Dear United Methodist Church,
I am writing to you today as a sister in ministry, a southern-born graduate of Candler School of Theology, a wounded healer, a daughter, sister, mama, friend, partner…and lesbian Christian. It is because I have witnessed over and over again the suffering of dearly beloved friends who identify as United Methodists that I am writing to you today. It is my hope to speak truth in love, and though I will try to do so gently, I will likely be more direct than is comfortable.
I am truly sorry to see the fracturing of your family. My heart aches for the suffering felt by folks all around your table. Some are walking away. Some are just starting to discern a graceful way to excuse themselves. Still others are committed to staying at the table, agreeing to disagree, and looking for a way forward. I sincerely hope the hearts that are willing and able to do that hard work will remain resilient and continue talking, listening, praying and working for reconciliation.
Unfortunately, UMC, your current theology and ecclesiology are predicated on bibliolatry that can not let go of an Enlightenment-tinged relationship with our holy text. This erroneous thinking forces some to assert that every jot and tittle must be literally, factually true in order for the whole book, and thus our faith in God, to be True.
Furthermore, you have fallen prey to the gravest of mistakes, worshipping, quite possibly above the bible, the false idol of your Book of Discipline. With words Methodist-identifying humans have codified, you’ve cast God in your own image and have lost sight of how God’s truth, not man’s, was tangible through the ministry, life, death and resurrection of Christ.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is stridently critical of the religious authorities of the day and their role as power brokers who draw legalistic, hard-hearted lines delineating who is in and who is out. If you truly worship Jesus the Christ, then you simply cannot live as guardians of the holy of holies. God’s table is open to everyone, everyone, everyone.
I am truly sorry you are locked in a small and mean place on your journey. I, and many more than I, experience your polity as steeped in a theology, psychology and politics of fear rather than the effusive hope.
We have found that when we study the heart of the Gospel, commune with curious and compassionate folks, explore great theological minds, trust our experience of God through Christ and pray, pray, pray for the still speaking God to open our hearts and minds to do a new thing – we are in and of God.
What is untenable, is the fact that there are people who have entrusted their hearts and minds, their very souls to your counsel who have been and still are deeply damaged by your thinking, speaking and behavior.
#itistime for some, many perhaps, to walk away and seek a community of faith elsewhere. Please understand, it really is okay, for relationships to end, especially, and without question, if they are toxic or abusive. The notion that people must stay ad infinitum in a relationship that harms them is dangerous if not deadly. Friends, lovers, partners, family members and yes, even church members can come to a breaking point where a healthier life for each is found outside a particular relationship. What we so often forget is that there are SO MANY healthier friends, lovers, partners, communities and churches that will love each of us in our wholeness without asking that we lie to ourselves, others and God about who we are and who we love.
Hoping church folks remain at one particular denominational table (not synonymous with God’s table, mind you) in the face of egregious soul-harm smacks of telling an abused spouse that they should stay in an abusive, toxic marriage because “marriage is sacred.” No one gets a pass, most certainly not those who have the audacity to assume they are speaking for God.
Denominational fidelity, even congregation fidelity has nothing to do with, and at times is diametrically opposed to, fidelity to and faith in God. A relationship simply is not sacred if one’s FULL sacred worth is being denied or destroyed.
United Methodist Church, it is you who are living in sin. Your assertion that “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” is patently sinful because it separates a child of God from their true self, from others and from a relationship with God. Please take some time read this longer post about more holistic understanding of the nature of sin, so well articulated by Paul Tillich in the middle of our previous century.
#itistime, UMC, for you to repent. I pray that you will renounce the sin of separating LGBT members from themselves, others and God. I pray that you will and turn toward the spark of God that is present in all of our siblings, turn in the spirit of reconciliation and truly open your arms with the affirming, extravagant, radical grace of Christ, and in so doing, restore your relationship with one another and God.
Your sister in Christ,