On Church Unity

One of the main arguments against removing all of the anti-gay language from The Book of Discipline all at once, or taking a prophetic word-and-deed stand of any kind for full justice and inclusion of LGBTQ folks, is that such actions are alienating and would split the United Methodist Church. Here Love Prevails’ member Rev. Dr. Julie Todd reflects on the way the argument for unity over justice makes her feel.


 

Poem: On Church Unity
By Julie Todd

Sometimes
the word unity
slips off the tongue
like a bad french kiss
from a teenage lover
leaving me feeling
sticky and gross.

Sometimes
the word unity
tastes like
nasty cough medicine
my mother forced me to take
from a stainless steel spoon
its cherry “sweetness”
making me gag.

Sometimes
the word unity
looms like a jackhammer
held by a laborer
in the idle position
next to a crumbling urban sidewalk
the jackhammer mocking:
“hold it together, hold it together.”

Sometimes unity
masquerades
as ekklesia
body parts working harmoniously,
hands and feet needing each other
when injustice like gangrene
untreated and festering
implies an impending amputation.

Sometimes unity
masquerades
as ideology
holding fast to theological abstractions
the comfort of inaction
for those who refuse
to make a clear-cut choice
for justice.

Sometimes unity
masquerades
as Christ himself
caught between
no more stone-throwing
& cursing a courageous woman
comparing her to a dog
who begs for scraps
she does not deserve.

Response to Bishop Kiesey’s Supreme Court message

You can read the response to the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage made by Michigan Area Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey here.


The following is a response to Bishop Kiesey’s message by retired UMC pastor Rev. John Ellinger:

Dear Bishop Kiesey,

I was hoping you would send a letter to Michigan Area clergy regarding the decision of the Supreme Court regarding same-gender marriage since it has been such a divisive issue in our church. However, with all due respect I must say I was very disappointed in the letter when it arrived. I think I understand, at least in part, the “no win” situation bishops of the church face right now in regard to same-gender marriage and how clergy can honor their calling to minster to all people and still “remain in compliance with The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church”.

What is troubling to me is how it seems, in our most complicated and uncertain situations, we in the church, reach back in an attempt to hold on to more “rules” in the belief that if we can just find the right list of “dos and don’ts” we will be saved from our fears. I found it interesting that your purpose in writing was to help us clergy be enabled to “remain in compliance with The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church”.  I had expected we might receive some guidance on how to remain in compliance with biblical teaching on justice, equality, and the power of amazing grace, in spite of our denominational rule book.

One of my favorite passages in the bible is from the Gospel of Mark where a troubled Pharisee comes to Jesus wanting to know the answer to one “simple” question: What is the greatest commandment? He wanted to have the answer so he could presumably go home and tell people which one of all the rules was the most important. Jesus simply says there are two great commandments: Love God, and Love Your Neighbor. It would have been easy for him to say you can’t sum up the whole law in one or two commandments so here is a fine tuned list of “Do This and Don’t Do That”. He simply offered the Pharisee the opportunity to struggle with how best to live faithfully within the context of love for God and love for neighbor.

For me, the do’s and don’ts you suggest put a spotlight on what is wrong with a denomination that values its Discipline and denominational infrastructure more than the lives of the people we are asked to serve.

For me, to participate in preaching, praying, and reading scripture in celebration of the love of two same-gendered people and then “stand aside” so someone else can lead them in naming their love for each other, would be unthinkable and an embarrassment of the highest order. How can I be expected to be in compliance with The Book of Discipline at those times when the requirement is to “step aside” from celebrating that couple’s deep love for each other and the church?

For me, I would rather accept the challenge of Jesus and attempt to live faithfully by loving God and neighbor even if that requires me to be in non-compliance with parts of The Book of Discipline.

May we all continue to strive for deeper understanding in this and all matters.

Grace and Peace,

Rev. John Ellinger

Love peace, promote justice: A request for support

Note: The following is a letter from Rev. Jim Todd, Rev. Dr. Julie Todd’s father. The letter has been used to raise funds for Love Prevails in New England, but the LP team believes it is powerful enough to be shared across all forms of media. Enjoy this beautiful expression of inclusion, and if you are financially able to end your year with a gift to Love Prevails, please do so here.
Thank you, Jim.

December 2014

Dear pastors and members of reconciling congregations:
My daughter, Julie, has committed many years of her life making sure the doors of the United Methodist Church are open to LGBTQ people.  I do not understand, in this day and age, the United Methodist Bishops, pastors and lay people who refuse to fully open the doors and welcome “ALL” into the community of faith, including pastoral appointments.  The UMC, as we know it, is becoming increasingly irrelevant as a backward, punitive and judgmental organization.

