Posts Tagged ‘lgbtq’

In This Moment…

Monday, January 30th, 2017
Beloved Justice Seekers,
        
In this moment, it is hard to not let darkness of despair and fear overcome Epiphany's light. There are days when it seems that we are in a perpetual state of lent – lamenting the realities we are facing with the new presidential administration. I think back to hearing the news of our presidential election. I spent the days following that news at Facing Race, the largest conference focused in racial justice, surrounded by thousands of folks dedicated to seeking justice. Over the past few days I've surrounded myself with thousands of queer and trans people organizing, dreaming, and resisting together. I can't think of a better place to be in light of what was happening and is continuing to happen in our nation. 

As I prepare for what lies ahead and the paths of resistance we will each walk, I'm grounded in the thought that our priority must be to care for our bodies and each other. We do not have to lean into platitudes of unity at the sake of our own sacred worth. Our fundamental desire to thrive and the vows we take at our baptism call us to look inward, resist injustice, and serve all! We commit to our own personal rejection of the evil powers of this world, accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist, and finally put our trust in Christ promising to serve a church for all people. As we step into this new season our welcome must be intended for those pushed from the center – the source of privilege – in our communities. We must resist the ways we are complacent in maintaining privilege. We must bring others along with us in this struggle. 

From our earliest days, the Methodist Federation for Social Action identified as a movement energizing people to be agents of sacred change in the church and the world. We believe that the root of justice lies within people of faith in grassroots communities called to engage in collective liberation. It requires storied relationships, resilience in the midst of oppression, and resistance to all that stands in the way of love. Our intersectional lens reminds us of the words of Methodist and civil rights leader, Fannie Lou Hamer, who said: “nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” Our lived experience tells us sacred change is only possible in a movement that is boundary breaking and refuses to be silenced by the powers and principalities of our day. 

Your partnership in this movement has made and continues to make sacred change possible each and every day. We have faced difficult days in the history of our movement. We stood up and resisted when the church refused to integrate, we stood up and resisted when the government used fear to attempt to silence us in the McCarthy era, we stood up and resisted when the church said no to women’s ordination, we stood up and resisted when the government said no to women's suffrage, we stood up and resisted dangerous child labor practices. Our legacy of resistance is faithfully long. We will continue our legacy of standing up and resisting. No matter whom the powers and principalities are we will accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression. 

In order to do so we need your help. In the coming year we need to increase our staff to increase our capacity to resist. Please consider making a donation to the Methodist Federation for Social Action today to help us continue our legacy of resistance.

It is our commitment to faithfully look within ourselves, our movement, and our world to renounce the wickedness we perpetuate, to resist the injustice in our world, to trust in God’s grace and to serve Christ through a church open to ALL people. Will you join me in making sacred change possible with a gift to MFSA!

Seeking justice,
Joseph Lopez
He, Him, His
Nominations and Governance Co-Chair
Board of Directors
 

 

A Moment of Personal Privilege

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

June 4, 2016

Moment of Personal Privilege

Iowa Annual Conference

Sisters and brothers in Christ, in covenant, in connection:

I have been a United Methodist almost my entire life.  When I was 4, my parents came to faith, and I was baptized in the United Methodist Church in De Ridder, LA.  I was baptized, confirmed, called, commissioned, and ordained into this church.  This has been my place of spiritual belonging, of vocational calling, my faith community, my faith home.  I do not want to, therefore, go.

But.  And.

I am a self-avowed, practicing homosexual.  Or, in my language, I am out, queer, partnered clergy.  I know this is not news to most, if any, of you.  But by simply speaking this truth to you, aloud, here, I could be brought up on charges, face a formal complaint.  I could lose my job, lose my clergy credentials, lose my space of spiritual belonging, of vocational calling, my faith community, my faith home.

I cannot begin to describe the persistent pain and weary wounded-ness of being raised in and called to a church that continues to call my being and my loving a chargeable offense, that continues to identify my being and my loving as incompatible with Christian teaching.  I do not know if it is faithful or just plain foolish of me to continue giving my prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness to a denomination that continues to call me and so many I love an abomination, an issue, a divisive distraction.  How can I be in honest study, prayer, and conversation within this connection when I am not, when we LGBTQ people are not, safe to speak the truth of our living, and our loving?

