful positions will prevail.
Then, we lose. We lose the vote. We lose our place as clergy and now as lay people. We lose confidence in our leaders. We are instantly invisible as delegates are invited by the leaders to do some stretching exercises.
When I was in seminary, “friends” advised that things weren’t so bad for gay folks. “Just don’t tell them you are gay.” “You cannot expect change in our lifetime.” I was advised not to push for equality. Find a way to survive without opening yourself for mistreatment.
Then to wash their hands of the mess, they would say, “don’t martyr yourself”.
What is that? All I can do is try to be a faithful disciple. I have benefited from so many who have gone before me. If other people beat me up, that is their sin, not mine.
As I struggle to make sense of the situation, I rest on the little encouraging news that has come out of the GC. The Judicial Council (think Supreme Court) is going from a 6-3 conservative majority to a 2-7 conservative minority. Hopefully that means that the next time a Joey Heath is shown the door, the Judicial Council won’t high-five the pastor who held it open.
Secondly, the vote on several of the measures at this GC was close. Gay marriage went down (surprising no one) with a 66% majority, and a whopping 40% of the delegates apparently think that homophobia is A-OK, but language declaring that pastors “. . . are to faithfully receive all persons who are willing to affirm our vows of membership” was defeated by only 1% and the addition of gays to current equal rights language in the Book of Discipline was defeated by less than 5%. This is encouraging news indeed. Maybe at the next GC in 2012 we’ll be able to make more headway.
But the greatest piece of encouraging news is that this General Conference doesn’t speak for everybody in the United Methodist Church. When I came out in 2007, I was moved beyond measure by the kindness, understanding, and grace shown to me by my friends within my church and, more importantly, my pastor. He was and continues to be a source of support and inspiration.
A final note in a far-too-long post: When this news hit the wire last night, I was busy at my church helping prepare a kids drama program for this Sunday. I missed the news I’d been losing sleep over because I was busy doing the work of the church. There just has to be a sermon in there somewhere.