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.

One Church Plan Critique – Petition #16

From Wesley White’s Critique of the One Church Plan

Pension Liabilities – Par. 1504

The Commission on a Way Forward was formed to heal an internal divide regarding human sexuality. The first 15 petitions were about moving on from being held back by a fifty-year-old understanding of sexuality that there is only heterosexuality and aberrations from it.

Early on the bishops shifted from Human Sexuality to an emphasis upon “Unity.” Here we move into unity issues and find that they are really about pensions, not theologically grounded in relationships with G*D and Neighb*rs.

Amend ¶ 1504, effective as of the close of the 2019 General Conference, by adding a new subparagraph 23 to read as follows:

If a local church or charge in the United States changes its relationship to The United Methodist Church through closure, abandonment, or release from the trust clause pursuant to ¶ 2548, ¶ 2549, or otherwise, notwithstanding whether property with title held by the local church is subject to the trust (under the terms of ¶ 2501), the local church shall contribute a withdrawal liability in an amount equal to its pro rata share of any aggregate unfunded pension obligations to the annual conference. The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits shall determine the aggregate funding obligations of the annual conference using market factors similar to a commercial annuity provider, from which the annual conference will determine the local church’s share.

  • We now know the value of the “trust clause”—the market value of commercial annuities.
  • This indicates we stay together for financial, not theological, reasons. This is our bottom-line. This is as close as we will get to selling our possessions and giving the proceeds to the poor (Mark 10:17–27).
  • This petition is driven by the possibility of removing the “incompatibility” clause.
  • Language about “or otherwise…” refers to churches removing themselves from the denomination in reaction to removal of official support for their desire to “not condone” marriage and ordination of LGBTQ+ persons.
  • It is best for delegates to amend this petition with specific language limiting the time of this particular scheme of a “pro rata share” to some limited amount of years—perhaps 4 years. After a quadrennium, everyone would be expected to remain under the traditional trust clause.
  • Leaving an open-ended process for a United Methodist congregation to leave invites other reasons for discontent to pop-up and to cause unnecessary periodic angst over one pet prejudice or another. This needs additional clarification.

One Church Plan Critique – Petition #10

From Wesley White’s Critique of the One Church Plan

Ordination by Bishops – Par. 415.6

Ahh, a bishop’s conscience! What a wonder to behold.

Bishops are quick to claim they are “bishops of the whole church.” This allows them to look away when a difficulty comes up and abrogate their prophetic function in the face of potential financial loss (expressed as loss of members) if they were to make a theological determination that the weight of G*D’s Love was actually on one side or the other.

Bishops want to be bishops of the whole church, except in one particular situation where they can carve out a purity exception for themselves and exempt them from expressing explicit pastoral support for LGBTQ+ persons. Such purity does not keep moral injury at bay.

Bishops who would use this out from their responsibilities and keep the tension over LGBTQ+ persons at the highest possible level might consider the advice they would give to a current LGBTQ+ clergyperson who came out of the dungeon constructed by the church for them—resign. Resignation would help keep them from being a wimpy bishop (one who won’t ordain but will appoint, have power over).

Amend ¶ 415.6 at its conclusion as follows:

No bishop shall be required to ordain an elder or deacon, commission a deaconess, home missioner, or missionary, or license a local pastor who is a self-avowed practicing homosexual. The jurisdictional College of Bishops shall provide for the ordination, commissioning, and licensing of all persons recommended by the Board of Ordained Ministry and the clergy session of the annual conference in the bounds of its jurisdiction. All clergy with security of appointment shall continue under appointment by the bishop of the annual conference.

