Outsourcing Hate

The following letter was shared with the Council of Bishops on 7/17/2020. For images of the accounts below, see the PDF of the letter here: PDF of 7/17/2020 letter to the COB

Outsourcing Hate
An Open Letter to the United Methodist Council of Bishops

July 17, 2020

Since 1972, legislation aimed at Queer lives and bodies has become increasingly draconian and punitive. The United Methodist Council of Bishops (COB) has failed to offer a unified voice condemning the sin of heterosexism and transphobia. Your silence betrays the integrity of the Gospel’s proclamations of love and inclusion.

In reaction to the uprisings following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department, your recent letter rightly suggests that it is not just shots from an officers’ gun, but years of systemic racist policies which sabotage, steal, and shorten BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) lives. However, you failed to mention the United Methodist Church’s contributions to and complicity in the “pandemic of racism.” Structural change is needed within our institution, too. This will require strong leadership from you.

Additionally, we are acutely aware that your concern extends only to straight Black lives. The exclusion, abuse, beatings, imprisonment, and murders (in the United States and around the world) of Queer and Trans people, in general, and Black Queer and Trans people, specifically, continue to be met with your indifference – cruelly framed and dismissed as “theological” and “cultural” differences. Your silence and compromises echo the unholy truth that human lives matter less to you than accumulating apportionments, the ire and retaliation of the religious right, or the appearance of unity.

The movement to defund the police asks us to think about the world we want to create – the world we actually want to live in. Your critique of police violence inspires us to review the ways the UMC increasingly relies on the presence of police and private security firms to lock meeting spaces, limit access to traditionally open meetings, stifle peaceful demonstrations, perpetuate violence in our church, and control the bodies of marginalized people – with no valid justification other than your own fear of impolite disruption and honest accountability.

We are in no way equating or conflating the experience of BIPOC people at the hands of law enforcement and the treatment of Love Prevails. Love Prevails acknowledges that White privilege has allowed our interactions with police to be relatively safe — carrying little threat of bodily harm and no fear of unjust legal proceedings or long incarcerations — while police encounters for BIPOC people are often catastrophic. Police presence at church functions, however, raises questions about your commitment to abolishing any societal “ism.” We reject the UMC’s shared tactics of intimidation and domination that normalize the calling of police on marginalized people.

The following timeline of Love Prevails’ experiences highlights the UMC’s use of security and police enforcement.

  • November 2013. Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. Two Love Prevails members arrive at the Council of Bishops’ meeting. While standing alone in a hallway outside the meeting room, we are confronted by Lake Junaluska security who demand that we leave the building. When asked why we were being asked to leave, one of the officers opened his vest, revealing his service revolver, and responded, “We are deputized to make arrests.” We had been on cmpus less than an hour.
  • November 2014. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Love Prevails members arrive to protest the lack of presence of LGBTQIA+ people on a COB-sponsored panel discussion about Queer people and the UMC. (The previous panel had been open to the public and questions had been invited.) Our members are met by two plain-clothed, off-duty Oklahoma City police. Member, Rev. Sue Laurie, later reports, “Just the idea that the police needed to be in place before Love Prevails got to [the livestream panel on Saturday] perpetuates the fallacy that the church isn’t a danger to us, but we’re a danger to the church, when in fact we give everything we have to make this church whole.” Stephanie Hickson of JustPeace and Amy Valdez Barker from the Connectional Table are present to direct the police.
  • November 2014. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Love Prevails members are surveilled by hotel security throughout days of peaceful protest at the Council of Bishops’ meeting.
  • January 2017. Atlanta, Georgia. Love Prevails arrives to observe the Commission on the Way Forward being held at the General Board of Global Ministries. We are greeted by a team of hired security guards who are hostile to our presence and keep us locked out of the building. We are refused entrance into the building even for restroom breaks. At one point, security guards become verbally abusive and threaten physical violence.
  • July 2017. Glenview, Illinois. Love Prevails members arrive at the Wespath building where the Commission on a Way Forward is meeting. Peaceful protesters are locked out of the building, refused entrance even for bathroom breaks, and guarded by a uniformed, armed Glenview Police Officer. After an appeal is made to the bishops for bathroom access, we are granted a break every four hours. One person at a time is escorted to the bathroom by the armed officer.
  • February 2019. St. Louis, Missouri. Uniformed, armed police surround the General Conference Convention site and limit the movements of peaceful BIPOC and White protesters who demonstrate following the passing of the Traditionalist Plan.
  • August 2019. Des Moines, Iowa. Peaceful BIPOC and White protesters at Rev. Anna Blaedel’s Committee on Investigation Hearing are under constant surveillance by a uniformed, armed Des Moines Police Officer. (Picture not available).

