Tag Archives: LGBTQ

Tired, Sad, Still not leaving

Last week, the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church met to rule on the legality or the constitutionality of decisions made in February by the General Conference. I have not posted much about the what happened. Judicial Council has a particular role in the United Methodist Church. Two years ago, I wrote a blog on the ruling the Judicial Council made on the election of Bishop Karen Oliveto in the Western Jurisdiction. It explains the process and my response.  You can read my thoughts here.

Those who know me well, know I was grieved and saddened and angered that in 2019 we still can not move forward on full inclusion. On my church’s website, I posted this video in response. I have no say or vote in the matter, but I felt that the One Church Plan, while not perfect, offered the biggest tent for people who have deep disagreement over the issues of human sexuality to dwell together.

I was wrong. The General Conference voted (by a slim majority) to not only uphold the current stance in the Book of Discipline but to add punitive and mean measures to make sure everyone toed the line. The Judicial Council’s role is to look over the legislation and make a ruling on what is legal and what is not. While this comes from a Progressive point of view, this chart is a good visual for understanding the decisions made.

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I am not particularly surprised by the most recent Judicial Council rulings. Their job is to see how decisions are legal or not legal by the United Methodist Discipline and Constitution. That does not stop me from being sad. I understand that different people can come to our Holy Bible and interpret it in different ways. What I have trouble understanding is the punitive nature of how to punish those who disagree.

The Reverend Doctor Rebekah Miles has reflected on the General Conference actions and the Judicial Council’s response.  I highly respect her thoughts and recommend you read her article in its entirety. She is the Professor of Ethics and Practical Theology at Southern Methodist University, an elder in the United Methodist Church and has attended General Conference many times.

Personally, what stands out for me in Dr. Miles post is this statement:
Only one offense with minimum penalty

Speaking of the many things, including celibacy, that have nothing to do with sex, we can at least take strange comfort in the fact that none of them will trigger mandatory minimum penalties for clergy. We, in the United Methodist Church, have mandated minimum penalties for only one offense: officiating at a same-sex marriage. Your pastor could steal the church’s money, have sex with various and sundry people, or even stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone, without triggering a mandatory minimum penalty. But if he agrees to officiate at the wedding of his beloved lesbian daughter, we have made it more difficult for his conference to avoid a clergy trial and have mandated that the conference must suspend him for a year without pay if it is his first offense and take away his ordination credentials if it is his second. 

This is stunning. I can basically do all kinds of immoral and unethical and illegal actions, but the United Methodist Church has no minimum penalties for those actions. Now, at any point in the process, a pastor can lose their credentials, but the only “offense” that has specified punishments and penalties are for officiating at gay weddings (which in the United States is legal in all 50 states.) I can get a divorce, remarry, get a divorce, remarry, get a divorce and remarry again and again and again; no questions asked. I can abuse people, steal money, create a hostile work environment at church, and there is no minimum penalty for these offenses. If you want to know what “chargeable offenses” are in the United Methodist Church you can find that information here.

Perhaps this is an overstatement, but the truth is that the Discipline of the United Methodist Church does not prescribe any particular resolution for these pastoral failings. This is an entirely new path that the United Methodist Church is taking. The definition of what it means to be homosexual has been changed as well as the understanding that if a person is celibate, they can still serve as an elder, a deacon, a bishop, etc. Now, it only takes a declaration of being “gay” to exclude one from ministry.

After thirty five plus years, I might be given some grace if I had decided I didn’t want to fight any more. It might be understood if I decided to give up, to turn away from any organization that would be so closed, so deeply entrenched, so unwilling to continue to delve into scripture and to find the grace and love I see in Jesus.

I am still not leaving. I am probably too stubborn and pig headed to give up. I just can not imagine giving up on the church that I have served and loved for decades. I may have to, but I am not willing to stop working for what is just and right and good yet. I continue to share with the young LBGTQ people that worship at First that hope is still available. That some day, it is possible that they can live fully into who God has created them to be in the life of the church. Someday, when they want to pledge their love and their life to their partner, I will be able to be their pastor.

I hope and pray that will be true. I know there are discussions on the future of the UMC. I know we may be looking at schism. For the first time in decades, I am believing this may be the way forward. In the meantime, I will continue to work, to pray, to preach, to pastor and do the work of God in downtown Wichita. I will continue to open the doors for all people, no matter their age, their race, their ethnic background, their social economic status, their political leanings, their gender, or their gender identity or their sexual orientation. I am not leaving, I am not going away. I am continuing to believe and base my ministry on love, on inclusion and on justice.

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Year of Gratitude

Last week, I didn’t get a prompt posted for our year of gratitude. It’s not that I wasn’t grateful or that I didn’t send a thank you note, I just didn’t get the blog written. Some of that had to do with the life of the global United Methodist Church. While I have tried not to be anxious, I have been.

