The United Methodist Church has been debating everything gay since 1972. That’s a long time. I was in 4th grade when the debate started and it’s still going on(not 4th grade. I did eventually make it all the way to graduate school). At this week’s General Conference (the big once-every-four-years business meeting of the Methodists) the delegates will once again pull out the topic of homosexuality, dust it off, and no doubt bring it to emotional crescendo at the 1000 delegate gathering. Good luck, United Methodists. My hat is off to you for not losing sight of what should be a burning issue, an issue over which you can speak with a prophetic voice. And I congratulate you on your unflagging devotion to keep this issue in the forefront.
I also have no faith in you.
Nearly half of the voting delegates at this year’s conference are from countries outside the United States; those countries, almost without exception, are fundamentally opposed to any LGBT rights. For example, Liberia, where being gay is considered a crime punishable by execution, has representative delegates. The other half of the voting delegates are from the U.S. But most of those delegates are from regions known for their conservative, traditional views and have expressed anti-LGBT beliefs.
Only a small minority of the 1000 delegates support LGBT rights.
See the problem? It’s not going to happen. At least not this year.
Thinking about the General Conference and what is likely to come out of it, I have to ask “why would anyone stay with an organization that openly, officially, and systematically rejects them?”
Here are the only two reasons I can think of:
I am not giving up on the church I love and am going to stay and fight for change. OK. I get that. And I respect and support it. I’m just not sure I would have the energy to keep fighting. Especially if I had been engaged in the fight since 4th grade.
Here is a second reason for staying: I grew up in this church, I love it, and my home is here. OK. I get that as well. I have no quippy answer for that one. But my heart breaks for you. To be officially unwelcome in the place one calls home is much worse than feeling unwelcome in an institution one occasionally and casually frequents.
Here’s my solution for Methodists who are gay (not that you asked for my solution): come on over to the United Church of Christ. We are open and affirming, you can marry your partner in our sanctuaries, get ordained into our clergy, serve communion, lead the youth group, and since we are a church, you are encouraged to give us your money. But then, your money will support what you really believe–that Jesus didn’t reject people and neither should the Church.