Dear United Methodist Church,
I am writing to you today as a sister in ministry, a southern-born graduate of Candler School of Theology, a wounded healer, a daughter, sister, mama, friend, partner…and lesbian Christian. It is because I have witnessed over and over again the suffering of dearly beloved friends who identify as United Methodists that I am writing to you today. It is my hope to speak truth in love, and though I will try to do so gently, I will likely be more direct than is comfortable.
I am truly sorry to see the fracturing of your family. My heart aches for the suffering felt by folks all around your table. Some are walking away. Some are just starting to discern a graceful way to excuse themselves. Still others are committed to staying at the table, agreeing to disagree, and looking for a way forward. I sincerely hope the hearts that are willing and able to do that hard work will remain resilient and continue talking, listening, praying and working for reconciliation.
Unfortunately, UMC, your current theology and ecclesiology are predicated on pride, power and a fallow bibliolatry that can not let go of an Enlightenment-tinged relationship with our holy text. This erroneous thinking forces some to assert that every jot and tittle must be literally, factually true in order for the whole book, and thus our faith in God, to be True.
Furthermore, you have fallen prey to the gravest of mistakes, worshipping, quite possibly above the bible, the false idol of your Book of Discipline. With words Methodist-identifying humans have codified, you’ve cast God in your own image and have lost sight of how God’s truth, not man’s, was tangible through the ministry, life, death and resurrection of Christ.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is stridently critical of the religious authorities of the day and their role as power brokers who draw legalistic, hard-hearted lines delineating who is in and who is out. If you truly worship Jesus the Christ, then you simply cannot live as guardians of the holy of holies. God’s table is open to everyone, everyone, everyone.
I am truly sorry you deadlocked in a theology, psychology and politics of fear rather than the effusive hope of the Gospel.
We have found that when we study the heart of the Gospel, commune with curious and compassionate folks, explore great theological minds, trust our experience of God through Christ and pray, pray, pray for the still speaking God to open our hearts and minds to do a new thing – we are in and of God.
What is untenable, is the fact that there are people who have entrusted their hearts and minds, their very souls to your counsel who have been and still are deeply damaged by your thinking, speaking and behavior.
What you are doing to these children of God is toxic. It is abuse. It is sin and it must stop.
How is it sin you ask? Allow me to call on the theologian Paul Tillich to help you better understand.
“Do we realize that sin does not mean an immoral act, that “sin” should never be used in the plural, and that not our sins, but rather our sin is the great, all-pervading problem of our life? Do we still know that it is arrogant and erroneous to divide men by calling some “sinners” and others “righteous”? For by way of such a division, we can usually discover that we ourselves do not quite belong to the “sinner,” since we have avoided heavy sins, have made some progress in the control of this or that sin, and have been even even humble enough not to call ourselves righteous…
…this kind of thinking and feeling about sin is far removed from what the great religious tradition, both within and outside the Bible, has meant when it speaks of sin…
…sin is separation. To be in a state of sin is to be in the state of separation. And separation is threefold: there is separation among individual lives, separation of a man from himself, and separation of all men from the Ground of Being.” Tillich, The Shaking of the Foundations
“…separation among individual lives…”
UMC – you are separating individuals from the people they love. Children from their parents, sisters from brothers and most assuredly parishioners from one another.
“…separation of self from self…”
By forcing UMC children of God to remain closeted in order to remain in fellowship, you are creating a very dangerous internal crisis for individuals who want desperately to remain in communion with their church, but in order to do so must suppress part of their whole self.
“…and separation from the Ground of Being”
No greater sin can I think of than driving a child to despair (or even death) because you assert over and over again that God can not love them the way that God actually created them.
#itistime for some, many perhaps, to walk away and seek a community of faith elsewhere. Please understand, it really is okay, for relationships to end, especially, and without question, if they are toxic or abusive. The notion that people must stay ad infinitum in a relationship that harms them is dangerous if not deadly. Friends, lovers, partners, family members and yes, even church members can come to a breaking point where a healthier life for each is found outside a particular relationship. What we so often forget is that there are SO MANY healthier friends, lovers, partners, communities and churches that will love each of us in our wholeness without asking that we lie to ourselves, others and God about who we are and who we love.
Hoping church folks remain at one particular denominational table (not synonymous with God’s table, mind you) in the face of egregious soul-harm smacks of telling an abused spouse that they should stay in an abusive, toxic marriage because “marriage is sacred.” No one gets a pass, most certainly not those who have the audacity to assume they are speaking for God.
Denominational fidelity, even congregation fidelity has nothing to do with, and at times is diametrically opposed to, fidelity to and faith in God. A relationship simply is not sacred if one’s FULL sacred worth is being denied or destroyed.
United Methodist Church, it is you who are living in sin. Your assertion that “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” is patently sinful because it separates a child of God from their true self, from others and from a relationship with God.
#itistime, UMC, for you to repent. I pray that you will renounce the sin of separating LGBT members from themselves, others and God. I pray that you will and turn toward the spark of God that is present in all of our siblings, turn in the spirit of reconciliation and truly open your arms with the affirming, extravagant, radical grace of Christ, and in so doing, restore your relationship with one another and God.
Your sister in Christ,