This institution is instilling in me and other LGBTQ people some horrible, harmful untruths.  That we are unloved, and unlovable.  That we are unworthy.  That we are incompatible, disordered, divisive.  That at our core, at the core of our created-ness, there is something shameful, sick, sinful.

That, friends, is incompatible with Christian teaching.  Allegiance and adherence to unjust laws in incompatible with Christian teaching.  Welcoming us and our ministry only if we hide, be quiet, and stay in the shadows is incompatible with Christian teaching.  Isolation and oppression are incompatible with Christian teaching.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” does not equal justice.  Silence does not equal support.

How can the hand say to the foot, Therefore go, I have no need of you?  How can the ear say to the eye, Therefore go, I have no need of you?

It’s time.  It’s so long past time.  The Spirit is calling, moving, inviting.  No more crumbs.  Stop the complaints, stop the charges, stop the prohibitions, stop the harm.  Justice delayed is justice denied.  Be the church.  Now.  Be the Body of Christ.  May it be so.

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Rev. Anna Blaedel is an ordained elder in the Iowa Conference of The United Methodist Church. A graduate of the University of Iowa, Pacific School of Religion, and a current doctoral student at Drew University, Anna serves as the campus minister/director of the Wesley Foundation at the University of Iowa. She is a child of God, and #CalledOut.

 

PRESS RELEASE: United Methodist Church Requires Removal of Reference to LGBTQI Christians from Worship Greetings

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Chett Pritchett, Executive Director

chett@mfsaweb.org (Email)

 

PORTLAND, OR – May 10, 2016 – This morning, Methodist Federation for Social Action’s (MFSA) board of director’s Co-President, Rev. Vicki Flippin, received notice from the Worship Director of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church to remove mention of sexual orientation and gender identity from her remarks in this afternoon’s opening worship for the every-four-year global gathering of the denomination in Portland, Oregon.

Those asked to bring opening remarks were asked to share greetings from their ministry contexts. Rev. Flippin serves as Associate Pastor at Church of the Village, a progressive, multi-cultural, and Reconciling congregation in the West Village section in the borough of Manhattan in New York City. “My context is one of ministry to and with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) people in our city,” states Flippin.

When asked to remove her references to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, Flippin responded that she could not “in good conscience participate in a service that will not even pretend to welcome and include God’s LGBTQI children.”

MFSA executive director, Chett Pritchett, states, “Worship should be the space for all people to be welcomed and recognized as being made in God’s image. Sadly, the institutional Church has failed queer people like myself yet again, on one hand calling us ‘of sacred worth,’ but clearly not worthy enough to be directly mentioned in what should be our denomination’s proudest moment.”

This afternoon’s opening worship begins 10 days of legislation, worship, and witness for the 12 million member global denomination. One of the most pressing conversations will center on the Church’s welcome to LGBTQI people and those in ministry with them.

Since 1907, the Methodist Federation for Social Action has worked to mobilize, lead, and sustain a progressive movement, energizing people to be agents of God’s justice, peace, and reconciliation. As an independent, faith-based organization, MFSA leads both church and society on issues of peace, poverty, people’s rights, progressive issues, and justice in The United Methodist Church 

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For more information about MFSA, please visit www.mfsaweb.org. During General Conference, please follow @MFSAVoices on Twitter, and the following hashtags: #UMCGC and #JustLove 

The FDA and The UMC

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

This week's announcement that the Food and Drug Administration had lifted the ban against gay and bisexual men from donating blood lit up my Facebook feed. For over 30 years, this ban has kept millions of men (and a good number of women) from donating blood which had the potential to be life-saving in emergencies and natural disasters. But with this recent announcement, thousands of gay and bisexual men should be receiving their One Gallon Pin within just a few short years, right? Wrong.

The news from the FDA has a flaw. Men can only donate if it has been longer than a year since their last sexual activity with another man.

It seems the FDA has marked as asterisk in their policy with a footnote that states “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals” shall not be appointed to donate blood. It’s ironic, isn't it, that in the age of marriage equality, two men married under the eyes of the law aren't eligible to give blood until they have stopped having a healthy sex life for at least a year? Or that a woman married to a bisexual man will still have to wait a year after the last known same-sex encounter of her husband? I'm not even sure how the FDA would begin to address transgender and genderqueer persons in this policy. It might just blow their minds too much.

A friend who was teaching at a large university a few years ago attempted to give blood and when he was refused the opportunity, he adamantly stated this was against the university’s non-discrimination policy. Unfortunately, neither the American Red Cross nor his employer thought so. His teaching contract was not renewed. Now, it seems, the flawed FDA policy is only a little better than before.

