The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Marriage - all you need to know

We knew that our upcoming Holy Wedding Ceremony would start a discussion in our conference and outside of our conference in the United Methodist Church.

Reconciling Ministries Network has published an article about Bobby and me,  and they have published a press release about the upcoming event. Bishop Wallace-Padgett of the North Alabama Conference also published a press release two press releases. Several conservative United Methodist blogs have published articles and links are on Facebook and Twitter. The United Methodist Church web site has an article. The usual arguments; sin versus love, legalism versus mercy, incompatibility versus sacred worth, have been laid out across the web.

On Bishop Wallace-Padgett’s blog, smart, well-informed people who are commenting urging change and inclusion. Others are leaving different types of comments. The same is taking place on the UMC web site. 

Some of the comments rely on a narrow, literal interpretation of Scripture. To those people I have two suggestions.

First, review what it means to be a Methodist. Review the life and teachings of our founder, John Wesley.

Accept that Wesley himself did not believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, and while giving Scripture priority, he also relied on Reason (including science), Experience (which could be the stories of LGBT persons) and Tradition (look at how the United Methodist Church has responded in the past to social issues and don’t repeat the same mistakes) before coming to a conclusion.

Second, if you believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, are you willing to stone to death women who are not virgins when they marry?  Are you ready to give up fried shrimp and crab claws? Are you ready to deny the sacrament of marriage to divorced United Methodists? Are you willing to allow slavery so that masters can treat them properly?

 I thought I would answer a few of the questions that have been floating around.

“You are already legally married (although it isn’t recognized in Alabama). This will do nothing to help your marriage become recognized by our state. So why do it?”

We want to make a statement about our love and our commitment in front of our friends and families, just like other people who are marrying do. 

Also,I have been raised in the Methodist Church, and all around me I see families in our church with children whose sexual orientation is unknown. I don’t want these children, and I’ve heard parents of these children say this as well, to grow up and suddenly feel rejection by their church (as I did) when they discover that they are gay. You grow up loving the church, and then suddenly the church turns on you? That messes with your spiritual well-being. That happened to me. This is happening every day in the United Methodist Church.

“This issue is resulting in legal proceedings and trials that cost the United Methodist Church money; money that could be spent helping the poor and providing disaster relief.”

The simple response for that is to change the law, remove the harmful words, from the book of discipline so that United Methodist clergy are not charged when they offer their ministries to lesbian and gay couples. Then no money would be used trying to uphold unjust law.

But the more realistic answer is that defending unjust law is an expensive proposition. The United Methodist Church chooses to spend its resources trying to keep its LGBT members in the closet of inequality. They want gay people, they want our talents, they want our money, they want our connections, they want our skills; but they do not want to hold a conversation about the harm they have done to young people. They don’t want gay couples who attend to have their relationship identified, regardless of how long the couple has been together, or what the couple is able to contribute jointly.

Recently at our church we had a guest speaker on a Sunday morning. He was the founding pastor of the church 20 years ago. Also in attendance was our District Superintendent. The DS was asked to close the service in prayer, and he lifted a chair above his head as he prayed, and in his prayer/statement he emphasized the filling of the empty chairs. The visiting pastor had spoken of inclusion of LGBT persons.
The messages came across so differently. The DS wants the chairs filled with people, regardless of what the Book of Discipline says about them. He thinks LGBT people should feel comfortable in a chair that could be yanked out from under them when they seek pastoral care.

The visiting pastor wanted to treat the LGBT people with respect and dignity and recognize their sacred worth, also based on the Book of Discipline.

I recognize hypocrisy in the United Methodist Church. They have a policy: Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors. They will let you in if you are gay, but they will not treat you fairly.

“Why don’t you just leave the church and find one that fits your views?”

I like the United Methodist Church. I fit in at my local church. I feel comfortable there. I can serve there. I like most of what the Book of Discipline and Social Principles say.  I like our position on war, the death penalty, immigration, women’s rights, the environment, science and other issues.

Here is a sermon by Rev. Vicki Flippen. In it, she references Paul and Silas and the earthquake that knocked down the walls of the jail that held them. They could have fled. But they stayed.

And (some) LGBT United Methodists are staying also. We are standing up against the jailers that are imprisoning us spiritually. The walls created by church policy are starting to crumble.  And we will stay, and after the walls have been removed, we will welcome the leaders into a more inclusive and more Jesus-like and Wesley-like United Methodist Church.

What about gifts? Are you registered?

We are giving our friends and family members options. We are not seeking gifts, and think that a gift in our names to Reconciling MinistriesNetwork or to AIDS Alabama is a good way to honor our union. But we also know that people like to give to the couple, so we are registered at Macy’s; Belk; Bed, Bath and .Beyond; and Habitation in Homewood.

There may be more to say about this marriage on another day, but for now, this is the 411.