Over the years, the church’s dependence on police to suppress Queer people has both increased and intensified. And yet, every time we have made individual bishops aware of our treatment by police or security guards, they feign surprise and ignorance. On one occasion, a bishop even said to us, “We needed to lock you out in order to create sacred space.” The UMC and episcopal leaders have outsourced your hatred of Queer lives and bodies to law enforcement so you can maintain a veil, however thin, of innocence, naiveté, and piety.

Love Prevails calls on the United Methodist Church and the Council of Bishops to stop using law enforcement officers and private security firms to suppress, surveil, and/or disperse members of its own church. This will give you a stronger moral base from which to engage the structural violence that the United States and the United Methodist Church are doing to our siblings who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

We join our lives with all who are challenging the use of police and weaponry to re-enforce systemic racism and societal harm.

Until Love Prevails,

David E. Braden
Joy L. Butler
Rev. Amy E. DeLong
Rev. Sue Laurie
Pastor Laquaan Malachi
Laura Ralston
Dr. Mary Lou Taylor
Brenda Smith White
Rev. Wesley White

 

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.

Love Prevails post-General Conference Statement

While Love Prevails expected the outcome of this Special Session of General Conference, our hearts genuinely go out to the people who are surprised. However, the shock and dismay of moderates and liberals is at the heart of the problem.

You were lied to.

The system is set up to generate lies and to create obedience.

Here are the lies:

  1. Institutions based in white supremacy, patriarchy and heterosexism will always work in the best interests of everyone, including the oppressed;
  2. People in power within institutions know what is best and are doing the best they can to work on behalf of everyone;
  3. Trust the process.

There are countless moderate and progressive people, delegates included, who thought they could “fix” the “gay issue.” These people thought they had the power to make the hatred and discrimination at the core of who we are “better.”

We were told countless times that nobody really “likes” the One Church Plan, but that it was the only reasonable solution – as if identifying our level of comfort with throwing some LGBTQIA+ people under the bus would hold the church together.

The bishops are central in this deeply deceptive dishonesty.

Instead of listening to the people who are most harmed by LGBTQIA+ discrimination, instead of working with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual and other people who were most directly impacted by the homophobia of the institution, the leadership of the church trusted their own power and position. They neglected to talk deeply and vulnerably with those most affected by their policies. They trusted institutional processes. They supported a corrupt legislative process that, for 47 years, has never once served queer people.

Rather than seeking justice, the leadership of our church has bowed in the direction of money and pacified the masses with phony prayers and false piety. The first unofficial day of this specially called session of General Conference began with a Day of Prayer. We know how that day turned out.

We have prayed our way forward and backward. We repeatedly called upon the Holy Spirit: “Please, Holy Spirit, DO SOMETHING.”

This was always meant to be a form of passivity and abdication, but never a source of inspiration. Throughout General Conference, leadership repeatedly called us to submit to God’s will – which in this context of wicked oppression translated into a willing renunciation of our own agency in partnership with God.

Prayer is not a renunciation of responsibility, a singular act of surrender or submission of power. Rather, prayer is an integral part of action. In the Hebrew Bible, the prophets condemn prayers that neglect engagement with the oppressed. Throughout the gospel texts, Jesus did not substitute prayers for actions. He retreated to places apart for prayers that we do not know the content of and returned to the public sphere to act. Prayer functions in the gospel as being in relationship to, not in opposition to, engagement.

It is a different way of coming to understand surrender and submission, when we ask ourselves, “What does the Spirit require of us? What does it mean when the word is made flesh in us, when the word is made in our flesh?” It is truly a dangerous act to ask the Spirit what it requires. The UMC has been taken over by this anti-theology of prayer that demobilizes people, trains us not to act, not to be engaged, not to show up in our bodies, but to contain the spirit and follow orders.

And now, even after the carnage of these past days, there are again calls for prayer, prayer, and more prayer. Certainly your bishop has already sent you a letter asking you to pray for the future of the United Methodist Church. Do not let anyone tell you that prayer is the next step for anything. Do not let calls to prayer pass without asking critical questions about the connection of these prayers to collective action. What is the relationship of our prayers to our engagement with our justice for LGBTQIA+ people? Love Prevails demands a bridge between prayer and embodied proclamation, an exchange between the internal disposition of relationship with the divine and action in the external world of oppression, including the church.

Additionally, Love Prevails has heard the calls for a new denomination, a new future for progressive United Methodists. We have a deep and well-founded fear that moderates and liberals will try to build a new Methodist Church based on the principles of the One Church Plan.

