There’s a growing movement among disaffected emergent evangelicals and disheartened progressive Christians — “Outlaw Preachers.” They’re an unofficial group, they’re a Facebook page, some of them know about others who are kindred spirits, some think they’re all alone. What they share in common is how they are treated by the religious powers that be; i.e. they’re treated like the rejected freaks on the famed “Island of Misfit Toys” in the Rudolph movie.
That’s okay, they’re in good company. Many of the individuals behind the best inventions, revelations, and paradigm shifts that we all enjoy and benefit from today were similarly treated by their peers and contemporaries.
The Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church is showing some progressive Christian backbone and is exercising ecclesiastical disobedience by being obedient to Christ’s radical and inclusive love!
Last week, the lay and clergy delegates from each of the annual conferences that comprise the Western Jurisdiction met they passed the following petition with an overwhelming majority.
In response to our common belief that God’s grace and love is available to all persons, the Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church states our belief that the United Methodist Church is in error on the subject of “homosexuality’s incompatibility with Christian teaching.”
We commend to our bishops, clergy, local churches and ministry settings, the challenge to operate as if the statement in Para. 161F does not exist, creating a church where all people are truly welcome.
The secretary of the Western Jurisdictional Conference will submit this statement of Gospel Obedience to the Jurisdictional College of Bishops, each Annual Conference, and chairpersons of Boards of Ordained Ministry for discussion and implementation.***
Despite the actions taken by the recent General Conference of the UMC, and despite my efforts to try to influence that General Conference, these faithful believers are putting their faith into action by seeking to place higher allegiance to Christ than to their denomination’s current policies. Worded another way, they’re seeking to help their denomination be the best it can be by living as if the kingdom were fully manifest here and now.
At a minimum, this means that UMC clergy in the Western Jurisdiction will not be punished if they perform gay weddings. It may also mean that they’ll ordain self-avowed, practicing, homosexuals.
Sure, there will be those who condemn this action. Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said this about truth, “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” Jesus said it will set us free.
The same is true with God’s radically inclusive unconditional love and welcome. The kingdom of God (or “the beloved community” as MLK put it) is still seen as crazy and preposterous to many. So be it.
I’ve jumped in, and friends, the water is good.
Who else is willing to be a fool for Christ?
The Rev. Roger Wolsey is an ordained United Methodist pastor. He is the author of Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity. In addition to contributing to Patheos, Roger also blogs for Sojourners, Huffington Post, and Elephant Journal.