Let’s be honest. This is the same place we find The United Methodist Church. For years, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) persons have heard the call to ministry in our congregations and campus ministries, and then they have struggled through seminary coursework and the ordination process. They have needed to stay silent, leave certain boxes unchecked, or simply faded away from the ordination process – and in some cases, the Church – because of flawed policies surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity. And when they dare to question policies, they are marked as troublemakers, denied access to pulpits, and, in some cases, defrocked. Even as we review the multiple different proposals which seek church unity, we recognize these proposals are written on the backs LGBTQ United Methodists.

These same imperfect policies, like those lifting of the FDA ban of the blood of same-gender loving persons, might be a baby step into the realm of full inclusion, so let’s call them what they are: baby-steps. As these discussions open The United Methodist Church to forward movement and possibility, they are not, and cannot be confused with, acts of full justice. To do so, would be nothing more than accepting flawed policies in lieu of life abundant.

May the FDA and the UMC recognize the folly in their policies, both enacted and proposed.  And may we, the people, continue to hold decision makers accountable for these flawed policies and practices.

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Chett Pritchett is Executive Director of the Methodist Federation for Social Action. He is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College and Wesley Theological Seminary, and is a member at Dumbarton UMC in Washington, DC.

Transgender Day of Remembrance: “Open your arms wide to us. Love us.”

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day where we come together to mourn and remember those who have been murdered and are continually persecuted and abused in our societies. This year alone 22 trans* people have been murdered in the United States and countless others have been battered, bruised, and assaulted on a daily basis.

Nikilas Mawanda, a transgender feminist activist from Uganda, recalls how growing up he knew he was “different from an early age,” but “just did not know the word transgender.” He remembers how there were many myths about how one could cure, change one’s gender, or prevent puberty from setting in. Nikilas tells of how he would stare at the sun for hours in hopes that his genitals would change or how he would beat himself with a specific stick in hopes that he would not develop breasts.

Nikilas remembers the first time he heard the term “transgender.” A friend had left Uganda returned, excited to tell Nikilas that he had finally discovered a word that described exactly what they were thinking and feeling about themselves. This label became powerful for Nikilas, but he knew there were others out there struggling with the same things. So, in 2007 he started a non-profit called Trans Support Initiative Uganda. Here Nikilas hoped to help protect and educate those affected by the stigma surrounding being transgender in Uganda. On December 23rd 2013, Uganda passed the Anti Homosexuality Bill. This bill made the LGBT community illegal citizens and labeled them as criminals. On Feb 24th 2014, the president of Uganda signed this bill into law.

In 2014, while coming back from a trip, Nikilas was arrested because he did not look like the picture on his passport. His passport was confiscated until he could prove he was not gay. It finally took a doctor from California, whom he had never met, writing a letter to the Ugandan government saying that Nikilas had a life threatening genetic condition and that he needed to come to the states for treatment.

Nikilas left Uganda with only 3 outfits and a pair of shoes to his name. He left behind his family and friends and everything he over owned to seek asylum in the United States. He left his true treasure – his son – back in Uganda. He hopes very soon to have enough money to bring is son here to the United States so they can be reunited again.

When asked what Transgender Day of Remembrance means to him he said, “It makes me think about the violence, how it is not safe for my people to walk the streets or be with their families. This day is not celebrated because it is fun; it’s about pain, excruciating pain, that those in the trans* community feel everyday.” It reminds him of the activists who were severely beaten and left for dead in Uganda these last few weeks. “Being here and knowing what is going on is not easy. It’s hard and heart breaking for me because not everyone can get out like I could, people there still struggle to be who they are everyday.”

Nikilas expresses that he hates telling his story to people. He feels as though people hear his story, feel badly, and yet don’t do anything with this information.  When asked what his message would be for the Church.. “Do Something! We are your children, your family in Christ, and we are crying out for your love. Open your arms wide to us, love us.” Nikilas states that, “many trans* people have told me the Church has turned them away that the Church is no longer the place many trans people look to for help and guidance.”

How can the Church transform this pain into hope? How can we show God’s children the unconditional love of God? How do we listen to Nikilas’ story, and other stories like his, to compel us to keep moving forward so to end the violence against trans* people, left as after thoughts on the evening news. What will his story compel you, me, us, the Church to do?

