Exposing The United Methodist Church’s LQBT Rift

Editor’s Note: As we’ve see many times, “The Church” in all its iterations, can get hung up on rules. Here’s an account of how the United Methodists are struggling with members and leaders who are not heterosexual.

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By Fernando Alcántar

I read an interesting article about a former colleague from my days in the United Methodist Church. I met Cedrick when he was a district superintendent, and as the article mentions, he was about to become bishop – that is, before his “gayness” got in the way.

I worked with Cedrick when I served as director of leadership development for young people for the California-Pacific Conference of the United Methodist Church (Cal-Pac). I didn’t know he was gay at the time; I didn’t know I was gay either. I first reported to Grant Hagiya, who is now the Bishop for Cal-Pac. I tell the story in my book, To the Cross and Back​.

Fernando's book cover

The United Methodist Church has a manual, The Book of Discipline, which is a guide for every UMC congregation around the world about what to do and how and when to do it. It is treasured, cherished and revered. I used to call it, the “Methodist Book of Mormon.”

In this context, the Book of Discipline says:

“While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world. The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”

The very first thing I saw when I stepped into the Conference office in Pasadena, California for my first interview during the summer of 2008 was a copy of their (now out of print) newspaper which covered the great divide the denomination suffered because of the issue of homosexuality, which many believed it would be the issue it would “once again split the church in half,” as it had done between the Free and United Methodist.

During the three-and-a-half years I served Cal-Pac, I struggled being caught in the middle of a toxic divide over racial and ideological issues, not to mention being criticized for not being a “born and raised Methodist.” I experienced from the very top how reverence to tradition and fear of change not only scared people away, but brought people to tears because of the stubborn clinch to the old ways. I suffered through an internal debate about what’s true and what’s not and what’s real and what’s not. The result was one of the darkest seasons of my life. I kept it secret from everyone at Cal-Pac until my book came out.

Once I left Cal-Pac, I was so shattered that I ended up leaving my home in Los Angeles in search of peace and healing. In the process, I left religion and accepted that I was gay. As a result, I lost about 80% of my pre-coming out community. It was in part because of the request from a young man in Cal-Pac that I decided to write my story, because this divide over gay marriage and other ancient beliefs have real-life consequences, which often end in tears and tragedy.

I love the community at Cal-Pac. I fondly remember times with people like Cedrick, the youth and young adult leaders and the young people who made me the proudest I had ever been. But this stubborn clinch to the old ways, to protect a tradition for its own sake, is scary. Reason must supersede old beliefs. New evidence must supersede old myths. Love must supersede old laws.

Methodist church beginningI just celebrated my first Pride Day this year, and let me tell you, as I look back at my journey, though I have lost almost everything and everyone in the process, I have gained the most important part–myself. When it comes to reliving old rifts about who I am and who I love — geesh, ain’t nobody got time for that.

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Bio: Fernando Alcántar is a former leader of the Foursquare (evangelical, Pentecostal) denomination in Mexico and senior coordinator of North American Partnerships at Azusa Pacific University, where he oversaw hundreds of churches in Mexico and helped to mobilize thousands of missionaries a year from all over the United States and Canada. He is now a gay atheist activist, spreading a message of tolerance, introspection and understanding. He lives in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. He is a member of The Clergy Project and author of To the Cross and Back: An Immigrant’s Journey from Faith to Reason, with a foreword by Dan Barker. This essay is lightly edited and reposted with permission from his blog, Gospel of Reason.

>>>Photo Credits: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B017GH5DPQ/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

By Thomas Coke Ruckle, painter; A. Gilchrist Campbell, engraver – Drew University Methodist Collection (Madison, New Jersey), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29066451

By Guanaco and subsequent editors – SVG source (version of 17:56, 30 Sep 2011), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=479191

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  • See Noevo

    “Exposing The United Methodist Church’s LQBT Rift”

    What happened to LGBTQ?

    Or to LGBTQIA+?

    Or to GBTQLIAR?
    (R for Reversal, or Reversal of Reassignment.)

  • ElizabetB.

    My first Pride parade was with my congregation back in the 90’s. As the parade unwound to start marching, someone yelled “Look! Christians who don’t hate us!” That was pretty moving. I am thankful that now it’s not a shock to see Christians and other religious groups celebrating love and belonging across traditional gender customs. It’s so sad to see denominations fracturing rather than work through issues together — not only on lqbt questions but also questions like whether there’s real truth in other traditions.

    Seems like we just plain have problems with difference. This week our community is celebrating having accomplished 18 months of dialog about issues of race — and the U.S. has been working on that difference for centuries!!!!!!! A neat feature of the week is the participation of the One Human Family Chior — singing “Color Me Human… see the beauty of humanity in every face!”

    May we process gender difference totally more swiftly!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • http://gospelofreason.com Fernando Alcántar

      I feel the Christian church, or several of their congregations, are going though the 5 stages of grief in regards to homosexuality:
      1) Denial: No. A good God couldn’t do that. Homosexuality is an abomination.
      2) Anger: You are bringing down marriage as we know it. God hates fags!
      3) Bargaining: Ok. Maybe God made them gay.
      4) Depression: If God made them gay, I wonder if anything in the Bible is also wrong or open to interpretation.
      5) Acceptance: Either “God loves them gay” or my favorite “There is no god and has nothing to do with this”

  • Linda_LaScola

    I just saw “Battle of the sexes” last night, about the Billy Jean King/Bobby Riggs tennis match in the 70’s. What a different world it is now! I think young gays should see it — to see how much things have improved –even though there’s still a long way to go.