Thursday, May 3, 2012

I Love Women, Bacon, and You!

If you know a United Methodist or are a United Methodist, you know that the United Methodist Super Bowl is happening right now. As I write the delegates that all of our Annual Conferences elected last year are nearing the end of their time in beautiful Tampa, Florida. New England delegation, I have some good news and some bad news for you. The good news is you can come home soon. The bad news is it’s been cold and rainy. Bring some Tampa sun-shine back with you. As I write, General Conference is on their lunch break. I am not there and haven’t been privy to the feel of the room, the side comments, and the snarkiness of delegates aside from what has been offered on the live stream. I have promised my colleagues that I have spent time with over the past week and a half that in four years I will stop giving play-by-plays as recorded on the General Conference Live Stream and Twitter and just attend in person and talk to those people instead of them. Friends, I’m counting on you to remind me that I’ve said this. There’s a great African-American spiritual:

 There is a balm in Gilead, To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead, To heal the sin-sick soul.

 Some times I feel discouraged,
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my hope again.

 There is a balm in Gilead, To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead, To heal the sin-sick soul.

 If you cannot sing like angels,
If you can’t preach like Paul,
You can tell the love of Jesus,
And say He died for all.

 There is a balm in Gilead, To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead, To heal the sin-sick soul.

 Don't ever feel discouraged,
'Cause Jesus is your friend,
And if you lack for knowledge,
He'll never fail to lend.

There is a balm in Gilead, To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead, To heal the sin-sick soul.

 Since 1972 the United Methodist Church has held the stance that Homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teachings...or that’s the official stance, anyway. I, as a United Methodist Clergy-person, do not affirm this statement. I don’t affirm that my brothers who are gay or my sisters who are lesbians go against God’s Word. In fact, the hateful prejudices that have infected the church since 1972 and before and have led us to a place where we cannot even agree to disagree are because we have built a fence around God’s Holy Truths--that all people, all of creation, is loved by God so fiercely that you can’t go anywhere to escape it. As you were called in one translation of one of the proposed amendments, I don’t believe you are ‘animals,’ unless that means that we as human beings are all animals and part of the animal kingdom, though something tells me the translator did not mean it that way. I do not believe you are to be stoned to death, even though that’s what the Bible says. I believe you are to be loved, honored, respected, and lifted up as part of God’s beautiful creation. You are beautiful people of God.

 I find it curious, peculier, and disheartening that we, as members of the body of Christ, have become focused on what someone does in their bedroom, in the kitchen, or in the back seat of the car in an abandoned parking lot with another person, but we aren’t worried about the other parts of the Old Testament that we seem so careless to toss around. By the looks of what little of the debate I saw this morning many people, wearing cheap suits, violated the no blended fabric rule. Women were allowed to speak in public (we actually ordain them! Can you believe that!?) And I would guess that at least one person consumed a pork product as part of their breakfast. Why not chastise them? Why not question their validity before God? Why not build walls to keep them out, instead of building bridges of understanding. It’s because in 1956 we saw that the ban on women speaking in public was no longer applied to our culture and voted to ordain women, even though women, by Old Testament law, are not permitted to speak in public. And, because silk or wool suits are expensive and bacon is so delicious. 

This morning’s proceedings and the statements which have followed prove that we have a lot of work to do. It proves that the United Methodist Church has a sin-sick soul. Brothers and sisters who have been at this justice-centered work longer than I have and whose lives are continuously called into question, as the great spiritual says: “Some times [you may] feel discouraged, And think [your] work’s in vain, But then the Holy Spirit [Will revive your] hope again.” The work of a fully inclusive church is far from over. I ceaselessly pray for the day when I can celebrate with others about the fact that the United Methodist Church is a fully inclusive church, regardless of one’s sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, or age. Today, the work is far from over, some people feel discouraged, some people, thinking the work is in vain, have fled from the church, choosing ordination in other denominations or leaving the body of Christ all together. Some, in an act of desperation have taken their own lives because they believed that God could not love them, because of what their church had taught them. Hear this, though wonderfully made people of God: Your sexual orientation is just one part of the good things that God has done in you. You are beautifully and wonderfully made in God’s vastly diverse image. I love you and God loves you, too.

1 comment:

  1. As a Christian who has grown to love my faith but deplore "religion", I commend you as a man of Faith for coming forward to openly disagree with a position held by your church organization, that I agree goes against the true message of the Bible and the New Testament - love your neighbor as yourself. Thank you for writing this.