There is a lot of talk lately by moderates about being inclusive while at the same time being “compatibilist.” Social media is awash with rainbows and declarations of “I stand with LGBTQ United Methodists” while at the same time spitting and cursing the destruction of the big tent of United Methodism.
It raises a question for Moderates: What is your vision of an inclusive church that includes traditionalists? They want a big tent but even big tents need tent poles.
We all agree that Jesus Christ is the center of the church. But what does that mean in this historical moment?
As a progressive, I believe that our allegiance to Jesus Christ demands our full inclusion of LGBTQ believers. This is a non-negotiable. Here is how I explained it in my sermon on March 3 [hear the full sermon]:
Because the Holy Spirit confirms queer believers, we must embrace them fully and completely. They must be offered all the rites of the church—the rite of marriage to live out their faith in covenant relationships and the rite of ordination so they can fulfill what God has called them to do.
In the new Methodism, the debate is over. There is no place anymore for equivocating on this issue. For forty seven years we have argued and studied and fussed about this. For forty seven years General Conference has turned against this notion. And for forty seven years our LGBTQ kin have been inflicted with that pain. In a new Methodism the pain ends. It is beyond debate.
Now that may sound like I am violating the very notion of inclusion because the argument goes that if you are going to be inclusive you should include people who do not agree with you.
Let me draw this analogy: In 1968 when the United Methodist Church was founded it became a church that was explicitly, officially opposed to racism. In our [denomination’s] Constitution it says that persons of color are full members of the church. It is the official teaching. We are clearly an anti-racist denomination.
That does not mean that there are not individual members who are racist. There are—I’m related to most of them! But we did not leave that to be a local option. It was beyond debate. And we have lived with that.
No, it needs to be clear, unambiguous, non-debatable: LGBTQ persons will be fully included in membership and leadership. We welcome folks who may be struggling with the issue of accepting LGBTQ persons, but we are going to help them along and be patient with them under the umbrella of a church that practices the full inclusion of our queer members.
A democratic society is about balancing power and competing interests. Equality is the basis for inclusion that is the unity of a donut. But that is not the church. The church is not society. The church is the community of Divine Love. And in Divine Love those with more power and comfort make a way for those who have been rejected. Love is the basis for inclusion in a unity of the Spirit of Christ.
I am a straight white man. And issues of sexuality make me feel uncomfortable. That’s a need that I have; I have a need to be made comfortable. But my need is secondary to the greater needs of LGBTQ persons who have been rejected from the church. Specifically, what comes first are the needs of millennial LGBTQ persons who have contemplated or attempted suicide. My need to be comfortable takes a back seat to their need to live!
My need to be comfortable in the church, for you to not disturb me with something that might make me feel uncomfortable, is secondary to the needs of people who have been turned away from the church for decades because they have seen what has happened and they say, “I’m never going to church ever again.”
Yes, I have a need, but my need comes second in the community of Divine Love. And I can scoot over in the pew. You know what it’s like to sit in the pew. You have those nice pew pads and you create a groove because you have been sitting there for years. And it fits just right. You know that if you scoot over you will have to sit on the hump. Nobody wants to sit on the hump. Well, scoot on over. Sit on the hump because there are some folks who have never had a place in our pews.
In the new Methodism there will be full inclusion of LGBTQ persons into membership and leadership and that debate is over. Because what did Paul say about love? “Love does not insist on its own way.”
While my other posts represent my own views, this affirmation represents the church I serve, North United Methodist Church. November 9, North will be offering a one-day conference for churches wanting to learn how to become inclusive.
However, I have served other, more conservative congregations over the past 29 years. I know that most congregations are not at the same place that North is. Indeed, the great irony is that we are on the verge of separation over an issue that probably 90% of our local churches have never discussed. If full inclusion is to be a non-negotiable, what are we to do with those congregations?
….Read next week’s post.