Leadership from the United Methodist Church will gather this week in St. Louis for a Special Session of the General Conference. Usually the General Conference only happens once every four years, but the Council of Bishops can call a “Special Session” to have delegates from the church (usually about half laity & half clergy) tackle pressing issues. The issue they will be discussing and voting on at this week’s Special Session will be surrounding the UMC’s official position on matters of human sexuality… specifically reexamining the passages in the Book of Discipline which set a policy of exclusion from leadership for people who are openly LGBTQ+. And though I am not a member of the United Methodist Church (or ANY church right now, for that matter), my kids attend a UMC youth group, I have many good friends — both laypersons and clergy — who call the UMC their home, I have a great respect for the denomination, and I believe I have something of value to say about all this… And this is my blog, so deal with it.
First, let me say that even though I have personally come to a place of peace and clarity on the issue of LGBTQ+ inclusion within the church, I acknowledge that — for many — this issue is far from simple. The UMC is a giant denomination, with almost 7 million members in the U.S., and just shy of 13 million members worldwide… And this already divisive topic is made even more complicated by the presence of members from cultures and places in the world where LGBTQ+ discrimination and oppression is even MORE commonplace and accepted than it is in the United States. So it is no surprise that when they attempted to wrestle with this issue during the 2016 General Session, they basically kicked the can down the road by creating a “Commission on a Way Forward” to reexamine all of the places in the Book of Discipline (the BoD is basically the collection of official UMC law & doctrine) which address human sexuality. This Special Session is to respond to the Commission’s ideas and recommendations of a path forward which maintains church unity. I mean, it’s right there in the name: UNITED Methodists.
Right now, the Book of Discipline says (among other things) that “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.” And without boring you with the specifics (you can read more about them HERE and HERE), they basically came up with four options…
- “One Church Plan” — This would remove the restrictive/exclusionary language from the BoD, while giving conferences, churches, and pastors more “flexibility” to make decisions regarding LBGTQ+ inclusion. Basically, it allows for local and regional groups of Methodists to be inclusive or exclusive as they see fit, and though there is would be nothing officially preventing UMC congregations from, say, performing and blessing same-sex marriages… There is ALSO nothing officially preventing other congregations from excluding LBGTQ+ folks from places of leadership and, for example, firing a worship leader who comes out of the closet. This plan was endorsed by the Council of Bishops, and is the one the Commission is recommending.
- “Traditionalist Plan” — This plan would keep things the same, basically affirming the restrictive/exclusionary language in the Book of Discipline.
- “Connectional-Conference Plan” — This is more complex, but my understanding is that it would sort of set up three different conferences with which local churches and congregations could affiliate themselves, assumedly with different conferences representing different places on the spectrum from Inclusive & Affirming to Exclusive & Rejecting … All under one connected & “United” Methodist Church. And then when people say, “I attend a United Methodist Church,” the follow up will be, “What kind of United Methodist Church are we talking about, here?”
- “Simple Plan” — Basically, this plan would remove the “incompatibility clause,” as well as all prohibitions limiting the roles of homosexual people in the church. It would allow, but not require, same-sex weddings in churches.
Notice there is no option for a plan which appropriately labels a policy of LGBTQ+ exclusion & rejection by the Church what it is: HARMFUL. HATEFUL. SINFUL. And DEADLY. There is no option for a plan which officially repents and asks forgiveness for the harm done by years and years of the Church’s LGBTQ+ discrimination. And there is nothing which rightly describes this policy of exclusion & rejection as “the deepest unkindness” and “horrid cruelty” and “barbarity.” And if you’re wondering why I chose these words, it is because these are the words John Wesley himself — The founder of Methodism — chose to describe the Church’s policy of exclusion & rejection toward THE ORDINATION OF WOMEN AS PREACHERS.
I don’t think most people know about the deep history and tradition of inclusion within the Methodist Church. At a time when most people in the world thought “the Bible was clear” about its instructions for women to be silent and the “sinfulness” of women in leadership, John Wesley was the first in the Methodist movement to authorize a woman to preach. In 1761. A full 159 years before women in the United States earned the right to even VOTE. He confronted traditional ideas about female submissiveness, and in 1784, he even removed the word “obey” from the marriage rite he sent to North America. After Wesley’s death, there was much division within the Methodist Church over the issue of women in leadership. You can read more about that timeline HERE.
