Saturday, May 3, 2008

Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors - Not!

I haven’t told my son yet that the denomination in which his father has been a minister for his entire career has decided once again not to remove the stain from its official policy that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.” I doubt that he cares now. He has already felt the sting of rejection, which is now mutual.

On April 30, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church at its quadrennial meeting, this year in Fort Worth, once again refused to change its pronouncement of judgment on gays and lesbians by a vote of 504-417.

The vote did not go
In an act of witness in front of delegates to the 2008 United Methodist General Conference, more than 200 people declared that the denomination's policies and practices against homosexuality are "sinful" and that "sexuality is a gift from God."
Primarily dressed in black, demonstrators walked onto the legislative floor at the Fort Worth Convention Center, formed a two-lined cross around the communion table located in the center aisle and draped it in a black shroud to witness against the church's stance on homosexual practice. They entered silently, but once all demonstrators were in place, they sang, "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?"
During the demonstration,

Retired Bishop Melvin Talbert, a former ecumenical officer of the Council of Bishops, reminded the conference of the church's 1939 action, when the denomination segregated black Methodists into the Central Jurisdiction.
"That action was wrong. That action was a sin against God," and in making the decision on April 30, the General Conference "has taken an action that is wrong," he said. The segregated jurisdiction was dissolved in 1968.

Prior to asking the General Conference to reconsider its April 30 vote, Talbert said that those in the former Central Jurisdiction lived within a structure and were able to repair broken relationships with the church. That has not been the case with those with differing sexual identities, he said.

"We have chosen to leave them out rather than invite them in to work out our relationships. … I can do no other than to say what is on my heart. General Conference, General Conference, this is wrong. I invite you to reconsider."

North Georgia Bishop Lindsey Davis disagreed with Talbert.
"I definitely disagree with Bishop Talbert on that matter. … I do not think it has anything to do with civil rights," Davis said. He added that the church takes great strides to protect the civil rights of all people.

"I will go to the mat to protect the civil rights of all of these persons who protested today, but I don’t think you can equate the two," he said. "If you do, it is doing a disservice to the civil rights movement of the 1960s and on."
He probably really believes that too. The General Conference did not reconsider. The conference passed a resolution
against homophobia and heterosexism, saying the church opposes "all forms of violence or discrimination based on gender, gender identity, sexual practice or sexual orientation."
Forgive me if I don’t take any comfort from such a statement. In view of the official policy of exclusion this resolution seems to me nothing more than rank hypocrisy. It reminds me of church actions in the mid-twentieth century saying that all persons were of sacred worth and that blacks shouldn’t be lynched but were unwilling to support racial integration.

Audrey Krumbach, formerly a member of the North Georgia Conference and a student at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary, Evanston, Ill, had this to say about the denomination’s action.
"We are part of God's living body in today's world, but our United Methodist Church refuses to accept what God has already done; refuses to keep covenant with its own words in the baptismal promise … refuses to open its hearts, minds and doors.”

She said those outside the church have noticed "the church truly scapegoating" people "on the altar of so-called unity" and "the closeting (of) the LGBTQ people who faithfully serve the church."
These are sad days for United Methodists. In 1844 the Methodist Episcopal Church came to the place where “unity” could no longer trump their silence on slavery and the church split. No amount of “holy conferencing” will keep that day from coming for United Methodists. Until that day comes, the sign we should hang over our denomination is “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors—Not!”

- Milo

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