Thursday, May 04, 2006

Now what?

I've been debating the last couple of days how to deal with the news that the Judicial Council decided not to reconsider the decisions they made last October regarding openness of membership in the UMC, particularly depending on one's sexual orientation. I'm mad, hurt, sad, bewildered and many other emotions I have yet to name and identify. Someone asked me not too long ago why I stay in the UMC and how hard it must be to do so. Today it feels harder than ever, but I am committed to sticking it out. I don't even know that I can say exactly why except that I wasn't born into the United Methodist Church - I found my spiritual home and made a choice when I joined it. The reasons I found to join remain just as true today as they did when I joined almost 10 years ago. However, this wound just keeps getting deeper and I ask myself how much more I can take before it becomes a matter of self preservation. An abused person will stay with the abuser in the hopes of change, but that can often lead to their own demise....

I read a response from the Council of Bishops in the UMNS:
Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, of the Texas Annual Conference, said she was disappointed that the church court did not vote to reconsider the rulings, but said she "respects the Judicial Council and their process." Huie began a two-year term as president of the denomination's Council of Bishops this month. She said she also agreed with comments made in a concurring opinion issued with the ruling that "it is time for the issues addressed in Decision 1032 to now be debated by the United Methodist Church, as is occurring.""I agree that this larger issue belongs to the church, and the proper place for the debate to continue is in our church, specifically at the 2008 General Conference," she said. "We will continue our dialogue on how the church responds to homosexuals." (emphasis mine)

I have to say that while I appreciate Bishop Huie's support for the reconsideration of the original decision, I'm not sure that she understands that this issue is not about how the church responds to homosexuals. Yes, homosexuality is a part of this particular care, but the issue is about membership. How does our church decide who is in and who's out? It's a questions that has long been debated in the church at large, and it has great theological implications. We can't say that a pastor can decide who gets to join the church without putting a theological burden on them to make that call. There are some pastors who are more than happy to take on that responsibility, but I would be hesitant to wield that kind of power over anyone. Are we not ALL sinners and all humans, fallible and flawed in many ways? Can any one of us really make the call about who God would include and exclude from the Body of Christ??

Of course, this assumes that membership in the church = membership in the Body of Christ and I don't necessarily buy into that notion either. God throughout history has been on the side of the oppressed, and if the church becomes the oppressor that won't change God's faithfulness. I hold out hope for General Conference 2008 - and I plan on being there in person to make a witness for the inclusive nature of God's grace and love for ALL people. We'll see what happens then, and how many more times I'll have to hold onto hope and wait for the next meeting...


hipchickmamma said...

ah the joy of writing policies! i think the whole membership thing is key--who decides who's in and out. which i know is what you are saying...but i don't know how that can possibly be decided at 2008. but what the heck do i know? it will be interesting for sure and perhaps we can room together in TX--how close is fort worth to the border anyway?

What's WMD? said...

The sad thing about this is that I don't think the larger issue has anything to do with hospitality to gay and lesbian people. I think the ruling is about authority. The council of Bishops says that they have authority to inforce church policy and 1032 affirms the right of the pastor to make decisions locally. I think it is unfortunate that the ruling on 1032 has become a de facto ruling about hospitality to gay and lesbian folk.

I went to seminary with some folks who just couldn't wait to be the "pastor in charge." Don't ask me why their phychological exams didn't raise some red flags, but they are in ministry today. (I think money changed hands!?) I hate to think that one of those folks wields the power to question anyone's membership in the book of the month club!

Anyway, these policy statements will one day serve to kill this church. Chuch folks wonder why the church is facing a crisis of irrelevance? Look no further. Where's the love?

Andy B. said...

Membership in the church does not equal membership in the body of Christ, perhaps. But I can say that my participation in the body of Christ comes to me via my membership in the United Methodist Church, I think. UM membership is not the only way to be a part of the body of Christ, but it is my way, and it is sacred in and of itself, isn't it?
- AB