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

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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

The Exhausted Right

IMG_0706 (2)by Rev. Amy E. DeLong

“I’m just so tired of fighting about this issue!”

These are words I hear spoken, not from me or my Queer friends who are rightfully exhausted by the church’s oppressive and intractable demand for hetero- and cis-normativity, but from my conservative brothers and sisters within the United Methodist Church.

It is a statement which frankly confuses me. Since 1972, the conservative faction of the United Methodist Church has enjoyed immense success in their legislative efforts to codify anti-Queer discrimination and prejudice. Here are the General Conference lowlights:

1972 – Labelled all Queer people “incompatible”
1976 – Scared boards and agencies silent with a funding ban
1984 – Categorically barred the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” and took steps to weed out gay candidates for ministry by inserting into the Book of Discipline the seemingly benign phrase “fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness.”
1996 – Prohibited holy unions from being performed by United Methodist clergy or in United Methodist facilities
2000 – Arrested 29 people (including two bishops) who protested the church’s anti-gay practices and polity
2004 – Criminalized immorality (including, but not limited to not being celibate in singleness or not faithful in a   heterosexual marriage), being an ordained “self-avowed practicing homosexual”, performing holy union ceremonies or same-sex marriages

For more than four decades, the LGBTQ community within the United Methodist Church has never experienced what could be regarded as “a win.” The legislation has only gotten more prohibitive, restrictive, and punitive. And yet, it is the religious right who claim exhaustion.

Of course, this begs the question, “Why are they so pooped?” The answer seems simple enough: Because they never thought it would take so much time, money, and focused energy to get rid of us. They must have been so certain that with each cruel and callous piece of legislation we would leave; that their attempts at cultural genocide would have been measurably successful by now; that their profound spiritual brutality and ever-increasing malice would have driven us away, long ago. And yet, here we are.

I am reminded of the Mexican proverb that says, “They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.”

We Queers just keep popping up. And like defiant spring dandelions, we are ever more resistant to the religious right’s spiritual “Roundup.” We are stronger, prouder, more resilient, more rebellious – and most importantly, more certain of God’s acceptance and more confident of God’s call, which, of course, makes us increasingly impervious to their spiritual abuse and bad teachings.

Yeah … the religious right should be tired. But imagine how tuckered out they will be after they break away from the United Methodist Church to start their own church (free of the ambiguous and gritty reality of human sexuality), only to find that there are little Queer kids singing in their Cherub Choirs who, when they grow up, won’t want to be thrown out of their churches either.

Episcopal Address Response: Rev. Wesley White

The Episcopal Address 2016 focused on humility. St. Bernard of Clairvaux once summarized the four Cardinal virtues as, “Humility, humility, humility, humility”. This is a pleasant hook with which to begin a sermon/Episcopal Address.

Examples of humility were related back to liturgical formulations that presuppose a community’s virtue to be held by each individual within it and that an individual’s humility is sufficient within a larger community that defines certain people out, regardless of their humbleness.

First, a collect for purity: Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known and from you no secrets are hidden. Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Any number of people can say these words and remain desiring and subversive of communal values that they might have the community reflect only their desires. Humility aspired to is not humility in deed. The limit of this intention comes when we get to the details of life, not its theory. As code language we can claim anyone as prideful if they experience and complain that the community has cleansed them from presence at the table (on either or both sides of it).

Second, a prayer of confession: Merciful God, we confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart. We have failed to be an obedient church. We have not done your will, we have broken your law, we have rebelled against your love, we have not loved our neighbors, and we have not heard the cry of the needy. Forgive us, we pray. Free us for joyful obedience, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

As noted in the sermon, the focus here is communal. Unfortunately a communal confession needs a communal repentance. Our usual process is to confess and confess for decades or a century before actually doing something about the pain inflicted on those who were powerless to effect an earlier change. The injured and their allies, not the community, are the humble. The application of communal confession to humility is very dangerous in allowing the community to be righteously blind about their doing harm. Confession does not do away with a need to change divisive legislation.

Confession does not protect from “mutually assured destruction” when it covers the harm being done by intentionally denying God an ability to distribute gifts and graces to the youngest and the furthest outcast as God sees fit. Legislatively limiting God is certainly not a humble act and continuing it because the limits were repeated and hardened is no act of humility.

Third, a Commendation and Welcome in the Order for Baptism and Reception: Do all in your power to: Increase their faith, Confirm their hope, and Perfect them in love.

Who is being spoken to here? If it is General Conference in regard to current church members or a parent/sponsor in regard to an infant, there is no way to increase, confirm, and perfect without acknowledging that the mystery of spiritual gifts and personal identity is not in anyone’s control. They cannot be constrained to a desired outcome. It takes much humility to know the limits of what can be increased, confirmed, and perfected before these become requirements for one more closet.

The address ended with a hymn, “God forth with God”. In addition to going forth in peace, love, strength, and joy. There is a question left about how humbly we will leave this General Conference. This question extends to what increase in peace, love, strength, and joy others will have as a result of our actual humility and not the use of humility as a further constraint on those without power to offer their gifts in a larger community of United Methodism or the use of humility as an accusation to make against those who would offer their gifts to transform the land, beginning with the church.

What then is a legislative expression of humility at this General Conference regarding those lives have been injured through previous legislations? In particular, how might the presumption behind “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” finally be brought to its knees at this late date of 2016?