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Sarah Louise Cobb is a second-year student at . Originally from the Memphis area, Sarah is seeking ordination as a Deacon in The United Methodist Church. As part of her field education, she is interning at MFSA.

 

Nikilas Mawanda is the Founding Director of Trans Support Initiative—Uganda, a transgender and gender non-conforming people’s organization in Uganda. He has served the Ugandan LGBT community for more than 12 years. During his career, he has played key roles in organizing LGBTI people in Uganda through organizations like Freedom and Roam Uganda; Transgender, Intersex and Transsexuals Uganda; and The Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law. Nikilas was a preacher for Gather at the River in August 2015.

The Pope and a Protestant

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

As I queued up outside The White House at 6am yesterday morning, I couldn't help ask again and again “Why is this queer, pro-choice, Protestant showing up to see the Pope?”

Looking around at my companions snaking our way toward the entrance as the sun rose over the District, I knew why I was there. Men and women in uniform, priests in cassocks and collars, Sikh men wearing turbans, school children and young adults, and LBGTQ political and religious leaders – all of us together to make our way to the South Lawn for such an historic moment. In that moment of epiphany the differences among us, while important, melted for just a few moments of awe and reverence. And in some small way, it wasn't about us seeing the Pope, but the Pope seeing us.

From the moment he emerged from his Fiat (Latin nerds, I know you get the inside joke here) until he waved to onlookers from The White House balcony, Francis embodied to humility we have come to know during his time as Pope. In a few brief moments, he spoke of inclusion and justice, religious freedom, safeguarding the poor, caring for the Earth. Francis framed his comments in theological terms, calling for common values to pervade the public sphere and to see one another as created in the image of God. While my experience and perspective might bring me to a different conclusion on major theological concerns (specifically LGBTQ and reproductive justice), Pope Francis’ grounding in the concept of imago Dei is one that crosses boundaries.

This isn't to say that the Pope’s visit to America isn't fraught with concern. From the canonization of Junipero Serra, a Spanish missionary who led the genocide of Native tribes in 18th century California, to the displacement of hundreds of homeless persons along Philadelphia’s Parkway, the Pope’s message of justice and compassion come with complex messages.  This morning, I'll be joining other faithful people (and those of no faith at all) for a Moral Rally on Climate Change. And I'm clear that concerns about climate change must also intersect with concerns about poverty, war, racism, colonialism, and reproductive health, choice, and justice. I'm also clear that Pope Francis is a strong voice for justice and mercy to Catholics and non-Catholics alike– both in America and across the globe. I look forward to hearing his remarks to Congress, not because I believe he will impart some political zinger, but because he seeks to be pastoral to other spiritual and temporal leaders. Such pastoral care breaks through the dichotomies of Catholic vs. Protestant, Christian vs. non-Christian, Conservative v. Liberal, and creates a space where faith and values undergird how we engage lives of public service.

As Pope Francis continues his time in DC and the remainder of his time in North America, I pray continued safety, clarity, and boldness. And I pray the same for each of us, created in the imago Dei,  as well.

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Chett Pritchett is Executive Director of the Methodist Federation for Social Action. He is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College and Wesley Theological Seminary, and is a member at Dumbarton UMC in Washington, DC.

Daring to Believe?

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

Just last week, the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church overwhelmingly voted to ask our General Conference to remove the “incompatibility clause” in our Book of Discipline. It was a celebratory moment for many. But two days later, I sat in the ordination service and witnessed an unintentional act of exclusion to LGBTQ persons. Indeed, while our hoped for change in policy is to be applauded, we must be ever vigilant about our practices which can also create harm.

During the service of ordination’s altar call, a time to welcome and receive those with a call upon their life to seek the journey toward ordained ministry, one young adult lay member sat frozen. He had answered the altar call at the previous annual conference, but this year he sat in silence. And tears ran down his face. Others who understood his pain surrounded him in prayer along with an elder who was, for an unknown reason, standing in the rear of the worship space. Wishing to remain anonymous at this time, I agreed to share parts of his reflections on this experience.

“The altar call was an inspiring moment for me last year. I walked up with such enthusiasm and conviction. I had known and discerned my call for many years prior to this point, but this was my moment to declare this call to my brothers and sisters of the Annual Conference. Over the next few months, I reviewed the “Christian as Minister” book with my pastor, the first part of the formal discernment process. This served to help smooth over some questions I had about the candidacy process as well as to affirm my feeling of call to the sacraments of the UMC. There is only one problem: I am queer.

