Silence on gay rites and clergy

monks gay The California Supreme Court, you might have heard, changed my native state’s definition of marriage. Marriage had been defined as the union between one man and one woman. Now marriage is defined as the union between two people of any gender.

Surely religious leaders had something to say about this profound change. After all, they took the lead eight years ago when state residents voted on whether to keep the traditional definition of marriage. The Catholic Church and Mormon Church mobilized strongly in support of the initiative, while liberal and progressive religious groups actively opposed it.

In other words, the voices of religious leaders matter. What do bishops and pastors think of the majority’s ruling that changes the definition of marriage? Do they equate sexual orientation with race?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but reporters failed to include religious voices in their stories. Only the The Los Angeles Times even acknowledged religious leaders:

The campaign over that measure began within minutes of the decision. The state’s Catholic bishops and other opponents of same-sex marriage denounced the court’s ruling.

None of the other major papers mentioned religious leaders at all. The Washington Post did not mention them. The New York Times did not mention them. (The LAT certainly elaborated on what my hometown’s mayor had to say).

Come on. The absence of religious voices is a serious error. It leaves readers in the dark about how churches will respond to the ruling. For example, I think readers would like to know what religious leaders have to say about this passage:

The majority opinion went to some length to say the ruling had no effect on the religious institution of marriage. “No religion will be required to change its religious policies or practices with regard to same-sex couples,” George wrote, “and no religious officiant will be required to solemnize a marriage in contravention of his or her religious beliefs.”

Mollie often points out, rightfully, that reporters focus on politics and ignore religion. But in the case of the California Supreme Court’s ruling, politics and religion cannot be divided. Just consider the effort underway to overturn the court’s decision. You can bet that the state’s religious institutions will play a major role on both sides of that issue; and that, inevitably, religious leaders will be heard from.

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A fox in the Penthouse

bigchurchThe Newsweek headline — “Penthouse Gets Pious” — grabbed me. But the story doesn’t quite deliver. In it, business reporter Jennifer Ordonez’s story argues that internet porn is forcing adult magazines to diversify. Here’s how the story begins:

Christian dating web site’s motto is “Bringing people together in love and faith.” A pointed quote from the Old Testament (“A man will leave his father and his mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Gen. 2:24) precedes the site’s Bible-verse search library. Further testimonial from a fresh-faced woman leaves little doubt as to the site’s higher purpose: “I feel like my prayers of finding a respectable man have been answered! Thanks BigChurch!!”

So it may surprise users that has a decidedly promiscuous corporate parent: Penthouse Media Group Inc.

But that’s it. The article very dryly discusses how Penthouse acquired a social-network company with a broad reach. Its subsidiaries range from to

I know it’s the business section and all, but perhaps we could get a bit more? Some quotes from Penthouse execs talking about how great it is to run a Christian dating web site? Some quotes from Christians who think it’s not so great? Quotes from economists putting the business move in context? When the assignment editor gods give you a story that combines religion and pornography, you have to do more.

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California: Impact on religious liberty

rainbow altar 01It’s the sidebar for the main story of the day, of course.

And New York Times reporter Jesse McKinley does what you expect a reporter to do, in a story that runs with the oh-so-predictable headline: “Gay Couples Celebrate California Decision; Both Sides See a Fight.”

You think?

So the goal here is to have a story that quotes both sides in the other great moral-cultural-religious issue that has dominated the American political scene since the 1960s (give or take a decade). The issue, on one level, is the civil-rights status of people who live public lives as gays and lesbians. The status of bisexuality looms nearby, in a cloud of fog.

But there is another issue closely connected: What are the rights, in terms of free speech and religious liberty, of the people and voluntary associations who continue to hold traditional Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, etc., doctrines on the moral status of sex outside the state of marriage, as traditionally defined? I first heard these issues linked in this manner in a church-state seminar way back in 1977.

On one level, the key question is this: Is sexual orientation the same thing, legally, as race, gender, age, religion and other conditions given special protection in American law? Is it illegal to defend traditional religious views on sexuality in the public square? I need to state right up front that I am a professor in a global network of Christian Colleges and Universities, a perfect example of a voluntary association sure to be touched by this legal conflict (which is, of course, linked to doctrinal conflicts as well).

Thus, McKinley tells us:

“Today will go down as a true turning point,” said Geoff Kors, the executive director of Equality California, a gay rights advocacy group. “It really is a very powerful message that love trumps hate and hope trumps fear.”