And now the UMC wrestles once agains with the issue of INCLUSION. And there are many questions looming on the horizon… Who is “in?” Who is “out?” Who gets to lead? Who gets full privileges? Who is three fifths of a person? Which people deserve to be second class citizens/church members? Is the Bible actually as “clear” on this issue as we have been told? Are the “Traditionalists” actually confident in the infallibility of scripture… or are they simply confident in the infallibility of their OWN INTERPRETATION of scripture?
People act like LGBTQ+ Inclusion in the Church is some sort of “abandoning of scripture.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. The story of the Bible has ALWAYS been a story of movement from exclusion to INCLUSION. Inclusion is the trajectory of the Bible. It is the story of a small tribe who thought that God was only on their “side.” It is the story of a God who sends Jonah to tell the sworn enemy of the ones who were “in” that God loves them too. It is the story of an Enemy-Loving God, who calls us to do the same. It is the story of a baby who would bring “good news of great joy that would be for ALL PEOPLE.” It is the story of a Rabbi who — when asked about how to inherit eternal life — pointed to a Samaritan who got all of the theology wrong, but wasn’t afraid to love someone who society said was “unclean.” And it’s the story of a Jesus who — as one of the last things he said to his disciples — said, “I have so much more to tell you, but you you wouldn’t be able to handle it right now.”
Yes, there are ways to read the Bible which would lead some to conclude that LGBTQ+ exclusion is part of “God’s Plan.” But this would be like citing Huckleberry Finn as a defense of using the N-word… Any competent reading of Huckleberry Finn would lead us to conclude that the text is pointing us in the direction of supporting the full humanity, respect, and inclusion of Jim. And all people like Jim. The real distinction between groups has less to do with differences in theology, and more to do with differences in an understanding of how to READ. When we read the Bible, we are reading a book which was written in a startlingly barbaric and misogynist time. Imagine reading in such a way that when you read about a small movement toward equality and justice, you decide that THAT amount of movement — and NO MORE — is all the author was advocating for. The Bible doesn’t provide a destination… It points us in a DIRECTION. And that direction is one of inclusion and respect and love.
What do we do about “the gays?” What do we do about women who want to lead? Or simply vote? What do we do about divorced people? What do we do about interracial marriage? What do we do about slavery? These issues are nothing new. The earliest members of the Church struggled with whether to include Gentiles (non-Jews). Many of the “Traditionalists” of that time thought you had to become Jewish BEFORE you were able to become a Christian. The early church leadership sided with inclusion.
What they DIDN’T do is they didn’t chicken out and say, “In the interest of ‘unity,’ if some individual ‘Traditionalist’ conferences, congregations, or pastors want to keep on excluding Gentiles from full membership, they can.” I’m sure some people at that time were upset. I’m sure there were some who were convinced the church leadership was “abandoning scripture,” and some of those people probably left. But… Oh well. I mean imagine the Church attempting to come to a place of “unity” around a decision to “leave it up to the churches” as to whether it was sinful to marry interracial couples during Jim Crow. The people who thought it was “sinful” for blacks and whites to marry thought they had a “Biblical basis” for that belief as well.
I realize that these things don’t change overnight. One thing is for certain: The current verbiage in the Book of Discipline is the stuff of Reparative Therapy and self-harm and suicide. It is the stuff of “the deepest unkindness” and “horrid cruelty,” and it needs to be changed. If the UMC can’t muster more courage than this weak sauce “One Church Plan,” then so be it… But the United Methodist Church has been far from “united” about the issue of LGBTQ+ Inclusion for quite some time… And regardless of how the Special Session of General Conference decides, that is unlikely to change. But the United Methodist Church wasn’t necessarily “united” around the issue of ordaining female pastors in the Methodist church either. There are always going to be people who are angry about letting others in. Regardless, there is a difference between Unity and Unanimity. And today, there are 16 female UMC Bishops, and over 12,000 female clergy.