I am queer, I am United Methodist, and I feel a call to the life and work of an ordained elder. To some these are conflicting concepts, for me it is who I am. I do not see either as contradictory to one another. I might even say being queer helps me know and deepen my relationship with God to work through the exclusion I have felt growing up.

As I finished “The Christian as Minister” with my pastor, we talked about the current situation the United Methodist Church (UMC) finds itself in regarding queer folks and their inclusion in the church, including ordination. I tried to see myself serving a congregation in spite of my sexual orientation but there are so many unknowns,  I decided to put my call aside. I decided to tell God no. I decided that I would not answer my call, which is something I have longed for many years. In a way it was a relief, I don’t have to pretend, I don’t have to lie. I can be as queer as I want.  But at what cost?

One year later, I worshiped at the ordination service, celebrating with friends being commissioned and ordained, but apprehensive about the altar call. When it came, I began to cry. Tears rolling down my face from what can only be described as guilt, exclusion, sadness and inadequacy all in one. I buried my face in my hands and hunched over in my seat. Why couldn’t I answer my call?  Why couldn’t I have enough faith to believe that God would give me the grace and ability to answer and follow through with the call regardless of my sexual orientation?  Why can’t my brothers and sisters see that this is not sin? Why can’t God fix it? Is God asking me to give up part of myself to answer the call? Will there be guilt when I am older and the UMC accepts queer ordination? Why can’t I trust Jesus? I am like Peter when he took his eyes off Jesus and doubted. These thoughts flood my brain and make me feel like a second-class Christian.”

Indeed, this faithful queer United Methodist is living the conundrum of the annual conference’s theme, “Dare to Believe.” How can one dare to believe in an institution that  says one thing (“all persons are of sacred worth”) yet acts in another (exclusionary policies and practices)? His reflection continues, truly an affirmation of where he and so many other LGBTQ United Methodists stand, and it’s a word the Church needs to hear and understand:

 

“No tears should come from feeling God’s call on your life. God does not require that.  I know that the God who made me queer is the God who was at my baptism and is calling me each day to the ministry. I don’t know what will happen. I don’t know how I’ll make it or what kind of ministry I will have and for how long. There are so many unknowns for a queer person-entering candidacy, but I will not be deterred by fear, I will jump in to God’s grace.  Will you join me?”

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Chett Pritchett is Executive Director of the Methodist Federation for Social Action. He is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College and Wesley Theological Seminary, and is a member at Dumbarton UMC in Washington, DC.

The Bible and Blacks and Gays – “It’s Deja Vu all over again”

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

I believe honesty compels all of us to acknowledge, no matter if we think of ourselves  as evangelicals, traditionalists, liberals, progressives, etc., that knowingly or unknowingly, we have encountered, maybe been shaped by a misinterpretation of Scripture that has informed attitudes and actions about blacks. Genesis 9: 25-27 has been called Noah's curse, the curse of Ham, or more accurately, the curse of Canaan.

The story's original intent was to justify the subjection of the Canaanites to the Israelites. But, the Scripture has been interpreted by some Muslims, Jews and Christians as an explanation for black skin as well as for the enslavement and segregation of blacks. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), have been more honest than Methodists and other denominations  in admitting their practice of denying black men acceptance in leadership roles until the 1970's, was shaped by the misinterpretation of this Genesis scripture.

But, the fact of the matter is that our Methodist debates/divisions about slavery, and the decision to form the all-black Central Jurisdiction in1939, were informed by misinterpretations of the Genesis scripture as well.

I share this in the wake of knowing how Ireland has voted on marriage equality for same-sex couples. And, I share it because the above is an illustration of how the Bible has been misused to justify bias. I suggest that the Bible is being  misused to justify  marriage as being   between   only,   one   man  and one woman, because to do so is to ignore the Biblical accounts of men being  married to more than one woman. And, to ignore how married women were viewed as "property" in some Biblical accounts. My United Methodist colleagues, lay and clergy, with whom I disagree on the anti-gay, and anti marriage equality language in our Book of Discipline say that "the definition of marriage has not changed in 2,000 years". I respectfully disagree.