  • A hired-gun bishop can be brought in to do the ordaining of a clergy person who happens also to be a LGBTQ+ person, but it is the bishop who “does not condone” LGBTQ+ ordinands who will be expected to appoint them and be their pastoral leader. Seems unworkable.
  • This petition brings back in what Petition 4 just removed—language about “self-avowed practicing homosexual”. It is a cancer that grows while justifying to itself that it is more important to the body than any other part. It shows no growth of understanding of orientation.
  • Deletion of this petition might help bishops grow up and actually be a bishop of a church that contains LGBTQ+ persons, being at least as considerate of them as the bishops have been of those who “do not condone” LGBTQ+ persons.

 

 

2018 Fundraising Letter

untitled

December 6, 2018

Dear Friends in the Struggle:

Everything Love Prevails has ever said or done boils down to one message: Take all of the anti-queer, homophobic, cis-gendered language out of The Book of Discipline. This is simply the only way for justice, love, and inclusion to be made real in the United Methodist Church.

Like many of you, we have felt discouraged and stymied over the past couple of years. Despite repeated pleas from Love Prevails, the Commission on (Not) the Way Forward carried on its work without significant input from a diverse representation of United Methodist queer folks. The release of the Traditionalist Plan has revealed the vicious intent to purge the church of an LGBTQ+ presence. And the hearts of our Bishops have remained hardened against us as they prioritize the maintenance of the institution over the well-being of God’s queer children.

We have shared the shock of just how bad this denomination feels right now and how much worse it might actually get for queer folx and their allies in February of 2019. As we approach the Special Session, we are horrified that the majority United Methodists seem to believe that the One Church Plan is a step in the right direction.

Love Prevails remains committed to the defeat of the One Church Plan. The effect of the One Church Plan would be the functional abandonment of our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters in certain geographic areas, while others enjoy newfound privileges. The United Methodist Church certainly does not need pockets of prejudice and discrimination which will continue to infect the rest of the Body of Christ.

Additionally, while it is true that the One Church Plan would remove the costly public spectacle of church trials – it will do so by transferring all that violence to our Annual Conferences and local churches, where LGBTQ people will not have access to representation or due process. Instead of creating One Church that is faithful to the gospel, this plan will essentially place targets on the backs of LGBTQ people and make every one of us more vulnerable to the worst of United Methodist harm. The One Church Plan will set us all back by making every decision-making body of the church, at every single level, a place where LGBTQ people will be debated and wounded, punished and pushed out.

In the midst of all this, Love Prevails continues to offer our critical analysis and prophetic witness. Our core team meets by phone and video conferences every three weeks and we have podcasted our most current thinking. Some of us continue to travel to meetings at the general church level – where we are often met by local police and hired security, avoidant glances, and tired excuses. We have been faithful to loving one another through difficulty of continued exclusion.

And, we will show up at the General Conference in St. Louis, offer the faithful witness that only we can, and demand again that General Conference remove the discriminatory language and make no provisions for codified, localized injustice.

To do this, we need your support. We humbly ask you to make an end-of-year contribution to help our team travel to and from St. Louis. Please consider a donation to Love Prevails by going to our website www.loveprevailsumc.com/donate or by sending a check to Love Prevails c/o Kairos CoMotion. P.O. Box 45234, Madison, WI 53744-5234

With Advent Hope,

The Members of Love Prevails,

 Rev. Amy E. DeLong     Rev. Will Green       Laura Ralston         Dr. Mary Lou Taylor   

Rev. Dr. Julie Todd       Brenda White          Rev. Wesley White

PDF of 2018 Fundraising Letter

Open Letter to the Council of Bishops

November 2, 2018

To the Council of Bishops,

Love Prevails formally requests that the Council of Bishops write a pastoral letter to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer members of the United Methodist Church in the United States and around the world. As the special General Conference approaches, our lives and worth come under ever more vicious and sustained scrutiny. No matter which plan is passed or if no plan is passed in February 2019, the lives and the loves of queer people will be fought over without us having much voice or vote in that process.

Even if the One Church Plan is passed, we fear for the lives of queer people who must endure the pain of witnessing our church fight over our belovedness and belonging. As a majority of you supports this plan, it is necessary for you to both recognize and publicly state that in the option you have selected as the best way forward for the church, LGBTQ+ lives will continue to be actively debated, damaged, and harmed.