In my last blog post, I wrote that “Unity is not the goal… Justice is the goal.” It is so interesting to me how so many of these things are connected… Political and Religious. It is Political Correctness, it is Heaven & Hell, and it is Trump’s Wall. It is everywhere, and it divides us… But make no mistake: It is a necessary division. This whole issue is really about The Morality of Inclusion… About whether Inclusion is better than Exclusion. LISTEN — If you’re part of an all-white country club that decides to accept black members, and some current white members throw a fit (citing “tradition”) and threaten to leave, you do the right thing, and you let them leave. See ya. Take your money… Take your bigotry… Take your Tradition… BYE. There are always going to be people who confuse their bigotry with their theology. I have been through the process of a church taking a stand for inclusion. It will not be easy. There will be people who are hurt. There will be people who will leave. LET THEM LEAVE. If this means a less “united” Methodist Church, then that’s what it means. At least there will be a place where LGBTQ+ kids can grow up knowing that a large part of the Methodist Church affirms and values and loves them exactly as they are. And that is more important than any cosmetic “Unity.”
Thank you so much for reading. If you are part of the UMC — both laity and clergy — I would love to hear your thoughts on this matter in the comments. And if you are a person who values this blog, I’d love for you to consider supporting it by BECOMING A PATRON. Or if you want, you can LEAVE A TIP ON PAYPAL. Now is a great time for that, because I recently broke my laptop (on account of plain old stupidity on my part), and that has made writing a lot more difficult. If you’d like to keep up with me, the best places to do that are ON FACEBOOK and ON TWITTER. Peace.
I am a member of the United Methodist faith. I am a straight, 60-something white female. I agree with you 100%, the correct path forward is for full inclusion, no exceptions. Too many people have weaponized religion, and that practice must stop. Whatever you do to the least . . .
I hope they do the right thing. When you are faced with a no-win situation, you might as well do the thing which will make your grandkids proud. 🙂
Such a poor interpretation of Scripture and taken out of context.
I was a music director in the UMC for 12 years. They began a PR campaign with the slogan “Open minds, Open hearts, Open doors”. I found that in reality, this was false advertising. I was hounded out of my position by a homophobic pastor and his wife (She went to another bigoted congregation and said that she could not come into our church without vomiting. She claimed it was just another Sodom and Gommorah. This was on the basis of Richard and me in attendance). I left the church and spent 14 years in an Episcopal church where Richard and I were accepted by the congregation, though not necessarily some staff. Recently I was recently offered a position in another UMC and turned it down because of this very issue. I urge the denomination to adopt the simple plan and welcome everyone to communities of love.
I’m so sorry, James. I love your heart. The best way forward is for them to repent of all the harm they have done. Anything short of that will only lead to more harm…
Thanks for this. I appreciate your words — in my very, very early years I was in a Methodist Church & had a children’s book about John Wesley that I still treasure. It did not explicitly call out Susannah Wesley as telling the Wesley brothers to consider women, but she is in the entire book as the teacher and instructor and mother and guide. It’s clear she was a major source of their compassion.
My current denom has had struggles with the ordination/presence of women in leadership, and when it started out leadership was somewhat open to women, but as we became more formally organized we gradually excluded women from leadership to the point today where we are revisiting this issue and there are some hard conversations.
And I want to thank you / applaud you for pointing out the missing piece here — the open repentance to our family that indeed includes our LGBTQIA community. The one place where our family should feel safe and at home is instead a place of danger.
That grieves me to no end. How can I tell them that Jesus loves them when I have to add “but his people don’t”?
Not sure where we’re all going to land on this, but I’m on the side of pushing for all the family to be invited to the table.
Much love to you and yours.
You say let the bigots leave. That’s fine for you to say, but let me say a few things. First, you have shown clear ignorance in how to interpret Scripture. You mix things that are not the same scenario and you fail to understand the culture of the time when Scripture was written. Second, Scripture condemns homosexual behavior. It clearly states that it is unnatural, debase, and sinful. There is no other way to interpret that. The clearest example is in Romans 1.