One of the reasons I use racial illustrations as an ally/advocate of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) persons and marriage equality for same-sex couples, to inform my advocacy, is that so many have not, or find it difficult, to acknowledge that "Noah's Curse/the curse of Canaan", historically, has been/is, a manifestation of how the Bible has been misused to justify anti-black, racial bias. And, today the Bible is being used by some United Methodists to justify their bias against same-gender-loving couples and LGBTQ persons.

Our love of Scripture in its totality, not selectively, ought not be compromised by allowing Scripture to be used/misused to demean, dehumanize, nor to discriminate against black-skinned or LGBTQ persons.

The decisions United Methodists make in 2015 and 2016 about the Bible and same-gender-loving persons, will not only correct the misuse of Scripture to discriminate against same-gender-loving persons, those decisions will remind us of how, historically, Scripture was used to discriminate against black persons. There are still some United Methodists who are unable and/or unwilling to acknowledge our history of Bible-based, anti-black racism.

The United Negro College Fund has as one of its mottos, "A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste". I suggest to the United Methodist Church; "The Bible is a Terrible Thing to Waste, By Misusing It." I have experienced personally, its misuse to justify racial segregation. I, and I hope all United Methodists, will vote to discontinue its misuse to discriminate against and thereby hurt and harm, LGBTQ and same-gender-loving persons.

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Rev. Gil Caldwell is retired United Methodist clergy. Gil is a founding member of Black Methodists for Church Renewal (BMCR) and co-founder of Truth in Progress, a multi-media project highlighting the intersection of race, sexual orientation, and religion.

The Connectional Table’s Bribe to Straight Progressive Clergy

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

 

On Palm Sunday this year, I preached a sermon entitled "How the Racial Bribe Killed Jesus". It was not exactly a "Hosanna", children smiling with palm branches kind of day at Church of the Village. That was because we spent the season of Lent reading Michelle Alexander's book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Alexander talks a good deal about racial bribes in the book, which are basically when racial groups or subsets of racial groups take certain advantages in a system in exchange for an institutional peace that continues to perpetrate injustice on more vulnerable groups (Think the Jewish tax collectors and chief priests of Jesus’ time.).

On my reading of the book this time around, I was taken aback by one of Alexander's claims: that I myself am a bribe-taker. In her last chapter, she claims that the “civil rights community”, largely made up of middle and upper class people of color, have taken the racial bribe of affirmative action and its promise of surface level racial representation in the halls of education and power. While these gains are important, they have knocked the wind out of the sails of a more fundamental and systemic civil rights movement that would include true racial justice for poor Black and Brown people, the very folks who are left out of the gains of affirmative action.

Since reading Alexander’s judgment upon me, I have been trying to be more aware of when I take bribes, when I claim advantages in exchange for a peace without justice. And that is why I worry about new legislation that came out this week from one of our denomination's highest bodies. Our Connectional Table just approved a proposal to change much of the discriminatory language in the Book of Discipline regarding homosexuality. The plan does some good things, the most notable of which is making it legal for clergy to perform same-sex weddings.

But this change at the highest echelons of the church does not necessarily strike me as a courageous step. Instead, the fact that such an inertial and institution-preserving body is taking this action is a sign to me of the incredible power of the LGBTQ equality movement in the world and in our church. Same-sex marriage will very possibly be legal throughout the United States in one month's time. And the grassroots movement of clergy publicly performing same-sex weddings has made church trials a dead end for the institution. These accomplishments are the work of millions of activists and regular people, LGBTQ folks and allies, who have worked and risked and refused to give in to despair. And the Connectional Table's proposal should be celebrated as a sign of the power of God working through these grassroots movements of love, justice, and courage.

This proposal is certainly a sign of movement, and there are people I respect who believe this is a proposal that holds great promise for change at our 2016 General Conference.

A part of me really wants to agree. As a progressive, heterosexual, cisgender, married pastor with one child and two cats, this proposal does everything for me. It would give me the ability to fully, freely, and safely answer my call to ministry. I can be a progressive LGBTQ ally and I can be a United Methodist pastor with a guaranteed job with a salary and benefits. And I can do it anywhere in the world. This is all win for me.

But it is not a win for everyone. The proposal would make the church a little more just, but it is not justice. It falls short of justice and true welcome in several ways, the most disturbing of which is that it allows annual conferences to decide whether or not they will ordain gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. Many, if not most, regions of our church will likely choose not to ordain people based on their sexual orientation. LGBTQ candidates for ministry will have to live in particular, strategic regions if they want to avoid discrimination.

