What Should We Do?

In case you don’t know, I’m not a fan of the United Methodist Church’s (lack of a) policy on homosexuality.  Here’s Article IV from The Book of Discipline, titled Inclusiveness of the Church: “The United Methodist Church is a part of the church universal, which is one Body in Christ. The United Methodist Church acknowledges that all persons are of sacred worth. All persons without regard to race, color, national origin, status,4 or economic condition, shall be eligible to attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments, upon baptism be admitted as baptized members, and upon taking vows declaring the Christian faith, become professing members in any local church in the connection.5 In The United Methodist Church no conference or other organizational unit of the Church shall be structured so as to exclude any member or any constituent body of the Church because of race, color, national origin, status or economic condition.”  Notice that it says “race, color, national origin or economic condition”.  Nothing about sexual orientation.  So, a United Methodist Church could exclude a homosexual from membership and be in full accordance with the church law.  I’ve been told that it’s happened, probably more than once, and that the church’s action was upheld by the judicial board.  However, the article on eligibility says that “All people may attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments and become members in any local church in the connection”.  Kinda two-faced, huh?  Well, wait till you read this: “While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world. The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals1 are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church”. The two-facedness gets worse.  In the 2008 Book of Discipline, Article 162 Equal Rights Regardless of Sexual Orientation says “Certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation. We see a clear issue of simple justice in protecting the rightful claims where people have shared material resources, pensions, guardian relationships, mutual powers of attorney, and other such lawful claims typically attendant to contractual relationships that involve shared contributions, responsibilities, and liabilities, and equal protection before the law. Moreover, we support efforts to stop violence and other forms of coercion against all persons, regardless of sexual orientation.”  Basically, we’ll defend your right to equality but won’t let you fully into our community.  Several years ago, the UMC ran an ad campaign that said “Open Hearts, Open Minds and Open Doors”.  That’s a laugh.

However, some Methodist churches (and pastors) are stepping up to the plate to do something about this abysmal attitude.  On Sunday, September 26, Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington D.C. (founded in 1815) voted to perform same-sex marriages in its buildings and to support its clergy if they performed one elsewhere.  Now, this flies in the face of church law and the ministers at Foundry could be defrocked if they follow through with this.  Shane Raynor blogged about the vote 2 days after it happened, saying that ” Foundry will argue that if church law is wrong on this issue, then they’re doing the right thing by ignoring it. But the problem with that attitude is this– even if Christians think they have good reasons for doing so, rejecting God-ordained authority is a serious issue and will  probably produce some negative consequences”.  Shane is quite a bit more conservative than I and there are times when I vehemently disagree with him and some of the commenters on his site.  This is one of those times.  Shane (and others) are counseling that we should follow the rules and work within the system to change it.  That would be fine…, if it would work.  Unfortunately, the leadership of the church is so terrified of a split over the issue that they won’t take a stand.  So, churches like Foundry are forcing the issue through what amounts to civil disobedience.  It’s about time.  Doing the right thing should always trump maintaining membership.  And, in this case, full inclusion of our LGBT brothers and sisters is the right thing to do.  Splits and membership be damned.