That being said, if you want to kick out “bigots” you must also kick out God the Father, Christ, The Apostles, Paul, and anyone else who follows Scripture.
“First, you have shown clear ignorance in how to interpret Scripture. ”
I’m curious if there is only one standard on how to “interpret Scripture.”
I’m reading more and more from non-white, non-male, non-gender-conforming, non-American or -English writers and theologians, and I’m discovering that there are many ways to interpret Scripture. We bring our lenses and our biases when we encounter Scripture, and often our interpretation is more a reflection of our own times and experiences than it is of a “neutral” or “correct’ interpretation.
The Methodist Church has included women as leaders for a long time. In my younger years, this was considered beyond the pale. And here we are with functioning leadership that comprises men and women. My own denom has for decades blocked divorced people from serving in leadership. After much discussion and thoughtful consideration, we’ve recently lifted that ban, and some truly gifted men and women are now allowed to speak and serve.
The American church in general is highly segregated by race and even class, systems that are not, to my interpretations of Scripture, fair to the biblical text–and yet here we are.
Perhaps we are confident about things that are not entirely that clear or important. In my experience, the rejection of sexual minorities from service in the church comes from a created fear of our brothers and sisters more than it comes from the clear view of Scripture.
But I’m here to learn, and as a professional layperson, I’m the kind of person who looks to leadership to help me muddle through all this. I appreciate the back-and-forth of us laity, but there are serious scholars who have more to say about this, who have deeper insight into the culture and languages of Scripture.
No, there is only one way to interpret any given passage. Period. Women, by the way, still should not be pastors. It is outside of Scripture, and the UMC actually admits this.
Segregated by race and class by rule or by natural groupings? There is a difference.
The clear view of Scripture on sexual issues comes from Romans 1, as well as other places. Homosexual behavior is unnatural, debase, and against God.
I am a scholar by the way. I have a degree in theology. I have studied the language and culture of Scripture extensively. I teach systematic theology to various groups.
“Period,” Stephen. He is a scholar… He should know.
Well, can’t argue with someone who states that women cannot be scholars. We are in different worlds and there isn’t really a bridge between us.
Blessings to you on your journey.
Who said a woman cannot be a scholar? I didn’t say that at all.
See my correction, below.
February 20, 2019 at 2:04 pm
“Period,” Stephen. He is a scholar… He should know.”
Huh…why is that statement reminding me of this, in which someone else insisted his interpretation was the “period” concerning what’s “right” and “wrong”?
“Covington Catholic is doing it WRONG… And if you are defending them, you are too.”
And, by the way, I see any degree of rejection of LGBT (or of any consensual sexual choices/preferences of adults) on religious/supernatural grounds as irrational.
If you could release my comment from moderation, I found the UMC website’s list of articles on their reasons for ordaining women. I did not see any remarks that would say that the UMC itself ever blocked women from ordination, nor did I see any history of the Methodist church that would bear an interpretation that they ever were united in blocking such ordination. From the very beginning John Wesley ordained women.
This is what happens with broken hermeneutics like yours, David. You take letters written in a misogynistic time, and you think that misogyny is approved and even encouraged. Again, Huck Finn is not a defense of your “rightness” in using the N-word.
What do you think Jesus was talking about when I said, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”
Broken hermeneutics? Misogynistic time? And how exactly do I think Misogyny is approved and encouraged? Hint: I don’t.
This might also help you understand: Let me know what you think/where he gets it wrong… https://vimeo.com/118976492
That video is almost 2 hours long….
I believe I corrected my typo below.
I can understand the reaction, and I again apologize for making a mistake.
Apologies–women cannot be pastors. My fingers typed something my brain didn’t intend.
The UMC denomination even admits that, biblically, women are prohibited from being pastors. So that begs the question, why are they? Their answer? Tradition, logic, and reason. In other words, some things trump Scripture. That’s what the real issue is.
Huh. Since I’m not UMC & haven’t really been connected to the UMC in any form since the 1950s, I’m curious about the wording of such a statement. I’ll Google it now.
