Friday, December 03, 2004

More on the Methodists

I keep thinking about Elizabeth Stroud's trial in the Methodist Church. There are so many issues involved.

On the one hand, I believe I have to accept, and even respect the right of the United Methodist Church to act according to its Book of Discipline on matters pertaining to homosexuality. I don't think that the polity (or the theology behind it) of denominations and congregations should all be vetted according to my individual beliefs.

On the other hand--this is fundamentally wrong. I'm not going to argue what the Bible does or doesn't say about homosexuality; this has been done by many people before, and individuals rarely, I believe, move from one camp to another. There are those who would examine what the Bible has to say about sexuality (or anything) in light of what were the perceived norms of the communities that produced the scriptures, and there are those who would believe that the Bible speaks absolute truths in everything it states. I am clearly not in the latter camp.

I really feel for the Methodists though. I know of a number of gay Methodist seminarians whose future in the professional ministry are impacted by this and are forced to remain professionally closeted. Those that have the courage to speak out, ultimately, face exile. Elizabeth Stroud preached, in her "coming out" sermon:
I have come to a place where my discipleship, my walk with Christ, requires telling the whole truth, and paying whatever price truthfulness requires. (via
And now she has had to pay the price. We could speak, pragmatically, that the congregation says she will remain employed, or that a handful of more liberal Christian denominations would jump at ordaining her, but that's not the point.

She's a lifelong Methodist; the church, she states, is her family. What has happened is not as simple as rejection from a professional association; it is rejection by her family. Sure, she could be ordained elsewhere and serve other churches elsewhere. Sure, she can still work at her church but no longer in a sacramental post. The message here from the United Methodist Church is, quite simply, "you're not good enough for us. We don't want your kind."

Again, I go back to "open hearts, open doors, open minds." There is a profound disconnect between this slogan and what the Church has done. And sadly, it isn't the first, nor will it be the last. As a Christian I can point the finger of blame at my Church and say

look at what you have done to this world

A beloved community or a club of bigots? How often is the Church striving for the former but realizing the latter?

My thoughts and prayers are directed toward Beth Stroud and other LGBT within the United Methodist Church, the Christian Church, and the world, who have tried to live the life that God has given them and are punished for it.

Closed Hearts, Closed Minds, Closed Doors

Just what am I missing here?

What part of the United Methodist Church's "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors" campaign doesn't exactly jive with its decision to defrock a lesbian pastor?

In a way, I live in a bubble. I live in an urban enclave, attend a liberal Christian church, study at a (mostly) progressive seminary, and am surrounded by people for whom Christian behavior is based on love and compassion, not following a moral/legal code based upon specific sociocultural (read: ancient Hebrew and Greco-Roman) understandings of human nature and biology. "Homosexuality" just isn't an issue for us.

Then I look around at what other self-identified Christians do -- obsessively focus on other people's sexuality (I think that qualifies as voyeurism), ignore the poor, bomb other nations, and all I can say is, What happened to Jesus? Where is Christ in this?

Then I remember: I'm in a blue state. Today, a very, very blue state.