Those who created and supported the One Church Plan should be the last people to help define what the new church looks like. The One Church Plan lacked any meaningful, generative encounter with the gospel or a radical vision of justice. One Church Plan authors and supporters sold out LGBTQIA+ folx, clearly misread the depth of the hatred directed at us, and were not in tune with a broader and abundant vision of the body of Christ.

One Church Plan supporters must now take a back seat and let the most marginalized lead.

At this General Conference, queer people of color called us to remember the white supremacy and colonialism that is at the heart of the Traditionalist Plan. Love Prevails pledges itself to be in deeper relationship with queer people of color. As we call upon our straight allies to step aside so queer people can lead, we commit to decentering whiteness in the new church that is being built.

We do not need the old denomination back, or its bishops or leaders. We cannot put new wine in these old wineskins.

The last thing we want to hear is that we have wasted too many resources and too much time on these debates over LGBTQIA+ people. Or that it is time to move on and get back to what’s important. If heterosexism, patriarchy, and white racism are not dealt with directly, and if queer people are not leading the conversation about the future of our church, then it is not a church worthy of the gospel.

The Feeling of Being a United Methodist This Morning

It seems that all United Methodists are scared and fearful this morning about what’s going to happen today. This is what it feels like to be an LGBTQI+ United Methodist. This is what it feels like every moment of our lives, since 1972 when the United Methodist Church created these horrible policies that are killing us and destroying our lives. We’ve been the crosshairs this whole time.

A lot of other people are feeling like targets today – bishops and leaders of the denomination. Will they stand with us and protect us or will we get sold out again by the continuing harm of the One Church Plan? The One Church Plan betrays the gospel and the teachings and ministry of Jesus.

People are so outraged right now, but where has their outrage been for the years that we have been trying to tell them that this is a predictable outcome of their silence, complicity and hypocrisy? It’s good that people are scared today. We’ve been scared for a long time, and ignored and suppressed for a long time. We have begged to be at the table because we knew we could help. We who are LGBTQI+ people could have helped to prevent this. So many people are in pain today – LGBTQI+ people, allies, family members, churches. This sort of pain, chaos and fear is what it feels like to be queer in the UMC in between the highs and lows of General Conferences.

And so the question we have going into today is: are people going to stand with us? Are the bishops going to stand with us, the people who are feeling the fear, the delegates, the people who say they want to stand in solidarity – will they defy the limitations of the exclusion of the One Church Plan? Or will they sell us out again? We must defeat the One Church Plan and commit ourselves to full inclusion and full affirmation of the lives and ministries of LGBTQI+ people in our church.

We have been begging the church to take this crisis seriously for a long time and we have been consistently closed out, kept away from the table and shut down. Now the church is feeling the pain of its own policies and it is killing the church. Will people try to make this better today and abandon us again, as we’ve been abandoned so many times before? Or will they invite us to help lead the church to a new place?

The Truth Will Set You Free

Throughout our years of direct action, Love Prevails has felt called to expose and name the truth. The truth of the goodness, dignity and faithfulness of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer United Methodists and the truth of the sins of homophobia, heterosexism, hatred and exclusion that lie at the heart of our denomination’s policies towards people with non-conforming sexual orientations and gender identities.

Sometimes it is hard work to expose the truth to others.

Sometimes the truth shows up on its own.

This is what happened yesterday when the majority of delegates voted to make debate of the Traditionalist Plan, the most extreme and punitive anti-LGBTQ+ of the plans, a top priority. And today it was approved to move to a final vote tomorrow.

From Love Prevails’ perspective, the prioritization and possible passage of the Traditionalist Plan may be the closest to springing the truth than we have ever been. The truth is ugly. This truth is: at the heart of our denomination is a hatred for queer people. We have a deep fear of admitting this is the truth.

The majority of forces within our pro-LGBTQ movement have this same fear: that at worst the powers that be in the church hate us and at best they fail to care deeply about our lives. If this were not so, then why would we accept any plan that does not make a statement of absolute and utter affirmation of lesbian, gay, queer, transgender and queer lives? Why does our movement affirm plans that at best (the Simple Plan) remove the language of hate and discrimination against us, but says nothing affirmative about queer folx, and at worst (the One Church Plan) continue to explicitly sanction discrimination against us at local levels?