For the last couple of years Julie has worked closely with Amy DeLong (both UM clergy) to right the wrongs and fully open the doors of our denomination.  During these years, they have “showed up” when the Bishops and the Connectional Table meet to promote their agenda of truly “open doors” Their organization, “Love Prevails” – www.loveprevailsumc.com  – and their Facebook page tell the story.

At a recent gathering of the Bishops and Connectional Table in Oklahoma City, Love Prevails members were constantly harassed by United Methodist staff.  They were seen as troublemakers and locked out of meetings.  Police and hotel security were called by church leadership for no good reasons.

I am embarrassed and angry that our denomination has treated Love Prevails members the way they have.  The Bishops do little or nothing to open the doors because they claim they “need to keep unity and serve the whole church.”  Is this the same reasoning our denomination used when people of color and women were denied full rights?

Mary and I regularly provide financial support for Love Prevails and their efforts to open the doors of the UMC for full inclusion (including ordination) of LGTBQ people.  For 40 years they have been left out of full participation. How can we, as Christians, accept this United Methodist policy and foot-dragging?  This restrictive policy can be changed only every four years.  I strongly believe if Jesus were to attend the 2016 General Conference in Portland, OR, he would support such a change.

So why am I sharing all this with pastors and reconciling congregations?  I am inviting you to financially support Love Prevails and their prophetic stand.  It is not only because of Julie’s involvement, but that is a motivating factor, for sure.  It is because you can help Love Prevails “show up” and make a difference.  You can make a tax deductible donations toward a $9,000 matching grant.  Kairos CoMotion (www.Kairoscomotion.org), is the 501(c)3 financial sponsor of Love Prevails. Mail your contribution  c/o Margaret Talcott, Treasurer, PO Box 45234, Madison, WI 53744, or go to their website and contribute through PayPal.

I hope you will seriously consider joining me with your own financial contribution to help the UMC become a more inclusive church where ALL people are valued.

Love peace.  Promote Justice,
Rev. Jim Todd (jimtodd75@verizon.net)

Marcia and Jeanne #ShowUp and #Disrupt with Love Prevails

Love Prevails recently received a very generous $9,000 donation from two long-time United Methodist LBGTQ justice activists. Listen to the reasons why they gave to Love Prevails so generously. To continue to do our work to Show Up and Disrupt, we are challenging our supporters to collectively match this gift by the end of 2014. We would also gladly accept your donation of frequent flyer miles and hotel points. Please make your financial donation at http://loveprevailsumc.com/donate/ and flyer miles/hotel points through email with loveprevails22@gmail.com.

Mary Lou Taylor Reflects on Cherokee Removal for Love Prevails Native American Study

In the epilogue to The Cherokee Nation and the Trail of Tears, the authors conclude: “The Trail of Tears is their (the Cherokee) story, but it is also an American story. And if it is a story we are not proud of, we should make sure that its lesson is well learned: Racism, greed, and political partisanship can subvert even the noblest American ideals.”

While reading the book, I could not help but make parallels, not just to what is happening in the United States today (where racism, greed and political partisanship seem even worse than ever), but to what has been happening over and over around the world. The American government’s treatment of Native Americans in the United States, especially its policy of removal, was our Holocaust. White Christian Europeans assumed that the native tribes were lesser than fully human, that because their civilization was different, it was uncivilized, and because they worshipped in a different way, they were heathen. While there were no gas chambers and no grand design of extermination, the United States government forced thousands of men, women and children to march over 1,000 miles barefoot, with little clothing, almost no tents, inadequate food and literally none of their belongings. Everything they owned had been taken from them. Many died.

In the last paragraph, I have written “the government,” but in truth I should say “we.” Though we were not alive at the time of the past atrocities against Native Americans, we currently sit in our living rooms and watch as people around the world are suffering a similar fate. Trails of Tears continue.

I pray that understanding what the Cherokee Nation suffered, and what all of the First Nations peoples suffered, will help me get out of my living room and really commit to working for safety and dignity of all people. I look forward to the next six weeks of study, and to going to participating in continuing Acts of Repentance and Healing towards Indigenous People through the United Methodist Church.

Connectional Table Letter – April 2, 2014

“The tone and content of your letter to us signaled a distinct shift away from the spirit-filled riskiness we experienced when we were with you and back toward institutional security. The steps forward that you outlined have been tried repeatedly for the past 40+ years and have proved inadequate.” This was our response to the first letter the Connectional Table sent to Love Prevails in December 2013. We have since exchanged two more letters. Here is the latest letter from the CT to Love Prevails earlier this month. Their response remains fundamentally the same: inadequate and shifting away from spirit-filled riskiness. We look forward to our encounter with the CT in Chicago at the end of the month.


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