PROTOCOL DELAYS LGBTQIA+ RIGHTS AND DIGNITY

Not enough attention has been paid to the significance of the phrase: “[T]his Protocol is integrated with and integral to the whole and shall not be severable from the remainder of the Protocol.” This brief statement points to the political realities of The United Methodist Church and how they outweigh ethical and theological principles.

After noting: “The United Methodist Church is committed to recognizing, respecting and protecting the rights and personal dignity of every person, including people of all races, sexual orientations, genders, national origins, ages, and social classes”, these very rights and dignity are indefinitely deferred until “practical” matters of money, property, and separation are cared for.

While the Protocol lays out the minutest terms of time and dollars for separation and the garnering of votes, it does not remove the presenting issue of the false claim of LGBTQIA+ “incompatibility with Christian teaching.” In fact, it specifically delays such removal until a subsequent General Conference. This seems like an obvious setup for the traditionalists to receive their desired separation, while still being allowed to bedevil the remnant United Methodist Church. There are many traditionalists organizations (i.e., Good News, UM Action, the Institute on Religion and Democracy) who have amassed fortunes by crusading against LGBTQA+ people and it would be folly to assume that they will suddenly cease and desist.

It is important to note that there will not be a clear separation by the time any post-Protocol General Conference of The United Methodist Church will be held. At the latest, one would expect a next General Conference to be held within a four-year period (by 2024). Any final separation will not be completed until December 31, 2024. Also, it is both misleading and disingenuous to assume that all the “sexual traditionalists” will leave The United Methodist Church. It is highly conceivable that there will be enough “traditional sexualists” (both nationally and internationally) remaining within The United Methodist Church to make it impossible, at worst, and difficult, at best, to rescind the “incompatibility” language and related legislation.

It is reasonable to assume that traditionalist organizations will continue to target individuals, congregations, and leaders within The United Methodist Church with “scriptural” reasons to disregard the rights and dignity of LGBTQIA+ persons. There is nothing to keep weasel-words such as “marriage, traditionally meaning between a man and a woman,” from the lexicon of United Methodists.

The Protocol leaves open the likelihood that traditionalists will continue to resist, whether up-close or from afar, The United Methodist Church’s future attempts to affirm, respect, integrate, and protect LGBTQIA+ people. The traditionalists agree to “bring no more claims for assets [financial/property]” but do not agree to refrain from interfering in the workings of The United Methodist Church through their extensive media platforms. The effect of the Protocol brings to mind a worst case scenario where the traditionalists extort millions of dollars, make off with valuable property, leave behind debt-ridden property, and delay removing the poison of “incompatibility.”

If this Protocol cared for the whole of what has brought us to a point of separation, it would have also been very clear that the language of “incompatibility” needed to be removed at the same time an agreement was reached which gives millions of dollars to the traditionalists. As it stands, the very seed of this separation, “incompatibility”, is very severable from the Protocol and will remain a seed of contention in The United Methodist Church.

The track record of the United Methodist Church regarding the rights and dignity of the marginalized is not a good one—indigenous people, people of color, women, LGBTQIA+, disabled persons, and more still wait not only to hear but experience a clear, winsome word, of how they are a valued image of an expansive and expanding Presence of Love.

Until Love Prevails.

PROTOCOL DELAYS LGBTQIA+ RIGHTS AND DIGNITY

Response to the Protocol announcement

A False Title

PROTOCOL OF RECONCILIATION & GRACE THROUGH SEPARATION

The arrival at reconciliation and the freedom grace has to break boundaries do not accord well with adherence to protocols and a desire for separation. The very title of the latest proposal to accomplish the separation desired, planned, and encouraged by the religious-right of The United Methodist Church reflects confusions and misapprehensions found in the document itself.

A self-proclaimed group of traditionalist, centrist and progressive United Methodists, the proponents of the Protocol are anything but. Those gathered, even those with connections to the LGBTQ+ community, can best be described as traditionalist, moderate centrists, and institutionalists. Convening in secret without accountability or transparency, once again, these centrists and institutionalists sacrifice LGBTQ+ persons on the altar of unity and compromise to preserve the institution, giving the traditionalists what they’ve always wanted while LGBTQ+ persons receive no financial support for the harm the Church has caused and nothing but promises so often broken in the past.

For decades, the traditionalists have hammered the denomination with an absolutist understanding of grace that first exiles LGBTQ+ persons in order to “love” them into heteronormativity. They have set up competing agencies, threatened to leave, and become experts in manipulating legislative procedures. These tactics and skills have borne much fruit for them as they are about to receive a blessing from The United Methodist Church to plant them as a new denomination that will double-down on the very discrimination it claims it intends to do away with in the American context. The traditionalists will also receive a $25-million inheritance to aid them in their work of discrimination. Untold numbers of present and future LGBTQ+ persons will find this protocol to be a betrayal.

There is no reason to believe that a post-protocol General Conference will actually be able to rescind the current discriminatory language on its books. There is no suggestion given that the traditionalists will actually stop their crusade to destroy the social conscience of a Methodist movement that will listen to the lived experience of people and how G*D’s grace works in their lives and provides gifts to the larger church through them.

In the end it might be seen that $25-million is cheap in comparison to the on-going decline of integrity that never acknowledges harm being done or can act powerfully only by placing its power at risk. However, such a capitalistic measurement of people’s lives cannot do anything but further the ignoring of such a basic value as loving your neighbor as they would have you love them.

A protocol suggesting this is just a business arrangement and everyone can go happily on their way is a denial of the history of how we have arrived where we are. There is conniving and betrayal of community that has happened ever since The United Methodist Church was a club of white, male, clergy clearly failing free and enslaved Blacks, and women of all races, and most recently leaving the handicapped behind, a variety of ethnic groups tokenized, and, particularly, spelling out a refusal to ever acknowledge G*D’s presence in a LGBTQ+ person who has claimed both their sexuality and their spirituality as good gifts. The traditionalists have actively sought to be free of LGBTQ+ persons, the institutionalists have conspired along the way with traditionalists by abdicating to majority-passed rules contrary to the weight of both scripture and the witness of experience by LGBTQ+ persons. The moderate centrists have tried the “can’t we all just get along” naiveté until they are worn down by the loudest and most unyielding.

Reconciliation and grace are still live options, but they are perceived as requiring too much trust by a denomination that has refused to use its teaching tools. As a result they are still evocative enough to be used in a title but not to show up anywhere in the body of the document.