It’s Official: We Are The United Methodist Church That Hates Gays

It’s Official: We Are The United Methodist Church That Hates Gays February 27, 2019

So, let’s pick up our crosses and do exactly that. Let’s be the church reborn. What we won’t be known as: “The United Methodist Church that hates gays.” The WCA, Good News and the African Methodists own that nomenclature.  

We are now "The United Methodist Church that hates gays"

Check the front page of the nation’s major newspapers today: it will be splashed there. The New York Times headline is typical: United Methodists Tighten Ban on Same-Sex Marriage and Gay Clergy.

After reading a few of the comments which showed the derision of the public for anything religious, and knowing this only made people surer in their skepticism, I added this comment to the queue:

I am a retired United Methodist Clergy and was at the conference as part of the press to describe what I saw. This was a hostile takeover, very similar to the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Church in the late 1980s. Many fine and decent people are being badly hurt because of a raw power grab on the part of a minority of US pastors who put the African delegates in their well-funded pockets. There is massive grief today and yes, the church will split. But real traditional Methodism is imbued with gracious love and hospitality and that movement will rise again.

Not that it will do any real good. The damage is real and probably permanent. The name “Methodist” will be now forever linked with bigotry, intolerance, and rampant, inexcusable ignorance about human sexuality and the nature of the biblical witness.

And lest you think that the WCA will do as they have threatened for some time: to pick up their marbles and leave the playground, read this perspective  and predictions from United Methodist layman Cody McMahan:

The WCA will not bail – they made it expensive to bail as their last legislative act. The $ will not change. Eith the decline of US churches and the growth of Central Conferences this was the last chance. They will have more control in 2020 and will make it absolute. Prepare to have your pastors forced to sign oaths against LGBTQ inclusion. Prepare to see whole ministries of the UMC shuttered. The UMC will become a fundamentalist denomination.

Many of you seem to think this is really only about us queer folk. It’s not. It’s about power. When the same people did the same thing to the Baptists it was women. It’s about fundamentalism and patriarchy and control. It’s about unexamined faith that can be manipulated to elect monsters. It’s about Dominionism and remaking the good old days that never were.

So, thanks, WCA. Thanks, Africans, firmly in the pocket of the IRD-linked Good News folks. Well, it’s yours now. The name, the insignia, and probably several billion dollars of property as many churches, which will see a mass exodus of parishioners from this pronouncement, will not be able to pay the fees necessary to leave with it.

You guys won. And you are indelibly stained by your victory.

For me . . . well, the portions of the US church that has freed itself from that kind of hatred and bigotry will get to reinvent ourselves. The name is going to be a big issue. With the word “Methodist” now more of a pejorative than it ever was in John Wesley’s name, there will have to be a massive renaming and rebranding. That will be hard. But I know that I am now, for the very first time, ashamed to be an ordained clergy in The United Methodist Church.

We’re going to have to rebuild the remnants from the ground up. We will be somewhat less than half the size we are now. Nothing wrong with that. Downsizing is a legitimate option.

This will also give the opportunity to create a pared down, flexible Discipline, freed from the restrictions in our current one that has long made substantive changes nearly impossible. We’ll need a more modern understanding of how itinerancy works in a world of working spouses and a need to keep clergy much longer in local churches. We will create a lighter and more flexible infrastructure,  so we can be culturally adaptive in our proclamation of the Gospel.

We will also find freedom from carrying the burden of supporting the African church. It fascinates me how thoroughly, in their apparent lock-step voting with the gay-hating Southern-Baptists-in-United-Methodist clothing, the “only-our-interpretation-of-the-bible” African church shot itself in the foot. Once the split fully takes place, they will be 98% dependent on the WCA for their funding.

My prediction? After a couple of years of this, the WCA “United Methodists” will tell the African church folk to take a hike. Just too much money being funneled out of their well-padded pockets. After all, they’ll no longer need or want your votes as those votes will dilute the white, hetero, male power base.

And no, African “methodists,” you can’t come into the re-formed church that will spring from the ashes of this firestorm.

No more of your dictating to us how we may do ministry. No more of you having the freedom to contextualize as necessary but denying that to the church that supports you. No more. I’m sure you are fine, fine people, but your shortsightedness has hurt you badly.

This will be a tough, unstable time during the rebuild. We’ll have far more questions than answers. But I’m reminded of a phrase in that great Thomas Cahill book, How the Irish Saved Civilization:

There is no such thing as stability. The mainline church, with it’s middle class mentality, may have sold a bill of goods to its parishioners.

Time for not just radical hospitality but also radical honesty: the church is not a safe place to be. That doesn’t mean it is not good. It is indeed good. But it is not safe, not if she will follow Jesus.

So, let’s pick up our crosses and do exactly that. Let’s be the church reborn. What we won’t be known as: “The United Methodist Church that hates gays.” The WCA, Good News and the African Methodists own that nomenclature.

Photo Credit: (c) Christy Thomas

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