As I write, General Conference has not yet concluded, but the One Church Plan which I supported and many of my colleagues and friends supported was defeated twice. I am heartbroken. Sunday, I preached a sermon about why I was going to continue to be on the side of love and acceptance of all. You can find both the worship service or the sermon by itself here.

Today I was attending a Sunday School lunch which was called  “picnic.” There was napkin that looked like this:

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Honestly, I have probably felt more like the cat than the girl! And yet being sad and angry and grieving does not mean I am not thankful. Many of my collegagues and friends from the Great Plains Conference have represented the church I love well. In the four short days, these persons have found themselves at the microphone using the legislative process to do what is right and just. The have diligently worked for good for the greatest amount of people. I am grateful for their passion, their faithfulness and willingness to serve in such a difficult time.

I can not say thank you enough to Amy Lippoldt, Adam Hamiliton, Cheryl Jefferson Bell, David Livingston, Mark Holland, Shayla Jordan (one of the youngest elected to the General Conference), Stephanie Ahlschwede among others. I know I missed some, but still I am deeply grateful for their commitment to living out God’s love for all people. I don’t know what the future holds. For so long, 35 plus years as a clergy in the United Methodist Church I have supported and worked for full inclusion of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters and friends. I don’t intend to stop.

I want to tell those who feel most bruised and broken by what is occuring that you are not alone, there are many allies who will continue to work for justice, for love, for grace, for everyone to be part of the community of faith. We do not lose hope, we cling to faith, we remember that nothing, NOT ONE THING can separate us from the love of God in Christ. I am grateful for the reminder of that promise and that somehow, in someway, we will go forward.

Years ago, a wonderful song was penned that has been sung for several decades: the story and sharing of that song is one that I pray brings hope and promise to those of us who continue to sing for our lives and the lives of the church together you. You will find that story and song here.

 

 

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Horror and Violence part nth degree

How long? How long will our newsfeeds be filled with horror, terror and senseless violence? Whether it is focused on one individual, or dozens or hundreds…how long?

This theme has resonated with me the last few years. It never, ever seems to go away. Whether it was the shooting of Doctor George Tiller in 2009 when I blogged June 1 or Congresswomen Gabrielle Gifford, which I reblogged the post on January 9, 2011. Or when I posted about the senseless death of Tanya Tandoc just over a year ago, or when I posted about the violence in Paris, Beirut and other places for Advent 2015, it never seems to end.

I never posted, but preached a sermon on the tragedy at Sandy Hook, in December 2012. Words seem inadequate in the face of such evil and such horror and terror. Last night in Orlando, Florida, a gunman opened fire in the Pulse Club.  Fifty, FIFTY people died and fifty three were injured. The headlines noted it was a “gay” club and as I write this, the gunman had allegedly pledged allegiance to ISIS. President Obama has stated it was an act of terror and a hate crime.

I am tired of hearing that more guns will prevent this, or that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” People do kill people with guns and bombs and knives and other weapons. I gunman with 2 guns wreaked this havoc. I will probably never understand why registration, background checks and limiting semi automatic weapons is a problem. I am not in any way saying that guns should be illegal, I just do not understand why having limits on those kind of guns is a problem, or why have permits or requiring training is somehow an issue of individual rights.

There are regulations that limit all our freedoms, that is how we live in a free society. The constitution and bill of rights were never meant for chaos and anarchy. There are limits to freedom of speech (you can’t yell fire in a theatre, for example) or religion (last I checked human sacrifice is not protected). Sensible restrictions make “sense.” I know it won’t solve all problems or that people, particularly those bent on violence won’t get around them, but it might make it harder.

On top of my great grief and sadness is an attack on my LGBTQ brothers and sisters. Right now, the belittling and angry rhetoric is heart breaking to me. My own denomination almost split and came to literal blows over full inclusion. My own denomination chose not to pass a resolution on bullying because it was too controversial. I mean who defines bullying anyway?

As a pastor, I understand deep theological and philosophical differences. I can actually acknowledge and appreciate views different from my own. My deep sadness has to do with the language used to condemn others, particularly those who are bullied often from the time they are young. Often, we as the church, heap more blame and judgement upon those most vulnerable.

So fifty are dead, fifty three wounded, most part of the LGBTQ community. How will we as the church respond? Will we withhold our compassion and our outrage because the issues around sexuality are so “controversial?” When Sandy Hook happened, our moral outrage was muted and we spoke with compassion, but did not one thing to change a country where children can murdered at school. In my heart, we lost our moral compass when the deaths of children were not enough for us to look collectively at our romance with gun violence.

So how many more mass shootings of vulnerable people will it take? How many more deaths? For my own confession, I have found myself not as moved as I used to be, because almost every week we have another shooting. They all get blurred into the general news. It takes fifty for me to pay attention again. I know this post is written to quickly to allow for logical thought and progression yet, Lord in your mercy, hear my prayer. Help me be a voice for change, for love, for understanding and for the path of peace.

 

 

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