It was in an email response to me from HQ when I called them out on the subject.
Can you quote the response? I’m curious why they would not simply refer you to the website where they have their public responses and polity.
I’ll have to see if I can find it, this has been a while back.
Found the quote: One reference from Paul may appear to rule out the ordination of women, but United Methodists also take into account our tradition, experience and reason.
I’m not sure that is enough to say that they admit that Scripture rules out ordination.
Scripture says that divorced people cannot remarry. I’m married to a divorced woman. I’ve been counseled by biblical literalists to put my wife away much like in the Old Testament book of Ezra-Nehemiah.
I’m afraid I’d need more than a weak statement from the literalists about my marriage to convince me to leave my wife, and I’m afraid I’d need more than a statement that says “may appear to rule out” to become the equivalent of “admit the Bible prohibits the ordination of women.”
You are a scholar, and I mean no remonstrance by this, but I think you can see the weakness of your assertion.
It is enough to say that Scripture is not their final authority.
“Scripture says that divorced people cannot remarry. I’m married to a divorced woman. I’ve been counseled by biblical literalists to put my wife away much like in the Old Testament book of Ezra-Nehemiah.” That is an unbiblical stance. It also depends why the divorce occured as to whether or not she should have remarried.
As far as the denomination, you must admit that they admit that at least one passage of Scripture forbids or at least appears to forbid the ordination of women but diue to their reason and tradition they move forward anyway.
Hi, am new here, and kind of confused. I have had several UMC pastors who were women. So what is all this about the UMC not allowing women pastors? Edification requested, thanks!
No Susan, they DO allow women pastors. That’s the problem because the Bible does not permit it.
This is for David, who responded to my post with words to the effect that the problem is that the UMC allows women to be ordained, but that the Bible does not. David, my understanding is that the UMC is not a denomination that believes the Bible is the inerrant or infallible word of God. The Bible is our holy text, it is treasured, but Methodists believe that there can be debate, interpretation, that we can study scripture in its original context and apply it to today. For example, we also do not support the stoning of adulterous women. If your personal belief is that the Bible is infallible, the UMC is not the right denomination for you. If you want a denomination built on Wesley’s theology that sees the Bible as infallible, perhaps try the Nazarene or Holiness churches?
So you admit the UMC is a false church and not of Christ.
That’ll do, David. If anything here is “not of Christ,” it is your startling lack of humility and your twisted gospel of exclusion. Take it back to your own blog page, where all six of your readers can read something which appears to justify their hatred and bigotry.
The thing which makes Jesus so offensive and scandalous is NOT who he keeps out… The thing which makes Jesus so offensive and scandalous is who he welcomes IN.
The Gospel is exclusionary in its premise. You can only enter Heaven by turning away from sin through faith in Christ. Christ never ceased to call out sin and tell people they must forsake their sin and follow him.
Narrow is the road. Not all people go to Heaven. The Gospel is exclusionary.
And I love the ad hominem about my readership. You have no way of knowing how many readers I have but I assure you it is more that six.
Okie dokie… Good luck with that belief that we are save through our right theology.
If only there were some sort of story Jesus told which could give us some insight on this situation. Something about two men who got all of the theology right, but avoided someone who their theology told them was “unclean”… Just to have someone come along who got all the theology WRONG, but who loved and cared for and accepted the beaten and bloodied man just as he was. Wouldn’t it have been so scandalous for Jesus to point at THAT person as the example of how to “inherit eternal life?”
Anyway, if Jesus ever spoke about people having to “worry about getting in,” it was ALWAYS to the religious folks who were certain of their own rightness, and unwilling to offer the same grace to others which was offered to them.
Maybe YOU should be a little more worried about who’s getting in…
I’m very worried about who is getting in which is why I preach the Bible and not the culture of Man.
The horse, having been thoroughly beaten while dead, is still dead.
Nonetheless, I wanted to highlight Chris’ statement here:
“The thing which makes Jesus so offensive and scandalous is NOT who he keeps out… The thing which makes Jesus so offensive and scandalous is who he welcomes IN.”
