As a white, mail, heterosexual, Protestant citizen of the United States, I have been handed the Golden Ticket in life. I have not always acknowledged my good fortune, nor have I always been cognizant or sensitive to the fact that many people do not share my advantages. Nevertheless, civil rights are something I feel strongly about. Today I want to address just one aspect of one area of inequality: sexual orientation.
Growing up in Des Moines, Iowa, the term “gay” was frequently used as an all-purpose pejorative, as in “That is so gay!” When AIDS first hit the news in the early 1980s, I remember hearing and (I’m ashamed to admit) re-telling jokes like this:
Q: What do you call a gay on skates?
Q: What do you call a bunch of gay musicians?
I’ve since become much more sensitive to the LGBTQ+ population, though I’m sure my “sensitivity” still at times comes up wanting. I rarely speak out on the matter, and seldom take any sort of public stand. I couldn’t sit by quietly though, when events unfolded the way they did at the February General Conference of the United Methodist Church. At stake was how the UMC would address same-sex marriage and the ordination of openly gay clergy. Before the final vote, it was expected that the church would adopt a plan which gave a great deal of autonomy on the matter to local churches and pastors, who could decide for themselves how accommodating they would be to the LGBTQ+ community. Sadly, the conference ended with the UMC voting to uphold the Traditional Plan, which strengthened its official opposition to same-sex marriages and the ordination of openly LGBT clergy.
On hearing this news, I sent the following letter to the main UMC office:
I was baptized, raised, and confirmed in the United Methodist Church, so it is not without sadness that I write to you today. I am deeply disappointed by the stance against LGBTQ people taken by the UMC over the weekend. I am well aware of what the Bible says about homosexuality, but I believe the Bible is a living document and the church is a living body. It must grow. It must move forward. To do otherwise is to stagnate, become irrelevant (or even deleterious), and die. In this troubled time, with bigotry rearing its ugly head in all forms all over the globe, what is needed is unity and inclusion. The UMC has chosen division and exclusion, and that is a decision by which I cannot abide. It is here that I part company with the church that once nurtured me.
I received a pleasant note is response, which outlined ways I could, if I so desired, officially withdraw from the Methodist Church. Since then, I have not taken any steps toward doing so. I currently work at a Reformed Church in America congregation, which is a denomination that has been a bit wishy-washy on LGBTQ+ issues. For the time being, I have decided that it is better to work from where I am than to simply distance myself from either denomination.