While you were out, heterosexism imploded.

Liberty and Justice (PunditKitchen.com)

Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it didn’t stop me from crowing it at my husband this week.

First, in Wisconsin, the United Methodist Church tried another clergyperson on the charges of 1. being gay and 2. marrying a gay couple. On the first charge, Rev. Amy DeLong was found not guilty of being a “self-avowed, practicing homosexual,” (language from the Book of Discipline). While this is tremendous news, because Rev. DeLong has indeed been in a loving relationship with another woman for many years and her Bishop knew about it, the manner by which she was found not guilty was disgusting. Basically the church court could not prove she was “practicing,” despite asking very specific questions about her intimacy with her partner. So, a way to go there before the church treats gay and lesbian people with anything approaching the decency they extend to heterosexual people.

On the second charge or marrying a same-gender couple, Rev. DeLong was found guilty (and rightly so, as she reported it herself), but the exciting part was her sentence. Where in the past, penalties for this charge have ranged form slaps on the wrist to defroking, in this case Rev. DeLong was issued a 20-day suspension, and required to write– with her supervisors and those who brought charges against her, as well as another person of her own choosing– a document describing the brokenness of the clergy covenant and how healing might begin. Given that 100s of clergypeople have stated that they will perform marriages for all prepared couples regardless of gender (including the author of this blog), this is a tremendous opportunity for the Untied Methodist Church to consider further equality and to do so in the spirit of reconciliation and healing for the harm that has been done, rather than continuing to ramp up the polarization.

Then, New York, on the eve of Pride Weekend, passed marriage equality, and there was even further rejoicing. It even prompted me to tweet a little something special.

These are exciting times for our country and our (for my fellow UMs) church, but what is exciting to one person might be mournful to the next. The question is how we proceed graciously and gracefully. For people who have been fighting for a long time, when we see even small steps forward, we can tend to trumpet them as victories, which simultaneously diverts our focus from the further progress needed, and runs the risk of being deaf to the concerns of others who struggle with the changes. Can we build the relationships that have been damages for so long? Can we seek a way of healing? Can we celebrate what has been done while storing energy for the tasks ahead? Can we hear those who have shut out our voices so that one day we might be a family again?

5 Responses

  1. Good post. A great picture. Is that two women? Doesn’t matter, that’s OK with me. God be with you. Thanks.

  2. Again I think you ask the proverbal $64,000 question. Too many times in society, both in and out of church, disputes are seen as a “winner take all” proposition. [I often get questions as to how I can be friends with people on both sides of many issues] As you seemingly suggest, the UMC msut break away from this model. Both sides of the dispute regarding homosexuality consist of Godly brothers and sisters who are trying to devine how to live as Christ wants us to live in the year 2011.

    The only answer I see to reconcillation is to talk and share with each others our thoughts and feelings – to share our humility as we take on the challenge to wrestling with seeking guidance from God. Both sides must have the courage to meet and share and to discard our preconceptions to the best of our ability. I fear that if we don’t now start such a process the UMC may be split – because as of now we are too busy seeking to “prevail” rather than heal and unite.

    I only wish I had a more diefinative solution to this question.

    Thanks for your thought provoking messages on your web site. They almost make me want to move “North” to be in your congregation.

    Shalom,

    Richard

  3. My opinion and why. I don’t think the issue gets resolved without the splitting of the church. Group A wants to follow the bible to include the parts aboout the sinfulness of homosexuals. Group B wants to “override” those verses based on love your neighbor among other things. I submit that the UMC will suffer no serious split if those that are for homosexuality leave beacause not all will leave the UMC. Additonally the last poll I saw showed only 33% or so of UMC favoring homosexuality and even less favoring marriage. If Group B split, it would be less than 30% of the UMC membership in the US and I wold submit that is would be closer to 15% because, when the chips fall, not everyone will leave. The UMC’s main area of growth is Africa and they are not in favor of ordaining homosexuals and so forth. All this said, it would take some very shady moves to pass any type of change favoring homosexuals in at least the next 8 years. If that happened, I submit that the African UMC would leave or take over the UMC and force the US to have it’s own seperate UMC organization. there would also be the loss of 30 to 50 % of US UMC members. At this point, the UMC as we know it would be a shell of it’s former self, would spend its remaining money in court trying to keep it’s property. A real loss will be that it no longer will have the ability to be the first in with a massive presence of aid for hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, etc.

    • Allen, I think there may yet be hope for a United UMC in this matter. What I believe we need to do is allow for this to not be considered an “essential.” If we allow for Conferences or Jurisdictions to set their own policies regarding the ordination of glbt clergy and the officiating of marriages, then each Conference/Jurisdiction could make the choice that allows for the most faithful witness and ministry in their cultural context, while still holding on to the things that make us Methodist: the quadrilateral, the threefold theology of grace, the commitment to holy conferencing despite and through our difference, and the powerful global witness in mission and relief effort that you mention (which is a huge part of why I choose to be United Methodist).

      Shalom,
      Becca

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