I’m glad to know of a wide and free salvation. I’m uninterested with men who attempt to block people from accessing the Lord Jesus by making up stumbling blocks.
With that said, I’m out of this conversation, which has become a set of predictable responses.
By “appears to say” I read this as “if you think the Bible is flat and all verses can be isolated from their context.”
What I read this to say is “taking a verse out of its place and using it solely to establish a Kingdom principle is wrong, and we don’t do that in the UMC.”
You are free to read it otherwise.
As far as your statement of “that’s unbiblical,” I’d point out, with some amusement, that this is commonly offered as an excuse when something is posted from the Bible that we find hard to manage in our culture today. Enslavement of people is biblical, but those who use the Bible to promote the enslavement of people today are called “unbiblical.”
“No True Scotsman” and all that. I’m always entertained by people who abandon their scriptural fidelity when Scripture gets hard.
No, enslavement is not biblical. Again, that is taking Scripture out of context.
Funny how it’s suddenly “out of context” when it it is no longer fashionable to exclude those groups of people.
Once again, your faith is not in the infallibility of the Bible… It is in the infallibility of your own INTERPRETATION.
Show me where enslavement is condoned as biblical. You will not find it without taking it out of the context it is written in.
I’m not seeing that the UMC says women are prohibited from being ordained as pastors here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ordination_of_women_in_Methodism
“In 1968, when the United Methodist Church was formed from the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church, Methodist women clergy were afforded the right of full connection.”
Here the UMC itself talks about the place of women in ordained pastoral ministry:
“Rev. Dr. Steve Harper
Dean, Asbury Theological Seminary, Orlando
Christian tradition does not speak a uniform word on this issue, and we must seek to maintain respect for those who feel women should not be ordained. Our own United Methodist heritage has not come to the current affirmation without struggle and differences of opinion. Nevertheless, we support the ordination of women and we believe that our position has strong elements in its favor. In this article, I will set forth the basics of our position, giving special attention to two passages in the New Testament where significant controversy has focused.”
“A turning point occurs in Acts 2:17, when the prophecy of Joel is fulfilled, including the fact that, ‘your daughters shall prophesy.’ The Greek word for ‘prophesy’ is broader than the role of the prophet, and is used to speak of the general communication of the gospel message. Even those who argue against the ordination of women have to acknowledge that the Pentecostal paradigm creates a new context for the ministry of women in the Christian church.”
“Furthermore, it must also be remembered that ordination as we understand it in United Methodism today does not have exact roots in the New Testament. A contemporary theology of ordination cannot be read back into the biblical text, but the text can be instructive to us today as it reveals the ministry of women in the early church. It is also beyond question that by the fourth century, women were ordained to ministry in the church, and this would never have happened if the original proponents had felt they were in violation of the Bible.”
“The passage in 1 Timothy is the second passage cited by those who oppose the ordination of women. At face value, it appears to be an open-and-shut case against women’s ordination because Paul says clearly, ‘I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man’ (2:12). However, it is wrong to make this a blanket statement, for to do so would cause Paul to contradict himself. He spoke approvingly of women ministering publicly in 1 Corinthians 11:5. He commended Euodia and Synteche for their labor in the gospel (Philippians 4:3), and he held Lois and Eunice in highest honor (2 Timothy 1:5).”
“The United Methodist Church, by polity and practice, supports the full inclusion of women in every aspect of church life. Among groups that specifically work to eliminate sexism and promote the full inclusion of women are the General Commission on Status and Role of Women and the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.”
“Clergywomen have been part of Methodism since John Wesley licensed Sarah Crosby to preach in 1761. Although women were ordained in the Methodist tradition as early as the late 1800s, it was the May 4, 1956 General Conference vote for full clergy rights that forever changed the face of ordained clergy.”
I’m not sure where you draw your conclusion about the UMC admitting to your statement about the legality and fidelity to Scripture that would block women from clerical ordination?
Do you have other sources? I’m using the UMC website.
