Thursday, May 01, 2008

Skunked by a Fox

There are many ways to describe what happened today... after all, many things happened to day.
Sitting here now though at 12:00 am, I have a deep, deep sadness. The church basically maintained it's teaching on homosexuality although it did make it a little worse, but from this distance I can't even acknowledge that. We had a beautiful proposal, a proposal that says the truth and would have easily won the majority vote. Unfortunately, we never got to vote on that. In fact, we never got to debate it either. Thanks skilled directing by Bishop Whittaker, neither the minority nor the majority reports never received any debating. Instead we pretended to try on amendments for about ninety minutes (which were really speeches that were pretending to be amendments) and voted and voted and voted on amendments. Then, when frustration and fatigue had set in, the bishop maneuvered a delegate through the process of suspending the rules and calling all that was before us (which of course was the adoption of the minority report). This was all narrated by Rev. Eddie Fox, director of world evangelism for the church, who probably preached for close to thirty minutes in all. It was the same shtick he always gives at General Conference. I pray that this will be his last appearance at General Conference. I'm sure that comes across as harsh, but I've put up with far too much dishonesty today to not tell the truth. This hurts.
Thankfully, because I wasn't going to speak to the petition (we only were supposed to get three speeches and we had people lined up) I was called on to speak to the floor on one of the amendments. This was in the series of debate when people were trying to make substantive alterations. I know that the tactic is technically legit, but it's really deceptive to do this sort of thing at a church conference that is supposed to be based on the idea of holy conferencing. Anyway, I let people know that I'm gay and said that if our concept of church is so fragile that the only way it can stay together is to sacrifice gay and lesbian people than we have deep issues. When I got back to my desk, I had received six text messages from people who were watching! And then the notes started coming from other delegates. I know they didn't vote with me, but some of them were simply amazing.
After the vote, the witness team stood in the stands and slowly by slowly the supportive delegates did too. One voice broke out with "Jesus Loves Me" and soon we were all singing. The business of the conference continued as the secretary read a new Judicial Council ruling that seemed to go on for about fifteen minutes. We just kept on singing. Check out the stream on umc.org.
We lost every other important debate from there on in. Marriage, ordination, and "membership" all fell one after another. The membership piece is the most difficult one, we didn't pass language that says homosexuals can't be members, we did pass language that says the pastor has sole discretion about whether or not a new member can join. If the pastor is homophobic, they have the right to deny membership. (This is all that decision 1032 of the Judicial Council and refers to para. 214)
Okay though, let's get it together. Even though General Conference is mostly composed of people who are comfortable with negative language about gay and lesbian people* (see below), the church is not falling. In fact, the big picture is that we're moving in the right direction. We just haven't arrived yet with the understanding of sexuality. We'll get there.
I'll share the two really great pieces of news from the morning that I'm sure you won't believe. First of all, two drastically trans-phobic pieces of legislation failed by about 30 to 70%. I spoke to that one two with the argument that we would be creating a new category for discrimination.
Secondly, we passed a resolution that said we are opposed to homophobia and heterosexism in what ever forms they present themselves... I know, it's hilarious. This petition also allows the General Board of Church and Society to resource parts of the church with tools to help combat these tools. And GBCS will be more than happy to take that opportunity (especially since the local church lost it's authority to do any sex ed with the new 161.g .... sigh....)
So today was also my birthday. I got lots of cards and messages from people I love, which was great.
We have over 120 calendar items left to consider before Friday night at 12:00. It is clear that we will not get to the overwhelming majority of these (I think we did about ten today). I suppose what we'll do is create a tabled calendar and just start dumping things there.



* - commentators in the notes section of this blog stated that my original words here were hurtful and nasty. I'm definitely able to live without what I wrote so I've altered my original. Thanks for the feedback...

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

You wrote:

Okay though, let's get it together. Even though General Conference is mostly composed of theologically incompetent homophobes who are afraid to think on their own

My question:

How do statements like those support your desire for holy conferencing? You obviously think that anyone who disagrees with your opinion, is a "theologically incompetent homophobe". Can you truly engage in "holy conferencing" when you bring such a biased opinion to the discussion?


Furthermore, you have written in previous posts about your time at G.C. that you felt the conference is very "Spirit led" (my words) this year. You've asked for prayer and affirmed that you've been praying. Can the vote today, not at all be the result of the Holy Spirit's leadership or God's answer to prayer?

Today's vote affirms votes over the past 40 years at G.C., and upholds the traditional teachings of the church. Though I"m sure you would consider me "theologically incompetent", I feel strongly that today's vote affirms Biblical teachings.

Why can this vote not be God's way of bringing change in your heart and the hearts of others? Why must the UMC change it's language and stance for you to feel that God's will is being done?

Keith McIlwain said...

