Brothers and sisters
I was grieved by the protest at General Conference yesterday. Besides being a 40 year long process of greater and greater division in the church, the debate over the United Methodist statement on homosexuality has caused grievous pain to many faithful individuals and families. We seem to be escaping another General Conference without legally splitting the church, but the cost has been unimaginable.
For the vast majority of heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender United Methodists, the church is a loving and accepting place. We sit among brothers and sisters with differing sexual orientations every Sunday and rarely even think about it. We receive communion together, live and love, cry and laugh with one another. That is as it should be.
A small group of people feel excluded, labeled, and devalued. That should grieve all of us, regardless of whether you think the church's position is biblical or archaic, loving or alienating, prophetic or judgmental. The pain of a brother or sister is our pain and our shame.
Is there any way to resolve this long running family feud? I don't know. People smarter than me have tried over and over and have failed. It seems to me that yesterday's behavior is blatantly "bullying." Extremest terrorists held leaders of our church hostage until they bowed to their demand of having an openly gay pastor step on to the platform and lead a prayer from the pulpit of the conference.(Are any of you under the illusion that that was the first time a homosexual stood in front of General Conference? I am sure it is not.) No matter what their agenda is, the behavior is manipulative and more alienating than reconciling. I am embarrassed to see this played out on a public stage with the world's media (both religious and secular) watching and hoping for a fight that is worthy of headlines.
Let's think about this.
- I don't judge you for drinking responsibly in the privacy of your home or family--- until it creates a problem with your relationships, or becomes a public matter as in public intoxication or drunk driving. Is it possible for you to be dependent on alcohol, causing a serious spiritual issue for you in your relationship with God and it is not a public matter? Absolutely. But that is between you and God.
- It is none of your business how I spend my money unless I spend it on illegal drugs, or to bribe public officials or squander it and come begging at your door or the public coffers. Is the way I use my money important to God and can it become a barrier to spiritual growth? Absolutely. But that is between me and God.
- Is our sexuality any different than the other issues that might create a problem between us and God? My sexuality is between me, my wife and God. Yours is between you, your loved one and God. It only becomes anyone else's business when it leaves the confines of a loving monogamous relationship in the form of adultery, abuse, any number of public perversions, or becomes a tool for political gain. ( Isn't that what happened yesterday? Didn't that group bring their sexuality-- and the sexuality of the entire church into the public arena and use it for their own purposes?) Is it possible that a homosexual person's sexuality could be a barrier between them and God? Yes. But it is equally possible that a heterosexual person's sexual addiction, or some other aspect of their sexual lives might be a barrier between them and God. Either way... it is between them and God until they ask for help.
My friends, it is time for God's people to grow up and stop acting as though we are 4th graders who think it is somehow cool and thrilling to stand on the playground and shout out slang names for genitals. It is not thrilling or titillating to continue this public airing of subjects that are intended to be confined t the privacy of our homes. It is time for us to grow up and get back to the business of loving one another: man or woman, gentile or Jew, Samaritan or pharisee, heterosexual, homosexual, white, black purple or polka-dotted.
In the Reinbeck United Methodist church we have a couple of people who have non-heterosexual orientations. (Maybe more than I am aware.) I have never, ever, ever, seen that create a barrier to loving one another. You embrace each other and gather around the table for communion. Thank you. Thank you for being a community that can rise above these issues. Thank you for being a community that can lead the denomination by example. We are all part of the one body. The body of Christ. Let us gather this Sunday as Christ's body and not debate our sexuality, but to practice our faith and our love as we commune with our God.