The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing. – Albert EinsteinOn Saturday, I wrote in sorrow and anger about the United Methodist General Conference’s failure to change its anti-gay policy. I was, and remain, sad and angry, but not so much that I don’t appreciate the stand that our bishop and conference delegation took on this issue at the conference.
Bishop of the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference, Robert Hoshibata, wrote about his role in the demonstration.
As one who has felt called to ministry primarily as a pastor, my decision was to be with our delegation and with others who were participating in the witness on the floor of General Conference. I chose to do this as a statement of my hope that the church belongs to all people; and that Christ loves all persons and calls us to do the same. My desire was to offer a word that the church does love lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, even if our legislative pronouncements do not demonstrate that; and that in my leadership of the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference and in my role as a bishop of the whole United Methodist Church, this will be my witness.I know that there are United Methodists all over the nation who are also ashamed of our church. I know that there are hundreds of congregations who are truly open churches in defiance of our denomination’s stand. For all of them I give thanks to God.
I am saddened again, that the church cannot come to an honest place of confession to say that we are in deep, distressing disagreement. Why can’t we be honest before God and before others? Remember that silly children’s story about the vain emperor who was convinced that he was wearing a handsome suit which he could not see? He wore the invisible suit of clothing proudly until a little child announced: The emperor has no clothes! Our church is like the emperor. We do not know that others are seeing us as a homophobic institution wearing the cloak of abject denial of our fears and prejudices while we strut our sometimes empty claims of “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors,” Maybe that children’s story isn’t as silly as we might first think . . .
At its meeting in 2000, the Western Jurisdictional Conference rose in protest against the stance of the national church:
We of the Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church have heard the call of the prophet Micah "to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God." We have heard Jesus' invitation for all to come to the banquet table of God's abundant grace.When the Western Jurisdiction meets in July, this year in Portland, I do not know what if anything the body will do in response to the General Conference’s failure again to change its position. I hope the conference will again register its protest and declare the western churches’ rejection of the discrimination that is the United Methodist Church’s policy.
Certain actions of General Conference 2000 have caused tremendous pain for individuals and communities and have resulted in an attempt to suppress our prophetic and pastoral ministries among all people, regardless of sexual orientation.
The votes may have been cast but our voices will not be silent. Our jurisdictional vision calls us to be "a home for all God's people, gathered around a table of reconciliation and transformation." Affirming the statement of United Methodists of Color for a Fully Inclusive Church, "We acknowledge that there may be differences of opinion among us, but this does not require that we wait on justice." We cannot accept discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender persons and therefore, we will work toward their full participation at all levels in the life of the church and society. Valuing the voices of those who disagree, we will continue to be in dialogue as we journey together in creative tension. We will continue to be in ministry with all God's children and celebrate the gifts diversity brings. We will continue to feast at table with all God's children.
A day of reckoning is coming. I do not wish for a split in the denomination, but neither am I willing to continue sacrificing homosexual persons on the altar of church unity. Too many have already suffered too long. The world is indeed a dangerous place. On this issue, we have to choose whether or not we will be among those “who look on and do nothing.”