Will, while I support the current position of the Church (though I'm not too sure what the subtle changes mean, at this point, to be honest), I assure you that there was no joy last night on either side. The traditional side takes no pleasure in seeing the pain of others. But there are solid Biblical and theological reasons for their stance.

I also know that many, perhaps most, of the traditional side are theologically solid. Our own conference sent several traditionalists who are incredibly intelligent and well-versed theologically. I can't think of a single homophobe in our delegation.

Clearly, you're writing through your pain, which is perfectly understandable. But I hope the UMC can arrive at a place where all sides can embrace and speak lovingly of one another in Christ, trying to model forgiveness and grace even where we have strong disagreements. Perhaps when it comes to holy conferencing, we all have a lot to learn.

BTW - I watched online when you spoke from the floor. You did a nice job.

Becca Clark said...

Dear Anonymous,

In the face of Will's incredible bravery, declaring his sexuality before a hostile body of thousands, do you think you could show a little spine and post your name along with your thoughts?

Thanks.

Becca Clark said...

Will,

I watched the whole thing, and I hope you got my hug via Megan. I was so proud to watch you speak; your bravery and your faith in our church is inspiring. The second time, my husband was in the room and exclaimed, "Hey I know that guy! We heard him preach at CWM!" I know today is tough. Just getting out of bed was a challenge this morning. Know that the prayers haven't stopped, just because that legislation is done.

(on a side note, could we not vote on the majority/minority report first, then ammend and debate *one* report? I know it's a different 'rule,' but since the presiding bishop can aparently make a motion to suspend the rules and call the question, perhaps we can be more flexible with palimentary procedure).

I am grateful that the anti-transgender legislation did not pass, and the anti-homophobia resolution did. One person asked if that meant the Boy Scouts, who discriminate against gay persons in the selection of scout leaders, could therefore no longer meet in our churches. I don't know about that, but I have decided that functions of the United Methodist Church, which also discriminates against gay persons (and how!) can no longer meet in my church building.

Hey, I'm the pastor. It's my right to decide such things. [/snark]

Seriously, this post made me cry, as did the situation. Hang in there.

With love and solidarity,
Becca

Becca Clark said...

Keith (and Anonymous),

I'm glad you can see the pain that glbt persons and their allies are feeling this day. I guess my biggest question is what is the resistance to language that honestly states "Christians of good faith disagree on the matter of whether or not homosexual practices are sinful"? Clearly we disagree, but time and time again, when glbt persons and their allies offer this language, it is shot down. I can only conclude that those in support of the 40-yr-old wording do not consider us to be "Christians of good faith." I can't tell you how many times I've been asked "Have you actually *read* the Bible?"

When I become convinced that the Holy can will for people to be demeaned and dehumanized and forced out of ministry and life together in Christ where they are bearing much fruit, I will consider the possibility that the current UMC stance is Spirit-led and theologically sound. Until such time, I remain convinced that Christ lived that we may have life and love and faith in abundance.

Seeking the Spirit,
Becca

Larry b said...

I've watched the debate on both sides as this unfolded and read this blog often even though I disagree.

I can only express sympathy for Will's pain even though it may come across as shallow. However Keith's point is most salient here and I'm saddened that Will's pain led to his striking out with derogatory name calling which is usually a hallmark of the other extreme of the debate. It is perhaps understandable, but no less of a dissapointment.

Dave said...
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Dave said...
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Dave said...

I've re-written this a couple of times...

I am shocked that someone would write

"General Conference is mostly composed of theologically incompetent homophobes who are afraid to think on their own"

I have seen several posts out there in the web that talk of anguish and despair, but not with this type of venom. It's like "let's holy conference, but only if my side gets it's petitions passed".

I am a middle-of-the-road type of guy. This isn't the only issue for me when came to this GC, and whether or not to even stay in the denomination.

Do you believe the Spirit was present at this GC?
Do you believe in the structure / system of the UMC & the GC?
Do you believe that your fellow UM's are faithfully following God as the Spirit leads them?

Maybe instead of beating our heads against the wall in another 4 years, maybe we should consider these questions.

Matt Algren said...

In response to Dave, I see what you're saying, but I think you aren't seeing the emotion involved. You're a 'middle-of-the-road type of guy'. So am I. But this isn't a 'middle-of-the-road' type of issue. I firmly believe that this is one of those cases in which you're either with us or you're against us. Either you (plural 'you', by the way, not you personally) ascribe to holy standards of inclusion or you (not you personally) tell the fags to get out.

What happened yesterday (with a fortunately close margin) was the UMC telling the fags to get out of their church.

You'll have to pardon the man for taking it personally. On his birthday, for goodness sake.

Will, I don't know you, but yes, Jesus loves you. You know why? Because the Bible tells me so. Don't let a bigoted policy get in the way of that. We'll try again in 2012.

Man, that seems like forever.

Dave said...