But the battle in California is not over. Opponents of same-sex marriage said they had gathered 1.2 million signatures to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would define marriage as between a man and a woman, and effectively undo the Thursday decision. …

Robert Tyler, a lawyer with Advocates for Faith and Freedom, which argued against same-sex marriage before the California court, said opponents might seek a stay of the decision until voters could take up the issue in November. Mr. Tyler said he was especially troubled by the court’s drawing on a 1948 ruling that overturned a state ban on interracial marriages.

“Where is the court going to rationally limit marriage if it’s not a union between a male and female?” he said. “There is no evidence to establish that a homosexual lifestyle is an immutable characteristic such as race.”

That last statement is, of course, wrong. There is a stack of evidence that suggests that many people cannot change their sexual orientation, which is not the same thing — for traditional religious believers — as changing their behavior. There is also a large body of evidence that people can change their behavior and, to an imperfect degree, their emotions and orientation.

We will not be debating either side of that equation in the comment boxes on this site. However, I freely admit that there are many journalists who simply believe that there is only one side to this debate and that there is no need for accuracy and fairness in quoting the views of those you oppose in this debate.

People on the right will make that claim, concerning coverage in their own niche publications. People on the left will make that argument about coverage in mainstream newspapers, networks and wire services.

This brings me to a very important article on the religious-liberty issues linked to this news event, one that ran in a conservative publication, The Weekly Standard. This is an article that we have frequently recommended to mainstream journalists because of the fine job that Maggie Gallagher did in standing back and quoting — at length — the sometimes clashing views of activists in the gay-lesbian-bisexual legal community. If you know of articles on the left that take a similar approach to the views of scholars on the right, please let me know. Pronto.

rainbow altar 01This long chunk of the article opens with quotes from Anthony Picarello, president and general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents a wide range of religious groups.

Just how serious are the coming conflicts over religious liberty stemming from gay marriage?

“The impact will be severe and pervasive,” Picarello says flatly. “This is going to affect every aspect of church-state relations.” Recent years, he predicts, will be looked back on as a time of relative peace between church and state, one where people had the luxury of litigating cases about things like the Ten Commandments in courthouses. In times of relative peace, says Picarello, people don’t even notice that “the church is surrounded on all sides by the state; that church and state butt up against each other. The boundaries are usually peaceful, so it’s easy sometimes to forget they are there. But because marriage affects just about every area of the law, gay marriage is going to create a point of conflict at every point around the perimeter.”

For scholars, these will be interesting times: Want to know exactly where the borders of church and state are located? “Wait a few years,” Picarello laughs. The flood of litigation surrounding each point of contact will map out the territory. For religious liberty lawyers, there are boom times ahead. …

Picarello is a Harvard-trained litigator experienced in religious liberty issues. But predicting the legal consequences of as big a change as gay marriage is a job for more than one mind. So last December, the Becket Fund brought together ten religious liberty scholars of right and left to look at the question of the impact of gay marriage on the freedom of religion. Picarello summarizes: “All the scholars we got together see a problem; they all see a conflict coming. They differ on how it should be resolved and who should win, but they all see a conflict coming.”

These are not necessarily scholars who oppose gay marriage. Chai Feldblum, for example, is a Georgetown law professor who refers to herself as “part of an inner group of public-intellectual movement leaders committed to advancing LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual] equality in this country.” Marc Stern is the general counsel for the center-left American Jewish Congress. Robin Wilson of the University of Maryland law school is undecided on gay marriage. Jonathan Turley of George Washington law school has supported legalizing not only gay marriage but also polygamy.

Reading through these and the other scholars’ papers, I noticed an odd feature. Generally speaking the scholars most opposed to gay marriage were somewhat less likely than others to foresee large conflicts ahead–perhaps because they tended to find it “inconceivable,” as Doug Kmiec of Pepperdine law school put it, that “a successful analogy will be drawn in the public mind between irrational, and morally repugnant, racial discrimination and the rational, and at least morally debatable, differentiation of traditional and same-sex marriage.” That’s a key consideration. For if orientation is like race, then people who oppose gay marriage will be treated under law like bigots who opposed interracial marriage. Sure, we don’t arrest people for being racists, but the law does intervene in powerful ways to punish and discourage racial discrimination, not only by government but also by private entities. Doug Laycock, a religious liberty expert at the University of Texas law school, similarly told me we are a “long way” from equating orientation with race in the law.

