Friday, January 13, 2012

Standing on the Side of Justice and Love?

Recently, The United Methodist Church General Board of Pension and Health Benefits decided to add another social screen to their investment portfolio: companies related to private prisons. This adds to the current screens of gambling, the manufacture, sale, or distribution of tobacco-related products, weapons, and pornography. This continues to keep the pension funds of clergy and lay employees in line with the denomination's historic stand for social justice.

I am very happy that The UMC is concerned about those on the margins  enough to make a commitment not to profit from (or add to the profit of) companies that support systems of injustice.

I wonder, however, how well The UMC would fair if some companies that we are in partnership with utilized certain social screens?  Would they continue to do business with The UMC?

Every clergy and lay employee whose pension is through GBPHB has free access to Ernst and Young Financial Planning Services.  This is valuable and important for those whose careers do not exactly offer a windfall of economic gain. But interestingly enough, Ernst and Young has just been named The Employer of the Year by the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender advocacy group, Stonewall.

The UMC, with its own version of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", speaks out of both corners of its mouth when talking about homosexuality. The church believes in equal rights for gay men and lesbians in society, but not within the church. Gay and lesbian couples ought to have their relationships protected by law, but cannot have those same relationships blessed in their house of worship by their pastor.  Gay men and lesbians ought to be able to serve freely in the military, but self-avowed, practicing homosexuals are not to be admitted as ordination candidates, ordained clergy, or appointed to churches.  All this because the church states that homosexuality is "incompatible with Christian teaching."

This year, The United Methodist Church will gather as it does every 4 years to determine how the Holy Spirit is moving the church to live with greater faithfulness into the future.  Nearly one thousand delegates will spend two weeks in prayer, conversation, study and legislative activities, providing a new set guidelines for the people called United Methodist. One of the issues that will be discussed and debated is homosexuality.  For forty years, this has been an issue which has divided the church, yet the voting body has been unable to even acknowledge that the divide exists, voting down time after time a simple recognition that the church does not agree on this issue. As a result, United Methodist gay men and lesbians have been told that their lives and their love are incompatible with Christian teaching. This pronouncement flies in the face of a God who causes each one of us to proclaim in our own voice, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made." (Psalm 139)

As we prayerfully approach General Conference, I wonder where, how, and what God is saying to us regarding homosexuality:
  • as our sister and brother mainline Protestant denominations have moved to accept the gifts and graces of gay and lesbian members,
  • as state after state offers legal recognition through marriage equality or domestic partnerships of gay and lesbian couples,
  • as the US military sees that gay men and lesbians can serve as faithfully and valiantly as straight service men and women,
  • as young people turn to suicide because of the church's complicit support of bullying,
  • as more and more companies that The UMC does business with have more just employment policies than the church.
The United Methodist Church has a long history of standing on the side of justice and love. What side will we be standing on after the final votes are cast at General Conference?


  1. I pray that we as United Methodists will be guided by the Spirit of God but that we will also yield to what the Spirit tells us. I cannot wait for the day when our great church truly lives up to its pronouncement that All Means All. All people are of sacred worth. Amen.

  2. "Everyone else is doing it" is not an indication that the Holy Spirit is moving. Marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman no matter what the state law may say. I would rather see the church be shaped by the words of scripture and Christian tradition than by the ambient culture.

    The ELCA, the Episcopal Church, and the Presbyterian Church have all been damaged as they decided to ordain practicing homosexuals and bless homosexual unions. The UMC may be a place of refuge for other mainline protestant folks who accept the ordination of women but who resist the ordination of practicing homosexuals.

    As a United Methodist clergywoman, I am content with the current position of our church. If General Conference changes our official stand. I will either turn in my credentials and convert to Catholicism, or I will become "unchurched."

    My hope lies in the fact that more than 40% of General Conference delegates will be from outside the United States this year. If they join with 20% of the US delegates, we will preserve the UMC. If not, I'm out the door.

  3. Holly, what if "everyone else is doing it" is because they were led there by the Holy Spirit? And as clergy, we both know that covenant is more than marriage. We as Christians use it to declare our devotion to God and others, in whom all those things that divide us fall away. Sister, you know as I do the stings that come from local churches who still believe that women should not be ordained (even in the UMC). The Holy Spirit is moving. "The moral arc of the universe is long and bends towards justice." There will be a time when lgbt persons will be welcomed fully in the UMC. In that future, when your grandchildren ask you, will you be able to tell them you stood on the side of love and justice?