Now contrast that with…
Earlier this week I posted the text of my report on General Conference I gave to the congregation last Sunday. On Monday, several people grumbled about the length of the service -- the lay leader said his goodbye as he is moving, we celebrated graduates, the Annual Conference delegate gave her report, and this was the monthly communion service. The pastor does not shorten her sermons on such days or sing fewer verses of the hymns. The whole thing was about 1:45. On Tuesday, I spoke to the pastor. She said she had heard no negative reactions to my message (nothing positive either), but I should have included several other important issues related to GC. You mean it should have been longer?
I concluded that message by saying those outside the church doors see us as anti-gay. That's true even if we remain silent. Will we specifically proclaim that we welcome gays?
A few days before I gave that report, Timothy Kincaid explored that same idea (sorry I haven't been able to write about it until now). Kincaid pulls on the same examples I did (can you guess where I got the idea?), especially the pastor in Kansas who said gays should be executed. Unless we loudly proclaim our disagreement with that pastor this scenario will happen:
And when some very lovely Presbyterian invites the lesbian couple next door to join them for Christmas Eve service, they really have no one else to blame if the response is, “Bya-ha-ha-ha! You’ve got to be kidding! No way do I want anything to do with a religion that wants to execute me!”
At the end of my GC report I said that we -- The United Methodist Church in America -- can't wait for the next GC in 2016 to fix the anti-gay problem.
In the month after General Conference concluded, most Annual (regional) conferences met. And some of them are not waiting (thanks to my Dad for sending this article).
* 500 delegates in Iowa (where gay marriage is legal and pastors are surely asked to perform gay weddings) signed a "Do No Harm" covenant. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, created General Rules. The first is, "Do no harm." The signers say they will follow Jesus and not the Book of Discipline when there is a conflict between the two. There is also a "Covenant of Conscience" in which pastors commit to perform gay weddings and laity commit to supporting them.
* Bishop John Shol of Baltimore-Washington declared his support for gay people and called on his conference to discuss it with him.
* Delegates in Minnesota approved a resolution to oppose the marriage protection amendment coming for a vote in November.
* Delegates in New Jersey set a date for a "Day of Prayer and Healing" for those hurt by "divisive conversations."
* I heard an anti-gay proposal came before the Detroit conference (though I don't remember what it was). I do remember it lost by at least 3 to 1.
Chris Hedges of Truthdig says the uptick in support of gay marriage hides the big problem that in many ways gays and lesbians are worse off than just a few years ago. Hedges lets Mel White, founder of Soulforce, to do most of the talking.
White moved to Lynchburg, Virginia, to be able to regularly confront Jerry Falwell. At the time Lynchburg was a progressive city. It isn't anymore. And while the city's woes are blamed on gays, the attack is also aimed at Muslims, undocumented workers, and anyone who isn't middle class, Christian, and white. Conservative candidates are channeling all the frustration and rage at the scapegoats of marginal groups, creating a culture of hate. White had to move out.
There is a culture of tolerance, but its membership is getting smaller. That tolerance is "confined now mostly to white, urban, college-educated members of the middle class." And because this group doesn't engage in the current class warfare, it unwittingly empowers the culture of hate. Gays should get out of San Francisco and New York to see what life is like for gays in the hinterlands.
California is a gay haven (Equality California is struggling for reasons to exist). But Calif. is also a financial mess. That mess creates fear which drives the scapegoating. What would happen if the Fundies were successful in channeling that fear in Calif.?
“Too many of my sisters and brothers in the gay community don’t seem to understand the power of religion,” White lamented. “They have been rejected by religion. They hate the idea of religion. Therefore, they’re not going to deal with religion, which is fatal, because religion is the heart of homophobia. Without religion there would be no homophobia. What other source of homophobia is there but six verses in the Bible? When Bible literalists preach that LGBT people are going to hell they become Christian terrorists. They use fear as their weapon, like all terrorists. They are seeking to deny our religious and civil rights. They threaten to turn our democracy into a fundamentalist theocracy. And if we don’t reverse the trend, there is the very real possibility that in the end we will all be governed according to their perverted version of biblical law.”