By contrast, the scholars who favor gay marriage found it relatively easy to foresee looming legal pressures on faith-based organizations opposed to gay marriage, perhaps because many of these scholars live in social and intellectual circles where the shift Kmiec regards as inconceivable has already happened. They have less trouble imagining that people and groups who oppose gay marriage will soon be treated by society and the law the way we treat racists because that’s pretty close to the world in which they live now.

Read it all, and please let us know if you see similar article in the mainstream and on the political left. This is going to be a huge, huge issue for Barack Obama and Democrats in the center and on the, relatively speaking, right.

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Latter-day stars

archuletaSometimes when I’m watching Jeopardy, which I do every night, I like to guess what religion or denomination contestants belong to based on clues — the college they attended, the mission trip they went on, their hometown — from their brief introductions. So Newsweek‘s Sally Atkinson is a reporter after my own heart.

In “America’s Next Top Mormon,” she wrote about a Mormon American Idol finalist and other Mormons who have been contestants on reality television:

When brothers Ryan and Craig Simmons auditioned for the CBS reality show “The Amazing Race” in 2003, they hoped the novelty of their religion would give them an edge. Their audition tape showed them outside the Mormon temple in Provo, Utah, while the narration played off those classic Mormon ads (“Family: Isn’t it about time?”) with a question for the casting directors: “Mormons: Isn’t it about time?” It certainly is now. Since then Mormons have colonized reality TV as if they’d been assigned there by Brigham Young himself. They’ve won “The Biggest Loser,” “The Rebel Billionaire” and “Survivor” (along with two second-place finishes on “Survivor”). These days you can’t turn on “So You Think You Can Dance” or “Dancing With the Stars” without seeing at least one, and often several, members of the church. And they’re closing in on the biggest reality TV prize of all: cherub-faced Mormon David Archuleta is one of four finalists left on “American Idol,” and his chances just soared following the elimination last week of Brooke White. White is Mormon too, and now that she’s off the show, the two of them won’t have to split the faithful’s vote anymore.

Wholesome, likable Mormon competitors are now so plentiful that some viewers have taken to playing Spot the Mormon. Former “Idol” contestant Carmen Rasmusen, herself a Mormon, says one of this season’s early episodes set off her Mormon radar when she heard White tell the judges she’d never seen an R-rated movie. “My husband and I just looked at each other and said, ‘She’s totally Mormon.’ I mean, who else would say something like that?”

Atkinson covers the story from different angles. She noted the cultural disconnect between Mormon virtues and reality television’s conniving, back-stabbing and sexuality. She looked into the motivation of Mormon contestants themselves. She noted that LDS families form a great voting and viewing block for their fellow churchmen. She notes that Mormon contestants do well on shows without voting, too, quoting people who cited mission trips and navigating relationships in large families as contributing factors. She even got some Mormon criticism in the story:

Lauren Faber, an eighth-grader in Provo, votes for Archuleta as many times as she can each week for at least 20 minutes, “no matter what–even when he messed up that once.” That will undoubtedly be music to Archuleta’s ears, although last week Osmond spoke out in the church-owned Deseret News, saying that White and Archuleta should be judged based on their talent, not their religion. “I mean, you don’t hear other people saying, ‘One of the finalists is a Catholic’ or ‘One of them is a Presbyterian’ or ‘One of them is Jewish’.”

Actually, denominational press frequently note when finalists for reality television are one of their own. Just today my church body notified us that we’ve got a finalist for America’s Favorite Mom. Go Nora!

Atkinson even included how reality television success can come at a price for some Mormons. Julie Stoffer, a Brigham Young University student in 1999′s “Real World” was suspended by the university for living with housemates of the opposite sex on the show, a violation of the school’s honor code. Another Mormon contestant won “Survivor” last year although his homosexuality caused ripples in the Mormon community. Here’s how she ends:

Some tension may still exist between the Mormon community and mainstream America. But considering that not too long ago Mormons were a small, persecuted band, it’s remarkable that America may be poised to crown a Mormon as its new Idol.

The reader who sent the piece in praised it for not being snarky even though it would have been easy to make it so. I agree. Atkinson wrote a thoughtful and thorough article about popular culture.

