I've said here before that I am a pastor...a United Methodist pastor...an Elder in full connection in the United Methodist Church. I was born a United Methodist, but after sampling the "not so" greener grass for a season in my late teens, I remain a United Methodist by choice. As an Elder in the UMC, I am ordained to the ministry of Word, Sacrament, Order, and Service. Part of that...being ordained to Order...simply means that I have vowed before my bishop to uphold the Discipline of the United Methodist Church...the Church that I love.
This week, in Tampa, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church is in session. This is the only body that can legally speak for the denomination. Today, the delegates voted to maintain language within our Book of Discipline stating that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Er go...I'm torn. On one hand, I have vowed to uphold the Discipline of the United Methodist Church...which I intend to do. On the other hand, I see the pain that language causes many in our denomination...or those who have been mistreated in other denominations and have come to us looking for "open hearts, open minds, and open doors."
What bothers me even more than that, I believe, is the way we have treated each other over this topic. It is most definitely a hot button issue, and I can absolutely appreciate the passion coming from both sides, however, there has to be a better way.
There have been very heated discussions running through Twitter and Facebook all day, and as I have followed the live stream from Tampa today, and followed some of the discussions, I'm brought back to a question that I have been wrestling with for years. It may not be a huge theological question, such as "Is homosexuality a sin?" or "Is there more to human sexuality from a biological/genetic standpoint?" I'm struggling with those, for sure, but the one that I keep coming back to is this: "Why would anyone consciously choose to engage in a lifestyle knowing they will be alienated from family, friends, and the church?" I've yet to be able to answer that question in a manner that supports a conscious decision to do so, which leads me to believe that there is so much more to this issue.
Now, you may say, "Why be worried about being alienated from family and friends when we all know that sin alienates us from God?" Ok, I'll give you that one...but...why are we so focused on this one?
My prayer for the church that I love is that at some point we get to the place where we can discuss issues like this and actually do so in Christian love...which many did not do today...on both sides of the disagreement. My prayer for the church that I love is that we can either live into the slogan that we developed in the last few years, or find a way to determine who among us will actually find our hearts, our minds, and our doors open...and at least have the fortitude to own the fact that some won't. Hell, maybe I need to own the fact that I'm being just as bull headed as others, I don't know, but what I do know is that the way some within our church were treated is wrong.
If homosexuality is a sin, which the delegation voted today to call it that for at least another four years (and I'm not sure I agree), then my prayer for the church that I love and serve, is that all sinners are welcomed...and loved. If it is ever determined within the voting body that it is indeed not a sin, then may God forgive us for the pain we have continued to cause.
I'm a United Methodist...
I have friends and family who are LGBT, whom I love dearly...
I have a God who loves unconditionally....
Lord, help me do the same.
Here is a prayer my DS included in his blog this morning with a link if you'd like to read more. Thanks, Sky.
We talk a lot, O Lord.
We talk and twitter and blog about others,we talk in derision of those we don't like,
we talk in fear about those we don't know.
Remind us that we can be faithful and true to you,
our beliefs, our doctrine, and our theology
without pointing out the speck in another's eye.
Remind us how the logs in our own eyes
blind us to seeing you, your truth, and your people
as the children of God that they are.
We disagree O God. Help us to disagree agreeably.
Forgive us, O Lord.
In Jesus' name. Amen.