Love Prevails believes the following. If the progressive movement were to force an unequivocal affirmation of our queer goodness, the backlash would be so fierce that the truth of the depth of our hatred would be undeniable. So to avoid this truth emerging, the movement returns over and over to the strategies and plans of the past – attempting to convince a moveable middle (that has never moved because it never existed), finding ways of smoothing our speech and actions to protect ourselves from ultimate rejection, and believing that agreeing to disagree is a gospel solution to confronting injustice and evil in whatever forms they present themselves.

The truth is that Traditionalist Plan is who we have allowed ourselves to become, through our own complicity, complacency, comfort, privilege, internalized oppression, inaction, and tolerance of evil. The Traditionalist Plan in the UMC was predicted twenty years ago in analysis after analysis of the Christian right’s strategy to dismantle mainline Protestant denominations after the successes of the 1960s in African-American struggles for freedom, the battles for binary gender equality, and trans-led resistance for queer lives. We have naively believed that this would not happen to us.

Liberals and progressives have a fantasy that we are better than this. This moment reflects that we are not. The greater harm than the Traditionalist Plan may be continuing to lie to ourselves about this. This may sound cynical. We think it is true. We at Love Prevails are not planning to do anything to tamp this truth down. We will see how this process unfolds to reveal just how corrupt the process is and how dishonest we have been with ourselves.

Thoughts on the Day of Prayer

As a denomination, yesterday we spent roughly $925,000 on prayer that was not prayer. The initial call for the presence of the Holy Spirit was followed by a day-long parade of entirely scripted speaking-called-praying presented exclusively by bishops from a stage. Delegates prayed at tables. Observers may have prayed from the distance away that they are segregated from the plenary floor.

At best, it was boring and hollow. There was almost a complete lack of feeling. Aside from the anger generated by the utter hypocrisy of the day, it fell flat. It felt empty. It was dishonest and a cover for deep, deep harm. Part of the violence of it was the inanity of it. It was not only false, it was wasteful.

The only item on the agenda for the actual legislative session of the General Conference is to deal with the level at which we will continue to discriminate against lesbian , gay, bisexual, transgender and queer persons. This is the only agenda item set before us for three days. Despite this being the only reason for which we have been specially called together, there was exactly one reference to LGBTQ persons in the four hours of prayer before lunch. This one reference was not an affirmation. On the contrary, this reference was a rejoinder to erase differences, to the effect of: “We don’t come as gay or straight, we come as children of God.”

We sat and listened to multiple bishops speak to the mission challenges and opportunities in their region of the world: poverty, gun violence, immigration, health, education, women’s and children empowerment, hunger, homelessness, incarceration, migration. All matters that matter deeply to us. Not one of the bishops indicated that sexuality was a troublesome spot of challenges or opportunities in their part of the world. The one thing we are intended to speak about deeply was never even mentioned.

It is unconscionable that we gathered with the intention of figuring out how to regard the lives of queer people, and made only one mention that in fact requests queer people to put down their queerness for the sake of unity.

After lunch, and only after queer delegates confronted the bishops, were the lives of queer people centered. For about 10 minutes. What was modeled here was invisibility, erasure, silence, cowardice, and unwillingness to name the thing as the thing.

The whole day was egregious act of control, superficially making noise so that we didn’t don’t have to ever get to the painful center of the discrimination encoded in our denominational life. The whole day was an act of dishonesty, using the language of surrender and submission in carefully crafted narratives of unity.

We were asked to “set our desires aside” when in fact what we are being asked and the bishops embodied was to use the cover of prayer so that the Spirit never breaks in to liberate desire.

How is it on the brink of the possible devolution of the denomination, there is no emotion in the room, no rending of garments, no collective weeping and gnashing of teeth? Because the day of prayer was a farce and we all knew it.

One Church Plan Critique – Petition #15

From Wesley White’s Critique of the One Church Plan

Central Conference Implementation – Par. 543.17

This is a practical petition, given the different realities of Central Conference meeting times and language translations. Would that other petitions could have the same foresight of difficulties.

Amend ¶ 543.17 as follows:

  1. In a central conference or provisional central conference using a language other than English, legislation passed by a General Conference shall not take effect until twelve 18 months after the close of that General Conference in order to afford the necessary time to make adaptations and to publish a translation of the legislation that has been enacted . . .
    • Nonetheless, it is vital that this petition is defeated.
    • Left as is means there will not be an experience of the decisions of 2019 until after a next General Conference in 2020. Already, the current 12-month boundary means there will only be two or three months to experience the decisions made in 2019 before being pushed to look at their early results and make adjustments in 2020.

