The Quixotic Pastor

Saturday, May 03, 2008

84 Votes: A Reflection

The 2008 General Conference of the United Methodist Church had 990 delegates this year, if I read the delegation count materials correctly.

According to the latest news from Soulforce, as well as the UMC's own General Conference news website, the delegates voted 501-417 to retain the current language in the Book of Discipline which states that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.

84 votes make the difference between the denomination actually living up to its slogan --a slogan personally painful to me every time I hear it-- "open hearts, open minds, open doors."

Because it's bullshit.

Because the reality is that the UMC as a denomination does not "officially" open its doors to me and people like me. If the denomination wants to avoid the appearance of hypocrisy at worst or disingenuousness at best, it should return to "Catch the Spirit" or some other slogan. Or add the footnote *LGBT persons need not apply.*

Another caveat could be added --unless you're willing to be a second class citizen of the ecclesia, sit quietly at the back of the church bus and pretend to be someone you're not.

The UMC should also, while they're legislating people's lives, discontinue the practice of infant baptism.

[Yes, this is my opinion. Yes, it is an angry one. I acknowledge I am angry and disappointed. Why aren't you?]

Because if that baby child of God who is fully welcomed into the church one Sunday morning and is fully included in the life of the church at confirmation grows up to be LGBT, his or her welcome and inclusion will be diminished. Hopefully the infants whom a pastor lovingly paraded up and down the center aisle of a worship center and promised that the people in these pews would teach and love and nurture in the Christian faith don't ever come out as LGBT and discover that the UMC or another church often fails to keep its promises ...

Because what if those children's discipleship journey leads them to embrace their identities as LGBT children of God, fully created in God's image and affirmed as a part of God's intention for creation? Each one of them will have to make a very painful decision between parting company with a church that reneges on its promises, or remaining within a church waiting for it to "catch up" with the Holy Spirit of God. [Maybe that should be the new UMC slogan.]

On the other hand, I celebrate that it is "only" 84 votes ... although I know the reality that it often takes the "legislation" from conferences many years to trickle down to the grass roots of the churches.

I am so grateful for the witness of LGBT Christians and allies who faithfully and lovingly testify to their experience of God's grace, love and care for them in the face of misunderstandings and disagreements --as well as sometimes out and out lies, misinformation and violence that are spread by some people who choose to deal in fear instead of love. Thank you Soulforce, Reconciling Ministries Network and so many other organizations and groups dedicated to the full inclusion of LGBT persons in the life of the church.

I am really sorry that the majority report which suggested the UMC acknowledge that “Faithful, thoughtful people who have grappled with this issue deeply disagree with one another; yet all seek a faithful witness” didn't pass --because that is truth for the UMC and most other mainlines as well.

It's why there were only 84 votes making the difference.

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