Here are my reflections regarding the statements issued by the Council of Bishops, Bishop McAlilly of the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences, and Bishop Wallace-Padgett of the North Alabama Conference regarding Bishop Talbert presiding over a same-sex wedding in Alabama this past Saturday:
In 10 years, when the majority of people under the age of 40 have left the church, I hope that the leaders of the UMC that stood for injustice and hatred will realize what role they played in the decline (and possibly even the destruction) of the church. It is very sad, because we have been through this as a church in the past.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us, “The time is always right to do what is right.” The laws and rules are not always just or right, so sometimes it means that we have to stand against those rules and demand justice. It was only 57 years ago that women finally were able to be ordained, and 47 years ago when African-American preachers were able to preach in an all white congregation– which means that the UMC is no stranger to changing our understanding of what scriptures mean. The time to do what was right in the church only came because those that were oppressed demanded that it be so. The leaders that opposed those changes because of the scriptures and the Book of Discipline were on the wrong side of history, and became part of the ugly stain on the quilt of the UMC that is our history.
Bishop Talbert understands the history, and the injustice that the UMC has committed against its members, and he personally was affected by those injustices. He should be applauded for his stance, while the Council of Bishops, Bishop McAlilly and Bishop Wallace-Padgett should reconsider their stance of hatred and complacency.
I would remind the church that Jesus spent most of his ministry with “the other”. Time and time again, we find Jesus at the gates of the cities in which he visited; a place that those outcast by society were found. He showed love, mercy, compassion, and concern to those people. Instead of focussing on the scriptures that promote hatred and judgmental actions, we might need to refocus ourselves on the example of the ministry that Christ left for us.
It is no surprise that I support the full inclusion of the church–for marriage, ordination, and membership regardless of sex, age, race, gender, sexual orientation, social/economic class, ethnicity, or any other factor.
I served the church as an US-2 young adult missionary, but because leaders of the church continue to promote hatred and division in the church, I have decided to leave the UMC. A decision that breaks my heart, but I can no longer stand idly by while my brothers and sisters are discriminated against, and individuals are judged because of how they are created. Love is beautiful, and should be celebrated by everyone–no matter if it is between a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, or a man and a man.
It seems we fear what society has not accepted as the “norm”. When we began ordaining women as a church, or opened churches to be served by pastors of a different race or ethnicity, we were going against what society, and many in the church, thought was the norm. Dr. Howard Thurman was exactly right when he said, “He who fears is literally delivered to destruction.”
Let us begin to not live in fear, but instead build a church and a world built around love and acceptance.