Thursday, May 1, 2008

Staying in the Closet

“[Jesus] said to them, ‘Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket,
or under the bed, and not on the lampstand?
For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed;
nor is anything secret, except to come to light.
Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’”
Mark 4:21-23, NRSV

For too long the church has demonized, excluded and condemned those persons who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning their sexual orientation. Its forty years of wandering in the wilderness should have ended by now, but alas The United Methodist Church has decided to stay on an aimless path to nowhere. Various petitions calling for full inclusion and elimination of the “incompatible” phraseology were rejected (Social Principles ¶161.G) by the 2008 General Conference.

What seems truly incompatible with Christian teaching is the continued spirit of love that is hate thinly veiled. Coupled with those who speak for God, the denomination is perpetually vexed by demons of exclusion. Why is it that “well-meaning Christians” fear a church that is fully accepting of all persons? It would seem that their ver small, immature faith in a wrathful God has convinced them that they will somehow be blame for the “sinful” actions of others.

Amazingly, an African-American man stood to speak about scriptural references to slavery that enabled the church to perpetuate discrimination and exclusion of Blacks for centuries. He reminded the Conference that the church had come to realize it was in error with this interpretation. Then, to great surprise, he suggested that the church’s interpretation of scriptural references to homosexuality was not in error but the true word of God. WHAT? How can one claim progression of understanding in one area of scriptural interpretation and yet retain a blind acceptance in another? One does not have the prerogative to pick and choose which passages are or are not the true word of God. Either it is all or it is none. And one certainly does not have the right to use some scripture to support one’s transgressive thought and embrace others that are self-serving. But, this is what the church has done for centuries, and so it shall continue to do for the foreseeable future.

The General Conference did not go so far as to adopt out-right exclusion of homosexual persons from membership, and some feel the voting was closer to full acceptance than in quadrennia past, but it is the final outcome that counts; and gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender persons, in the eyes of the church, do not count for much more than persons of sacred worth, which is to say, “Let’s be nice when condemning them and continuing to exclude them from full participation in the life and ministry of the church.”

Nonetheless, the Conference did vote to adopt a new resolution to oppose homophobia and heterosexism, and it included sexual orientation to the equal educational opportunity clause in Resolution 98. These are small steps in a mature direction for the church but do not go far enough. Instead, the church continues to hold fast to select interpretations of scripture and tradition while completely disregarding experience and reason.

Many had hoped that this General Conference could step out of the closet and shed its decades of cloaked distain for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons. Obviously that future with hope has yet to be realized.

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