Friday, May 4, 2012

Why I Stay

Thursday, May 3, was a hard day. It was the day that the United Methodist General Conference considered the language in our Discipline related to homosexuality. Candace Chellew-Hodge does her usual excellent job of explaining what happened here.

I am nowhere near Tampa, Florida, where General Conference is taking place. All I had to do was check in on Twitter and the GC blog periodically, but my stomach was in knots most of the morning. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to be in that room. Nor am I gay. I can't imagine what it must've been like to be a gay person, a person who has faith that our church is ultimately a place of love, and to be told yet again that her life is intrinsically wrong. I won't pretend to understand how that feels.

To be clear, the church's official position, the position reaffirmed Thursday morning by a vote of 368 to 572,  is that homosexuality is "incompatible with Christian teaching." In other words, the official position of my denomination is that it is a sin to be gay or to engage in homosexual relationships.

My denomination is wrong. Being gay is not a sin.

I keep having to remind myself of my reasons for re-joining the United Methodist denomination. I actually have a list of reasons for joining a Christian denomination in general and the United Methodist denomination and my particular congregation in particular, none of which I'll bore you with. Today, the pertinent question is why I stay. I have zero interest in participating in a group that institutionalizes discrimination and bigotry. So why do I continue to contribute "my time, my talents, my gifts, and my service" to an organization that espouses an understanding of human experience that is so completely opposed to my own?

Part of the reason is stubbornness. It would be a hell of a lot easier to run off and join some other denomination that has already dealt with or is well on its way to dealing with equality, or even to be one of those "spiritual-but-not-religious" people who get to sleep in on Sunday mornings and never have to go to committee meetings. But I am a fifth-generation Methodist, a United Methodist born and bred. Not surprisingly, there are some specific elements of the United Methodist interpretation of Christianity that speak to me louder than any other denomination.

And I flat out refuse to cede my denomination to the bullies and the bigots.  

(I was amused and horrified to read the comments on an article headed by a photo of a woman pressing the ends of her rainbow stole to her eyes as she sobbed; one of the commentors was downright gleeful that the LGBT activist "bullies" didn't get their way. For the record, bullies aren't usually the ones who end up crying.)

The other part of the reason I stay is because I have to--have to--stand with the gay and lesbian members in my denomination and my particular congregation. If they can stick it out, I can. If they can see value in our Wesleyan traditions significant enough to outweigh the evil that our denomination perpetrates on them, then so can I. If they're willing to stay and fight until we finally fix this, if they have trust that we will fix this, then so do I. If they're willing to bring their children into our denomination, then I have to honor the promise that we all make at our children's baptisms to help raise them in love. And if they feel that they need to move to a different denomination where they don't have to fight quite so hard for acceptance, then I will understand. I will be sad to lose you but I will understand, and I will keep working until you can come back.

I'm not trying to say anything wise here, and I don't expect to sway anyone with this post. I have written this only because it is important for me to say it out loud, again and again:

My denomination is wrong. Being gay is not a sin. General Conference may be almost over for this quadrennium, but we're nowhere near done yet.

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