For me personally, this feels like we have all lost.

Thom said...

Hey Will. Hang in there. You all did great, and the road to liberation is inevitable. How many years from separation into MECh and MECh, South, over slavery? We're on track, and if we were voting as an American Central Conference on this issue, I'm sure we'd already be there. Along with the blessings of our traditional African brothers and sisters comes a need for patience on this issue, but I read all the time about a growing GLBT witness in African churches; the day is coming. I felt a great sadness for the Right wing yesterday, watching them cling to the old language, so afraid to tell the truth of our loving disagreement in Christ. If a few words in a book help them feel safe for a season, then I guess I can abide it, but the damage done in the meantime is so needless.

Anyway, happy birthday, and get some sleep on the plane.

William D. Lindsey said...

Will Green, I'm not a Methodist. I am a fellow traveler, though.

I'm writing to express my solidarity with you. I linked to your posting on my blog today at http://bilgrimage.blogspot.com/2008/05/we-are-all-care-of-one-another.html

There will come a day when the walls of Jericho tumble. We may not see it happen in our lifetime, unfortunately. The rich and powerful of the world have made this their issues (the bashing of gays via the church), and the churches--most of them, unfortunately--have too much invested with the rich and powerful to call into question their savage treatment of LGBT folks.

Still, I firmly believe that God sees. God hears. And God weeps along with those who suffer injustice.

God won't be always silent, of that I feel very sure. Meanwhile, the ties that bind many of us who are LGBT, and who hang on by our fingernails despite the savage attempts to drive us away, grow ever strong, even across denominational lines. Please keep on keeping on!

Mary Beth said...

Hi Will. We met several years ago at Broadway, I'm a friend of Tiff. I'm so sorry about today...so sorry for all of us. Your speech was excellent and you are brave. Best for the rest of GC.

Anonymous said...

My name is Ronnie, I'm the OP, listed as "anon." I don't have a blog and don't post often, but normally do post my name. Just didn't think to do it at 3:24 in the morn. :)

Thank you for your reply Becca, and while I do appreciate the emotional trauma Will is feeling, I think his true beliefs have clearly been expressed with regard to those who are theologically conservative.

For me, and for most who agree with me on this issue, the problem is not with the homosexual lifestyle, per se, and there is no hatred in my heart. The issue is about the UMC being faithful to scripture in all of our doctrines and missions.

The language states that only monogamous, hetero sex is Biblical. How is that more discriminatory of GLBT than it is of adultery or non-married heteros?

This is about affirming a scriptural view of sexuality, and for 9 straight G.C.'s it has been forced to be "front and center", mostly by the GLBT movement. I don't think theological conservatives give this more "weight" than any other sexual sin, but we are forced to deal with it far too often in the UMC. Along with dealing with the issue, comes labeling, name-calling, protests, advocacy groups, etc. While this is true for both sides, a quick perusal of Methoblogger or a google search will show which "side" spends the greatest time, energy, and money promoting their views.

I think we are all fragile, all struggle with sinfulness, and as a hetero male, I daily struggle to honor God in my thought life and relations. The struggle, I'm sure, is just as hard for a Christian who has homosexual desires. I don't condemn, look down upon, or devalue the struggle for them. In fact I identify and relate to the struggle of not yielding to sexual sin.

The major difference is that I don't celebrate sexual sin. I confess, I grieve, I seek accountability and restoration. But I don't celebrate or elevate sexual sin.

I understand that Becca, Will, et. al. do not believe homosexual sex to be sinful, but the Bible is extremely clear on this subject to me and the majority of the UMC. I don't see any scriptural authority for your cause, and I can't help but wonder why you continue to push so hard in this denomination when the answers have been so clear for so long.

It seems contradictory, in fact, to push for "inclusion" and to seek "holy conferencing", while at the same time creating such dis-unity and taking focus away from the mission of making disciples.

Furthermore, believing that all people who are of different views are simply "theologically incompetent homophobes," does not ever allow one to really truly hear or understand the other side. You've already made up your mind about me, just as you claim I have done about you. I'm speaking in generalities, but I think anyone reading should easily get the point.

Here is another honest question:

After nearly 40 years of "discrimination", why stay? Why not seek fellowship in a denomination that is more "welcoming" and "tolerant"?

This is an honest question...

Tim Fisher said...

Hi Will,

I posted here earlier, but somehow my post seems to have disappeared.

Please know that you and the UMC are in our thoughts and prayers. I know that the weight of the vote is heavy.

Tim Fisher
Lutherans Concerned/North America

Becca Clark said...

Ronnie,

First, thank you for responding, and please forgive me for jumping on your post earlier. Like Will, I'm very upset about what has happened, and felt a little raw. In the face of his self-disclosure, I smarted a little at your anonymity. I'm sorry for my reaction.