I want to be careful I don’t misunderstand the statements posted by the UMC on their website. My reading of it seems to imply that the UMC (itself a new-ish denomination) has always supported the ordination of women as pastors, and that from the beginning John Wesley himself ordained women. A few branches of the Methodist movement did not ordain women, but AFAICT, they are not coterminous with the UMC, and in my opinion should not be held to mean “the UMC.”
I’m a UMC member. I’m praying for inclusion. It’s the only way forward. Our youth are dependent on the decisions made this weekend. The statistics on exclusion are staggering. Any church who chooses to exclude any group of people from full inclusivity is contributing to those gloomy numbers regarding depression, self-harm, and suicide.
I enjoyed reading your blog. It was especially interesting in light of my devotion today on Acts 28 – “Some were convinced by what he said, but others refused to believe. So they began to leave, unable to agree among themselves…”. Then Paul stopped trying to convince the people of his own kind and focus on speaking to the Gentiles, but he still welcomed all who came to him. I’m so sad the wording of the Discipline is divisive. We somehow got past inerrancy when scripture clearly stated women had to cover their heads in order to worship. I’m white, 60+, and believe God is always calling us to love and accept others, and it is the power of love that transforms. But this fight is deeply theological and about how scripture is interpreted, not just how it is read. I’m even more radical. The MC lost the U a long time ago, and like Paul in Acts 28, it’s time to let go of the U and preach to those whom you are called to witness. How I wish there was an Option 3 B which also dropped the U.
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The overwhelming problem with the OCP is that it leaves the decision up to local churches and pastors. If the church is small and of one mind (on either side) it is a viable thing…or at least somewhat peaceful. Larger churches with signficant numbers on both sides will be polarized. It will be a horrible situation for any pastor who loves his or her whole congregation. As one who has worked with youth for 43 years, I can tell you, the youth simply have no problem with LGBTQ issues. They are quietly puzzled as to why we’re even dealing with this. Some youth may be against LGBTQ inclusion but the overwhelming majority are not. Anyone who leaves the church over inclusivity and goes to another church will only face it there…eventually. As gay unions become more and more constitutional, the church will have no recourse but to bless them. It’s what we’ve done throughout our history.
The churches from cultures which still outlaw homosexuality are in a horrible place. This is why the OCP is attractive to them and may well pass the General Conference. They will be free to be United Methodists and deal with LGBTQ issues as they eventually become debatable in their countries.
But in the end, IF the youth stick around (and that’s a big IF, you know), they will fully and finally change the church. If our insistence on our own hermeneutics makes us intransigent, the youth will fade away and we won’t have to worry about the future, will we?
Thank you for speaking out my heart on the matter. The difference is I left the UMC when I could no longer accept their stance on this issue. My God became big enough to embrace all people as precious and I don’t want to be tied to an organization that can’t seem to grow in love.
Let us hope they learn how to love with a deeper understanding than they currently have…
I have been a UMC member in the past and am about to reaffirm my faith at my local UMC church, but I am actually waiting to see what happens at the General Conference. We are all created in the image of God, therefore all races, all ethnicities, all LGBTQ+ folks are reflections of the creative, unifying force we call God. God’s love is for all, period, and without narrow-minded, archaic expectations. I passionately believe we must truly welcome and affirm all LGBTQ+ people, love them as is with no cis or hetero expectations, and that our LGBTQ+ clergy must be free to be themselves and to marry whomever they love if they so choose. So the recent news that the Traditional Plan, which would continue to institutionalize oppression and exclusion is currently favored is ripping me apart. I am the cousin of several who are LGBTQ+, including two now deceased pastors in a different denomination that embraces those who are LGBTQ+, and closer to home, one of my adult kids is trans. I chose congregations (UCC, UMC) that I believed were open and affirming in which to raise my kids, but as far as the UMC is concerned, it was a slogan, an idea, maybe a goal, but not true inclusion. We must be a “no place for hate” denomination, and to that end, if we cannot embrace all of God’s rainbow, then let the schism begin because we cannot be united in anything less than full inclusion. Our last great schism was over slavery. Time for another one if my hopes for General Conference 2019 are dashed..
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