For our spiritual, emotional, and physical safety, we request that you speak publicly with care and attention to the wounds of our people. We are not asking you to speak of “respecting both sides,” or of “everyone hurting,” or of “having a right to differing opinions.” We beseech you to speak directly to queer people whose spiritual and physical lives are in danger as we live in the crosshairs of church-sanctioned discrimination and violence.

This request is difficult for us to make because we have experienced your lack of compassion for the hearts and souls of LGBTQ+ people. In the past, when speaking about “human sexuality,” your theological abstraction and emotional detachment has caused more injury than healing.

Given the harm that you, the Council of Bishops, continues to perpetrate against queer people in the name of institutional unity, a pastoral letter directly to LGBTQ+ persons and our families is the very smallest act of care you could offer. As you craft this letter, we ask you to be mindful of the lived experience of queer people in the United Methodist Church.

They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace.
Jeremiah 6:14

Sincerely,

The Members of Love Prevails,

Rev. Amy E. DeLong
Rev. Will Green
Laura Ralston
Dr. Mary Lou Taylor
Rev. Dr. Julie Todd
Brenda White
Rev. Wesley White

PDF of November 2, 2018 COB Request

Love Prevails attends Colloquy

Love Prevails’ members are attending the Colloquy sponsored by the General Board of Higher Education & Ministry and the Association of United Methodist Theological Schools in Boston, MA. The theme of the Colloquy is Missio Dei and The United States: Toward a Faithful United Methodist Witness. In this Colloquy, faculty from United Methodist theological schools and United Methodist bishops are invited to present papers in a small-group discussion format with plenary report-backs. Love Prevails’ member and Iliff School of Theology faculty Rev. Dr. Julie Todd was invited to present a paper. Here are the key points from the paper she presented today.

Paper: “Nothing About Us Without Us: LGBTQ Liberation and the United Methodist Church”
Key Points

  • Organized as a part of the The Commission on a Way Forward’s (CWF) work, the present Colloquy participates in perpetuating and participating in the illegitimacy of the CWF’s effort to determine the lives and futures of LGBTQ persons in the denomination, whose voices continue to be marginalized and silenced in this very process by cisgender, heterosexual persons.
  • These gatherings and processes embody the discriminatory status quo and the ongoing failure of our church leadership to name the real and active harm being done to LGBTQI United Methodists and other queer people by our current policies and practices.
  • LGBTQ persons are not the only people for whom the Methodist movement has mounted decades-long attempts sublimate histories and practices of violence under the halo of theological discussion, and to silence their voices and destroy their communities in the name of mission.
  • Under the requested topic of Missio Dei, the present Colloquy falls prey to the same temptation as the institutional church in general to theological discussion that sublimates an entire history of oppression in the United States’ context in which genocide and slavery were justified and propelled precisely by Christian people as the mission of God in the “new world”. The paper rejects the concept of Missio Dei as a theological grounding for the Colloquy.
  • Using a liberationist methodology that emphasizes the experience, action and reflection of those most impacted by violence, in this particular case the violence experienced by LGBTQ persons themselves as a result of the UMC’s anti-queer institutional policies and practices, as the primary locus for the determination of the means of liberation in any way forward, the paper argues against the prioritizing of the theological abstractions such as unity and missiology over-against the practice and pursuit of equality and justice for all oppressed persons, including LGBTQ persons, as a central “missional” demand.
  • Only the removal of the discriminatory language in The Book of Discipline will put the denomination on a path towards addressing the underlying systemic injustice and inequities of heterosexism and homophobia more broadly within the church and world. When this path is cleared, there will be more space for deeper commitments to address the scourges of white supremacy, savage capitalism and economic inequality, endless war, migration crises, misogyny, climate change and environmental destruction.