One Church Plan Critique – Petition #14

From Wesley White’s Critique of the One Church Plan

One Church Plan #14

Chargeable Offenses – Par. 2702.1

It is important to wonder about the significance of adding a code word to marriage—monogamous. I’m not savvy enough to catch its importance in this attempt at unifying United Methodists around topics of human sexuality when we have such a lack of educational resources to help us hold hands as we attempt to think together. I am suspicious that those behind the “religious liberty” language are also forwarding this “monogamous” language without any rationale about its importance in the realm of human sexuality.

Amend ¶ 2702.1 as follows:

¶ 2702. 1. A bishop, clergy member of an annual conference (¶ 370), local pastor, clergy on honorable or administrative location, or diaconal minister may be tried 168 DCA Advance Edition when charged (subject to the statute of limitations in ¶ 2702.4) with one or more of the following offenses: (a) immorality including, but not limited to, not being celibate in singleness or not faithful in a heterosexual a monogamous marriage; (b) practices declared by The United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings including but not limited to: being a self-avowed practicing homosexual; or conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions; or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies; (c) crime; (d) disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church; (e) dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standards of doctrine of The United Methodist Church; (f) relationships and/or behavior that undermines the ministry of another pastor; (g) child abuse; (h) sexual abuse; (i) sexual misconduct including the use or possession of pornography, (j) harassment, including, but not limited to, racial and/or sexual harassment; (k) racial or gender discrimination; or (l) fiscal malfeasance.

  • While pleased to see the removal of the “incompatibility” clause as an automatic path to investigation and trial, it is important to note that the whole of ¶ 2702.1.b needs to be removed. There is no accepted definition of what constitutes Christian teachings. The vagueness of “teachings” opens a door to charges based on variations of themes of human sexuality or other personal identity issues.
  • Petition 3 deleted the phrase, “Christian teaching,” and here we are keeping the plural form, “Christian teachings.” If there was any confidence that this term meant an appreciation of the breadth of Christian experience and learning from it, this might be a helpful word. However, the history of that phrase over these last 40+ years is one of searching the history of Christianity to find a detail that can be used against someone or the developing of an artificial category of persons.
  • There is nothing to be gained by keeping “Christian teachings” here and only much to be lost by setting up future disruptions. Only time will tell if the delegates are willing to leave this seed of contention as a reason to charge someone.
  • Dropping the word “homosexual” deals with a current specific but leaves open the creative uses of “Christian teachings” to practically have no effect on the potential trials that will be held.
  • There are enough doctrinal protections present in our Constitution (Preamble and ¶¶ 1–61) and Doctrinal Standards and Our Theological Task (¶¶ 101–105 and Conclusion). A simple removal of ¶ 2702.1.b is in order.

One Church Plan Critique – Petition #13

From Wesley White’s Critique of the One Church Plan

Business of the Conference – Par. 605

It is funny to watch the church attempt to schedule Grace, Mercy, and Justice. Generally, we don’t bind future decisions by a present one because we have noticed that G*D works on a different timeline than ours. It’s hard enough to keep up with where G*D has been, much less where G*D now is. This petition authorizes a freezing of wisdom for 30 months—and by 30 months we mean 3 years because of annual meeting schedules.

Amend ¶ 605 by adding new sub-paragraph after 605.9 as follows:

  1. At any clergy session of an annual conference, the chairperson of the Board of Ordained Ministry shall, if directed by a vote of the Board of Ordained Ministry, present a motion regarding certification, ordination, and appointment of self-avowed practicing homosexuals. Provided, however, that any clergy session of an annual conference that votes on such matters shall not, without the consent of the presiding bishop, take up any subsequent motion on that issue during any called or special session of annual conference held within 30 full calendar months from the date of such vote regardless of the outcome.
  • If General Conference should remove the “incompatibility” clause from the Book of Discipline, the only reason to have a motion such as this is to direct the Board of Ordained Ministry not to accept any LGBTQ+ candidates.
  • If this passes, an annual conference will be able to return us to the position we are currently in, deciding for G*D which category of people is not eligible to receive the call and gifts and graces for ordained ministry.
  • This petition falls into the speaking-out-of-both-sides-of-our-mouth. Of course, that is something The United Methodist Church has excelled in ever since the “incompatibility” clause passed. Case in point are these two back-to-back sentences in ¶ 161.f:

The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. We affirm that God’s grace is available to anyone.

  • This petition effectively returns the “incompatibility” clause to annual conferences after it has been removed from General Conference documents. In so doing it repeats the intent of Jim Crow laws in a new setting. This is what local option means—pockets of discrimination in congregations, districts, and annual conferences. Wherever a majority can do an end-run around the absence of formal approbation of LGBTQ+ persons—the infection of “incompatibility” is reestablished.