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More on that bisexual bishop

bishopsdaughterIn March, an article in The New Yorker made some pretty big waves in Episcopal circles. As we discussed at the time, the article was actually a book excerpt from The Bishop’s Daughter by Honor Moore, whose father the Rt. Rev. Paul Moore was the trailblazing Episcopal Bishop of New York from 1972 to 1989.

Now without reading The New Yorker article you can probably guess where this is headed — I’m pretty sure nobody who has written a memoir about their pleasant and normal family has gotten published since Laura Ingalls Wilder. And it’s probably got to be an especially interesting or unique dysfunction to snatch prime literary real estate such as The New Yorker.

Honor wrote about her father’s bisexuality and numerous affairs with men and women. Newsweek‘s Jennie Yabroff reviewed the book and its effect on the Moore family and The Episcopal Church:

The revelation, Moore writes in her new memoir, “The Bishop’s Daughter,” was startling but not entirely surprising. Her father’s bisexuality was an “open secret” that she and her eight younger siblings had known for years, and that had been hinted at in the press and by members of the church. Still, the publication of an excerpt from her book in The New Yorker in March, detailing her father’s sexuality, created a minor scandal. In a letter to the magazine, two of her siblings wrote, “Doesn’t it matter, even when someone is dead, that his most fervently held private life, and the unnecessarily explicit details of his marriage, are exposed against his wishes? We believe that it does matter, and that both of our parents’ good legacies have been damaged.” Others applauded Moore’s candid portrayal of her father. An Episcopal priest from Maryland wrote, “This story illustrates the necessity for our church to struggle honestly with the issue of healthy sexual behavior–gay or straight.”

The article has some interesting tidbits, such as the news that some of Moore’s children found the essay and book to be a betrayal of their parents and that Honor Moore has also had sexual relationships with men and women. But overall Yabroff writes a typically sympathetic piece about bisexuality and, quite frankly, adultery.

Take this, for instance:

The Episcopal Church in the United States continues to wrestle with just that issue. When the first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, was ordained in 2003, it drove some congregations here to align with Anglican churches in Africa and South America that are opposed to homosexuality. As bishop in 1977, Moore himself had ordained the first openly lesbian priest in the United States. Since The New Yorker excerpt, the blogosphere has been debating whether Moore broke his vows–and whether his daughter has violated his trust. Outing is always controversial, but in this case, the matter is especially complicated: he was a parent, a husband, a public figure and a spiritual leader. Honor Moore is critical of those who so harshly condemn her father’s secret life. “The negative reaction to The New Yorker piece was by the same people having the same reaction they had when he ordained the lesbian priest,” she says, speaking at her home in New York City. Yet writing the book was not a political act. “It’s a love story,” she says.

How about instead of a vague reference to unnamed people debating whether Moore broke his vows, Yabroff actually talk to some of these people to find out what they’re talking about?

Also, it’s fine to wave off any criticism of an adulterous, bisexual bishop by noting that the same people criticized the ordination of a lesbian priest. But is anybody surprised that people who believe in the historic Christian understanding of human sexuality are, well, consistent about it? But what that historic Christian understanding is is not mentioned in Yabroff’s article. Instead we are told that Bishop Moore was polarizing because he believed in social justice and fighting poverty.

Overall the article suffers from trying to cover too much ground. There is not enough religious context to explain the Episcopal brouhaha and there’s not enough discussion of the family drama for the story to be about that. Perhaps a more narrow focus would have served her better.

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Angry debates about holding debates

42 17950773Pick a survey, any survey, and it’s easy to see that the moral status of homosexual behavior remains one of the most divisive issues in American public life.

Conservative Christians remain very opposed to government support for homosexual behavior and, for sure, favor government support for free speech on issues related to homosexuality. Mainline Protestant believers and Catholics remain opposed to homosexual behavior, but not as much as believers on the right. And those polls? How people respond to questions on these topics usually tell you more about the people who wrote the questions — on left or right — than the people who answered the questions.

So it’s critical (especially in an age of rapidly falling newspaper sales and TV-news ratings) for journalists to strive to offer accurate and balanced coverage of these issues, coverage that does not silence people on one side or the other or twist their words to the point that the believers feel slighted or misrepresented.

This is almost impossible, of course. It does not help that there are people involved in these debates who do not believe that the debates should even be taking place. In the past, this was people on the moral and theological right. But that is changing, or so it seems.