As an out United Methodist clergy ally living in New York City, I have had the privilege of talking with many gifted and called LGBTQ people who are discerning whether or not to enter into the ordination process in the United Methodist Church. I have seen them pour money and years into seminary and ordination requirements without knowing if they will even be seriously considered. I have heard them struggle with how much of their spiritual journey they can really share, as each of their paths with God are inseparable from their sexuality. I have watched them wonder if they will be safe in their jobs even if they are granted full clergy rights. These are all things I never had to worry about because of my sexual orientation.

But it is these young, talented LGBTQ people offering their lives to the church who will remain unsafe even if this limited legislation passes. Now, people will say that this is incremental change. And when we realize that same-sex marriage doesn't cause the church to implode or sprout horns, then we will take the next step and the next step. And that may be true.

But my question is this: When I get everything I need, will I still be as passionate about pushing for change for the next person? When I am free to be myself and to be a pastor in my region with my sexuality, will I still be as passionate about making sure that gay seminarian in Alabama can do the same? I want to say yes. But I know myself. I am a sinner. I am a bribe-taker.

Progressives who want to take this compromise need to do some serious spiritual discernment about our apple-craving, bribe-taking tendencies. I do not believe that members of the Connectional Table meant for this to seem like a bribe to progressives or even progressive heterosexual clergy. But it could very easily become one. We could too quickly take this as a victory in exchange for an unjust peace.

I know that I am a sinner who too often stands in the crowds offering Jesus up for Barabbas. As a heterosexual elder in full connection in a progressive annual conference, I am concerned about claiming my own freedom while people far more vulnerable than me still find themselves in the church's chains.

So, while I celebrate the movements that have forced this proposal, I feel very uneasy about supporting it.

 

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 Rev. Vicki Flippin is the co-president of the board of directors of the Methodist Federation for Social Action. She is the Pastor of Social Justice, Exploring Faith, and Inter-generational Ministries at The Church of the Village, a progressive, multi-racial, and Reconciling United Methodist Church in Manhattan. A graduate of Yale Divinity School and the University of Chicago, Flippin has been elected to the New York Annual Conference Jurisdictional/General Conference delegation for 2016.

PRESS RELEASE: Methodist LGBTQ leaders respond to General Conference Commission meeting

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 21, 2015
Contact: Chett Pritchett, chett@mfsaweb.org
Amy DeLong, loveprevailsumc@gmail.com
M Barclay, m@rmnetwork.org

Methodist LGBTQ leaders respond to General Conference Commission meeting

April 21, 2105, Portland, OR – The General Commission on the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, the body organizing the church’s 2016 quadrennial governing meeting, General Conference, invited leaders from LGBTQ rights groups within the UMC to meet with it in closed session on April 20.

Following the meeting, the LGBTQ representatives – Dorothee Benz, Matt Berryman, Bridget Cabrera, Amy DeLong and Chett Pritchett – issued the following statement:

“The issue of whether the United Methodist Church will continue to discriminate against LGBTQ people is of paramount importance to the future and viability of the church, not to mention the well-being of queer people in and beyond the UMC. We are grateful for the commission’s invitation and the opportunity to be in ongoing conversation with them. We ask the commission to take concrete, affirmative steps to prevent the harm suffered by LGBTQ people at past General Conferences from recurring in 2016. Whatever the church’s theological differences, there can be no place for spiritual violence in the church of Jesus Christ.

We also request that the commission schedule the consideration of LGBTQ-related legislation at the very beginning of the plenary week in order for this discussion to receive adequate time.

Further, we insist that any attempt at “dialogue” or “holy conferencing” must begin with the explicit acknowledgement that in the context of discrimination and oppression true dialogue can never occur. Genuine dialogue requires equality, and in the UMC that equality does not exist. One party comes to these dialogues defined as less than the other party, and no amount of vocal wishing for us all to act as “brothers and sisters together” changes that.

We remain open to all discussions that contribute to the process of ending the oppression of queer people by the United Methodist Church, and we will continue to work tirelessly to bring about that day. We are committed to calling the UMC to its highest and best self.”

Dr. Dorothee Benz is the national representative for Methodists in New Directions; Matthew Berryman is the executive director of Reconciling Ministries Network; Bridget Cabrera is the deputy director of Reconciling Ministries Network; Rev. Amy DeLong is the founder of Love Prevails; and Chett Pritchett is the executive director of the Methodist Federation for Social Action.

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