Monday, January 19, 2009

A Sunday Gathering

It the spirit of fellowship and friendship, Jerry and Paul, two fine fellows from my new church Country Club Congregational UCC, invited Greg, Jean, two old friends Russ and Helma and I to lunch yesterday afternoon.

As we sipped our drinks and chatted about our lives, renewed and made connections (Jerry and Greg both grew up on hog farms, and I knew one of Jerry's classmates), we all remarked on one interesting bond... we all grew up Methodist. We all quickly realized something else, we had all come to the conclusion we had to leave our Methodist traditions behind.

As Greg put it, "I didn't leave the church, it left me."

We are all (4 gay men, a straight couple with gay children and a widow who loves everyone regardless) people any church would love to have. We are faithful attenders, 6 of us sing or play instruments in the church, we have all served as leaders in the church and denomination, we financially support the church, 2 of us had made pilgrimages to Jerusalem, we have all done mission work to serve the poor and those in need. Jean and Paul have cared for sick and dying AIDS victims since the beginning of the epidemic. Greg and I had been to Nicaragua many times in service to others. Jerry has lead church choirs for years. Russ is a retired minister, Helma makes sure libraries are free from censorship. Saints we are not, but we keep on trying.

Yet the Methodist Church feels that 4 out the 7 people there are not deserving of full acceptance. Jerry and Paul have been together through thick and thin, moves and career changes for 33 years. Their relationship is meaningless in the Methodist Church.

Here is what the Methodist Book of Discipline (more important than the Bible for many Methodists) says:

Since the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.

Then there is this lulu:

Homosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth. All persons need the ministry and guidance of the church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. Although we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching, we affirm that God's grace is available to all. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons." Huh??? Can you say double speak? It is just whitewash for "love the sinner, hate the sin". I do lots of sinning, but expressing my God given sexuality is NOT one of them...thank you.

This sounds good until you read the last sentence, shades of "we love you, but you must sit on the back of the bus.":

Equal Rights Regardless of Sexual Orientation -– Certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for homosexual persons. We see a clear issue of simple justice in protecting their rightful claims where they 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 gays and lesbians. We also commit ourselves to social witness against the coercion and marginalization of former homosexuals.

Then what about former heterosexuals, if we can change our orientation like our socks?

So, in light of all that, what does our little gathering say? It would say to me that those who are progressive, gay, gay supportive and in favor of inclusion are leaving and finding a home in the UCC. It says we are tired of beating our heads against the brick wall of oppression and intransigence. It speaks of our disgust over the hypocrisy of the church and its leaders, something Jesus and the Bible talk about more than homosexuality. It may brand us as quitters, someone has to work inside to change. I believed that for a long time. But the church does not want to change, and I grew tired.

It speaks that the United Methodist Church, in all its glorious history, its leadership in braking barriers, being in the forefront of change is sliding into a staid status quo.

How sad.

I think I'll be happy with the UCC.

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