Thus, these issues are getting harder and harder to cover. By the way, do not even THINK about clicking “comment” to comment on anything other than the journalistic issues involved in this debate. We do not need yet another theological train wreck in the comments pages.

The anti-debate forces won a major victory recently, which led to a story by veteran Washington Times religion writer Julia Duin. It seems that balanced, fair-minded public debates about homosexuality are now considered “conservative” and, thus, are to be avoided. Here’s the top of the story:

The American Psychiatric Association suddenly canceled an upcoming workshop on religion and homosexuality during its annual conference here after gay activists campaigned against the two evangelicals slated to appear on the panel.

Planners of the symposium, “Homosexuality and Therapy: The Religious Dimension,” … at first ignored calls from some gays to cancel the event. But when its star panelist, the openly gay New Hampshire Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson, dropped out last week, plans for the symposium collapsed amid an avalanche of criticism from gays.

“It was a way to have a balanced discussion about religion and how it influences therapy,” said David Scasta, a former APA president and a gay psychiatrist in charge of assembling the panel. “We wanted to talk rationally, calmly and respectfully to each other, but the external forces made it into a divisive debate it never intended to be.”

The problem, of course, was that the event would offer a chance for journalists and others to be exposed to the views of leaders in the so-called ex-gay movement and/or advocates of the “reparative therapy movement.” This would serve to promote homophobia, said the critics.

In other words, it was wrong to hold a debate that implied that there was a subject worthy of debate. Holding a debate would also make it easier for journalists to cover both sides, which would also make it appear as if there are two sides to cover. That’s bad.

So the bishop — who is in total book-promotion mode for his “In the Eye of the Storm” memoir — never called Scasta, according to Scasta.

“I got one e-mail from him saying he thought I was being used by the other side, such as Focus on the Family,” Mr. Scasta said, calling the reaction from gay groups over-the-top and self-defeating. “This was supposed to reduce polarization, which has hurt the gay community. They are blocked into this bitchy battle and they are not progressing. They are not willing to do missionary work and talk to the enemy. They have to be willing to listen and change themselves.”

Once again, the question is whether it is possible to have open public discourse on these topics and for journalists to cover the ongoing debates in the public square. It’s hard to talk about civic toleration, religious liberty and political compromise if it’s impossible to hold, and cover, public debates. Should journalists cover this story?

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Media stumbles over the ABCs

ABC'sSometimes media coverage of issues involving religion is so bad that there is just not much left for us to say at GetReligion that hasn’t already been said. Case in point is the media stumbling in an attempt to cover the resignation of Wheaton College professor Kent Gramm.

Here is some analysis from a Christianity Today news reporter in a harsh blog post titled “The ABCs of Journalism.” (Full disclosure: the author Sarah Pulliam is my sister):

ABC’s report of Wheaton College professor Kent Gramm’s resignation was an example of sloppy journalism and weak analysis.

The original headline was simply false: “Professor Fired for Getting a Divorce.” Gramm was not fired. He resigned because he declined to talk with the college about his divorce. (The image to the right is a screen shot of an earlier version)

Later today, ABC changed the headline to “Professor Loses Job Over Divorce.” The headline is still not quite accurate. To lose your job generally indicates that someone took it away from you. However, Gramm voluntarily resigned. And according to the Chicago Tribune, the college offered him another year of employment while he searched for another job.

Also, student Emma Vanhoozer’s name was misspelled. Most journalists are extremely careful about getting basic facts like these correct. But reporter Russell Goldman bypassed whatever fact-checking system ABC has set up, if they have one.

“If the school is free to impose its beliefs on divorced family members where does the law draw the line? Could the school just as easily impose arranged marriages?” Goldman writes.

Yes, that’s the big looming threat here: forcibly arranged marriages. Someone has been reading too much coverage of the raid on the polygamist sect’s ranch in Texas.

Yes, Russell Goldman, Wheaton is considering arranging marriages because that would fulfill its mission of controlling every aspect of its faculty’s lives. This bit of unnecessary and inappropriate hyperbole in a news report is Exhibit A in the museum of artifacts showing how and why journalists do not understand religion. I think the newly opened Newseum should have an exhibit dedicated to this purpose.

