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.
Frankly, I can’t get all warm and gooey over this Protocol and finally join hands with Rev. Keith Boyette & Company to sing Kumbaya.
Just think of the $25 million bucks as a massive new tax imposed on our shrinking denominational resources to fund the permanent endowment of institutionalized Hate Speech. That massive moral burden could be the least horrible outcome we could all agree to endure.
But what compromises would you be willing to swallow when you’re dickering with the Devil to achieve some small reduction of injustice with just a hope and a promise that real justice may follow … someday?