If Looks Can Kill Then Words Can Murder: A Response to UMC Pastors

If Looks Can Kill Then Words Can Murder: A Response to UMC Pastors April 24, 2017

Fountain of Death
“Fountain of Death” by Pat Green

If my son used Facebook, the murderous and deadly words of some UMC pastors would have hurt him. They infuriated a parent, because this parent knows how deadly words can be. Last week I wrote “Quitting Ministry: The Day A Parent’s Pain Was Understood”.

In that blog post I wrote about a day in 2013 I broke down emotionally after having a Baptist youth pastor tell me my child was an abomination and then being told I have to understand. The blog was vulnerable and my emotions were almost as raw writing it as it was experiencing it almost 4 years ago.

Overall, the response and comments on the blog and on social media have been heartwarming and encouraging. However, there was a group of UMC ministers that said some devastating things.

I would have liked to have replied to them directly on their United Methodist Clergy Facebook Group, but that was impossible. The posts are public to view, but only members can post. The only way to be a member appears being a UMC Clergy person. I asked if I could have an opportunity to respond since it was my child and other at risk children like him they were discussing, but that request was met with silence. I find silence a little shocking since there are so many opinions expressed by them so verbosely.

The person who shared my post in their group is a friend who supports me and my son. She is clergy. I suspect that she believed the reaction would be more warm. My assumption is that these are all UMC ministers, but I do not know if that is correct. Perhaps they allow non UMC and non Clergy to join.  Anyway, let’s jump in. Shall we? Here are some quotes:

  • “These stories, though moving, do not change the situation. These complex issues are not determined by the measure of impact they may have on others.”-Alan Miller (Sr Pastor, Mt Pleasant United Methodist Church)
  • “So..If my child is a murderer, and I continue to love him….We should change the Theological stance of the church…I love my son’s in spite of anything they have done…That is called being a good father…But it does not change God’s word…I know a bit extreme…But all I read was the story of a father who loves his son…No matter what’s​ lifestyle the son chose…Not. A Theological or Biblical discussion…But a father’s love…And a good reminder that even while we were yet sinners…God loves us…But we must accept His forgiveness…it is a real story of a father and his love of his son…he cares for him dearly, and a good father loves his son in spite of what he has done (thus the allusion to a murderer.) I highly admire this Father for showing his love for his son.”-Jimmy Boone (West Florida Conference, UMC)
  • “The day we change our beliefs and principles because they all of a sudden pertain to people we love, we are doomed. How can they call it “harm” if God said it? Does God cause harm?”-Andreas Kjernald (Pastor at Mysen Metodiskirke, Norway)
  • “Remember: When an ordained clergy person is teaching something contrary to Church teaching, they are by definition doing harm…So, yes, there is a tremendous amount of harm being done by folks in the UMC. But a good deal of it is coming from the progressive wing. I hope we ALL welcome all people, even if we can never affirm all behavioral choices.”-Keith Mcilwain (Pastor-UMC)
  • “This is going to continue. Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.”-William R Brown (First and Moore United Methodist Church of Parsons) *To be fair, this one was not in direct response to my article but in regard to this very debate regarding GLBTQIA acceptance.*

There is a lot of discussion, but there are some things that strike me.

This is my response in the order I shared the quotes.

So if the acceptance and affirmation of transgender people like my child are not to be determined by the affect they have on people like my child, what is the standard? Men interpreting ancient texts in a vacuum of human dignity? No wonder why it took so long for them to come to grips with abolition, civil rights and women’s rights. It would be useless to point out the increased suicide rate of transgender youth, the assault rates, the sexual violence and the murder rates. All seeped in lack of acceptance.

Comparing my love for my son to a father who loves his son who is a murderer is warped. It suggests that my love happens despite my child’s actions. No. I love my child as he is and he has done nothing wrong. This is not the kind of admiration I want to have because it lessens my son.

Their god is not causing harm. It is the actions and the words and teachings that are causing harm. The harm is being done to children. Children. My son is harmed by this teaching, as are the countless children like him. If love for people cannot or should not guide a minister’s actions, then that is a church and minister who needs to cease their actions for there is no humanity left.

Anyone who says this is a behavioral choice needs to go read some science manuals on gender identity and sexual orientation. Further, if you say you welcome my son but you do not affirm him, you do not truly welcome him. He is not equal in their eyes. Kimberly Knight wrote on this in her blog once.

I really have nothing on the witchcraft comment. I can’t even.

So. Here is my deeper problem with these UMC ministers. They have their process and they are operating as if their decisions are made in a vacuum. They can comment in a public forum about people like my child but not invite the child’s father to the discussion. The words are public. I can read them. My son can read them. They hurt. They harm. Their policies and positions? This is not in a social vacuum either.

Their policies affect more than just the positions of their 32,000+ churches in the U.S. alone. This teaching does not just extend to their over 7 million attendees in the U.S. alone. It also affects the positions of the more than 1,500 Methodist hospitals and health care centers that reach out to 32 million people in the U.S.. Many of these patients could be a child like my son in an emergency situation. What will their policy be on a minor who is on hormone therapy? Which bathroom will he be allowed to use? Will his name be recognized and used? What gender will be recognized and dignity accorded?

What about school? Over 90 colleges and universities in the U.S. are United Methodist. How will they respond? What rights are my child accorded there? He just took his S.A.T.. Are there mandatory theology courses? What is and will be taught about transgender issues? How will it affect students who are living in the closet?

How about that United Methodist Lobby Office? How will their positions be reflected to politicians on important social issues like the equality of my child? Why does a church protected from taxes have a lobby office?

They make their decisions in a vacuum. They have public discussions that the public is not allowed to participate in. But they operate in the public square with mindsets like this as part of the holdback to equality and acceptance.

When you operate hospitals in the public square, run liberal arts colleges, and have elected politicians baptized in your order, your decisions matter to the rest of us and we have a right to respond, to question, and to judge as you have judged us. I also have a right to protect my child from dangerous things.

This is confusing to me. When I was a minister, there was a time I was the president of my town’s clergy association. I was also a past president of a resource center co-run by seven churches. In both cases, there were two UMC churches with ministers who accepted and affirmed my son. When I ran a youth outreach I was friends with a UMC youth pastor in another town who is affirming and accepting. But they do so on the down low it seems.

This is a mainline denomination. Mainline denominations like the UCC, ELCA and Episcopal church are generally liberal and accepting people who were once instrumental in abolition, civil rights, women’s equality, and even gay rights in some cases. But not the UMC. I wish I could understand why my friends who love GLBTQIA people and those who have met my child stay in union with these people.

This blog space is not intended to be yet another secular takedown of the church. That is a topic that is covered exhaustively and better than I could write in other spaces. That said, my blog is being read by parents of children like mine. My readers do include transgender people. We can read public comments and know that no matter how right you believe yourself to be when you choose to deny people equality, rights and basic dignity, you are wrong. Your words are hurtful. They are also deadly. They are hate wrapped up in faux concern, a smug smile, and reasonable dialogue. If you have operations in the public square and a lobby office in your denomination, you answer to us when you leave the chapel and enter the public square.

Love, kindness, and compassion are matters to be voted on in the UMC. From what I read however, love, kindness, and compassion cannot and should not be factors in the vote for or against human dignity. Currently, my son is persona non grata in their eyes. It is obvious a mere vote would not change many of those hearts. They would just be compelled to baptize and to perform his wedding. I suppose that is better than how things are now. Currently the UMC will not accord those rights.  I am rather grateful that he is an atheist. He will never have to darken their doorstep. He’s been hurt enough.


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