UMNS Photo by Mike DuBose
In the November 2nd edition of the United Methodist Reporter (a national publication of the United Methodist Church with editorial independence) published an article “A Methodist Church United for our Daughters” by fellow Methoblogger Ben Gosden and myself. In it, Ben and I respond to Jack Jackson’s assertion that the UMC has only schism as the best option ahead of it regarding the LGBT debate. We disagreed completely with that assertion.
Here’s the article, take a moment and read it.
Over the weekend as friends read the article, it became apparent that the article ticked off people from both camps. Not only Traditionalists who believe that schism will solve the “gay problem” but also Progressives who point to the repeated evidence of ecclesial discrimination being increasingly numerically invulnerable (and thus difficult to remain in a denomination that practices this discrimination). Impressive to say the least!
From this point, I’m speaking for myself, not on Ben’s behalf. Just so we are clear.
The criticisms I’ve seen online seem to fall into three categories.
Criticism one: Schism will end the ecclesial discrimination against LGBT ministers and allow them to serve openly. I write clearly with heteronormative privilege in that I am straight and serving as clergy. On the same day as this article came out, an article ran in Chicago about a Garrett-Evangelical seminarian who is openly gay and leaving the UMC because he can’t serve openly. So I understand completely this criticism that continuing on in this way is discriminatory against our LGBT ministers and no amount of idealistic hope will change that. I’m with you. But I also stand by exactly what we wrote in the article:
It seems progressives who want to split forget that the church they leave will continue to have gay children. And it seems traditionalists who want separation naively think separation will finally rid the church of the homosexual debate, as though gay persons will no longer inhabit our spaces of worship, formation and service.
Heterosexual couples have gay children; thus, schism does not solve the problem but perpetuates the cycle of violence against LGBT people. While I have privilege as a straight clergyperson, I’ve lost TOO MANY friends to other denominations who were unable to serve in the UMC. I have my scars. I’ve lost friends. I’ve begged for them to reconsider. I’ve theologically rationalized things. I’ve listened late into the night and agreed with their decisions (not that they needed my agreement).
In short, the reality of the ecclesial brain drain of the past 40 years doesn’t nullify my hope to end the exodus in non-schismatic ways. Indeed, the presence of dissonant voices in our denomination is the only hope it has.