Here’s how Wheaton professor Alan Jacobs described the story at First Things:

Well, maybe not all about. Russell Goldman’s moronic story on ABC news is chiefly concerned to pursue the question of whether Wheaton might start forcing its faculty into arranged marriages — a wonderful example of the old practice of creating imaginary worlds so you can place people you don’t like there and make them be really, really evil. (The version of the story now online is corrected in a few ways, though still littered with errors — the previous one was submoronic.) …

Beyond that, here are the facts. Kent wasn’t fired for getting a divorce, as so many of the headlines say. Though Wheaton, in keeping with what it believes (and I believe) to be historic Christian teaching, sees divorce as a very bad thing, indeed often tragic, it does not fire people for getting divorced. We have a number of faculty who have been divorced while employed here; in the past dozen years or more, only one has been asked to leave. But the college authorities do ask to interview employees who are getting divorced in order to understand the circumstances. It was this interview that Kent declined to accept, and that’s where things unraveled.

More biting analysis is available here at the Sanctus blog.

For some positive news that is completely unrelated, check out New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof’s analysis in this week’s Interfaith Voices on why tolerance-preaching liberals seem to have a blind spot about Christian evangelicals. It’s a breath of fresh air.

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A Methodism to the madness

um logo6It never ceases to amaze me how much media coverage of denominational politics we get for The Episcopal Church vis-a-vis all other denominations. It seems like every time an Episcopal clergyman sneezes, it’s worthy of massive coverage. But a major church body — the United Methodist Church — holds its quadrennial convention in Fort Worth over the last two weeks and we get nothing. Or at least something close to nothing.

I subscribe to every denominational press out there. The United Methodist News Service has been deluging its subscribers with stories. The press service for the church body is amazingly liberal, politically speaking. They ran a story this week attacking evangelical activists and traditionalists for caucusing with the also-evangelical and conservative African delegation. The conservative activists had supplied African delegates with cell phones to help coordinate efforts. A lengthy and completely biased story by the official news service of the Methodists three times accused the conservatives of racism when describing this coordinated political effort between conservative groups on two continents:

The giving of cell phones exclusively to people of color outside the United States raises some concerns about racial paternalism.

All week long I waited for some decent mainstream coverage of the larger Methodist story. Zip. Nada. I passed on the cell phone story to my husband who wrote it up for the National Review. It’s not mainstream media but it has more reportage on the General Conference than I’ve seen elsewhere. Herewith ends the shameless plug.

Well, the Methodists finally got around to voting on issues dealing with homosexuality so we’ve got a few (emphasis on few) stories trickling in.

Sam Hodges with the Dallas Morning News filed a report about a protest that took place after delegates voted to retain the church’s belief that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. After describing the protest — it was peaceful, legislative action stopped to permit the demonstration, 300 people sang a spiritual before leaving — he puts it in context:

Still, progressives were clearly disappointed that efforts to change the church’s stance on homosexuality failed Wednesday in voting by General Conference delegates.

“It was a terrible day,” said the Rev. Eric Folkerth, pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas.

The General Conference is the UMC’s quadrennial assembly for deciding church law and policy. It’s scheduled to wrap up today.

Most UMC churches either quietly or openly welcome gay people as members, and Northaven is part of a network of congregations that’s lobbying on related issues, such as allowing non-celibate gay clergy.

But the UMC’s fundamental position that the practice of homosexuality conflicts with Christian teaching has stuck, despite strenuous efforts to remove it at one General Conference after another.

Hodges explains the African dynamic. He notes that the African delegation’s numbers and influence have grown due to significant growth there. However, he doesn’t explain that the American church is losing members at the same time. He also speaks with an African delegate and an American leader of conservative evangelical Methodist women who support the church’s stance.

One line above caught my eye. What does it mean that “most” UMC churches quietly or openly “welcome” gay people as members? What does it mean to welcome gay members, exactly? And, then, how do we know that most congregations do this? And what, exactly, are the other congregations doing? What does it mean to not “weclome” gay people? Seems like some explanation and quantification is in order.

Still, I’m just so happy to see some actual news coverage. Hodges has also been linked to UMC press accounts of the convention on the Morning News religion blog.

Terry Lee Goodrich of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram wrote a brief story about a lesbian couple exchanging vows outside the General Conference this week. The Associated Press‘ Angela K. Brown also had a report:

More than 200 Methodists attended a lesbian couple’s commitment ceremony Friday in defiance of a vote to uphold a church law that says gay relationships are “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

It would be nice if denominations could get coverage even when there are no protests. But at least we’re finally getting some stories out there.

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