You wrote: The language states that only monogamous, hetero sex is Biblical. How is that more discriminatory of GLBT than it is of adultery or non-married heteros?

First and foremost, because a monogamous gay couple in nearly all of the 50 US states cannot chose to be married and so are in a catch-22.

It's true that I don't believe that homosexuality is a sin. I believe that the passages of the Bible which may read that way are being taken out of their historical context and are not to be interpreted literally today. I would refer you to the excellent documentary "For the Bible Tells Me So" for a theological explanation of why I hold this position. I also don't think that glbt persons and their allies create the division that distract the church from its mission. We draw attention to a division that is already there and seek to rid the church of this sin of commission, one of the ways that we willfully harm ourselves and others by misusing scripture and understandings of God's justice to exclude sisters and brothers. We do not create the division, but we cannot be silent as it persists.

I hear you and others say that you take no joy in the pain that people feel and grieve with us in our pain, but I often find it hard to believe. I'm sorry I can't be more understanding of that position, but it feels like a platitude. I don't know how a person can feel the pain that the glbt community feels and not stand with them in solidarity.

On the topic of why I remain in a church that has what I believe to be a grievous and wrong position of human sexuality, I have posted on this at length at 7villages, the UM social networking site. Rather than recreating that wheel, I'll give you the link to that thread; my post in question is about 3/4 of the way down the page, and I don't think you need to have an account to see the thread. It's the post by 'Becca Clark' at 8:39 am on 4/24. http://www.7villages.com/discuss_topic.asp?p=40948&n=5

Thanks again for posting in the face of my lashing out a bit.

Seeking peace,
Becca

Matt Algren said...

Ronnie, please don't call it a 'lifestyle'. That obscures the issue.

You say: "I understand that Becca, Will, et. al. do not believe homosexual sex to be sinful, but the Bible is extremely clear on this subject to me and the majority of the UMC. I don't see any scriptural authority for your cause, and I can't help but wonder why you continue to push so hard in this denomination when the answers have been so clear for so long."

Along with Becca's recommendation (I have that movie sitting in a Netflix envelope at home right now. I couldn't bring myself to watch it last night.), I would point you to whosoever.org/bible for a thorough, concise, intelligent explanation of the truth of Biblical mistranslation and misuse.

As for why we stay, this is our church. We see the good being done in other areas of the church. Her mission and her people are not bound by this one issue, and many times this one issue is not viewed the same at a local level. It's kind of like telling somebody that if they don't like one American law they should go live in France.

And frankly, we can do more good from within than we can from without.

Will Green, thanks for being on the floor when this went down. Thank you for marking the moment. Hopefully I'll be able to join you in Tampa 2012.

I linked to this post in my blog today. Hope you don't mind.

jadedjabber said...

Tim, Greetings to a fellow Lutheran! Woohoo

People often say that the case has not been made, scripturally nor traditionally, that lgbt persons should be accepted as full members of the UMC church (or enter different denomination.

I think that reading the Bible in Greek, or at least looking at the sections which are debated in Greek is something that we do not do enough. That, in it of itself, was enough to make me stop and think.

Tradition: Well that depends on how you see tradition. There actually is a tradition for change. People at one time said that the seperation of the races was a "God ordained" fact. If you look at the rhetoric it sounds oddly similar to the God ordained heterosexuality rhetoric. We have, traditionally, from Luther on-taken the tradition we were born into and attempted to make it a more just, faithful, and relevant expression of our faith in God and God's will on earth. Tradition, then, is fully behind the inclusion of LGBT people.

So I guess, I would put the question back; how is tradition and scripture NOT supportive of LGBT inclusion

Rick said...

Thanks for your courageous stand at GC on behalf of LGBT sisters and brothers in the UMC. I wish I could have been there. 4 yrs ago I was in Pittsburgh with RMN and Soulforce. It was my 'goodbye' to the denomination I had been born into and had served as a pastor for 17 years. Four years earlier I was at the GC in Cleveland. THAT year I was working behind the scenes with the 'renewal' groups - handing out leaflets for Good News and kibbitzing in the 'war room' with the chief strategists to keep LGBT persons in their place. Yes, there was rejoicing there - and no, I did see or feel pain expressed on behalf of those being further marginalized.

I thank God for the grace that finally led me out of the darkness of denial into the freedom and light of accepting who God made me to be. This week I have grieved, once more, the legislation that prevents me from serving the church I have loved all my life. I pastor today in a denomination that does not discriminate on the basis of orientation. Some day the UMC will be in the hands of my children and others who will choose reason over reaction and people over politics.

Elephant said...

Hello Will and everyone,

I met you at GC and sat in on your sub committee and legislative committee, and then saw the beginning of the discussion on the floor before I had to head out. I came across this blog when looking for responses to the decisions on Wednesday. Time and time again, you impressed me with your candor, your honest expression, your insightful addition to the discussion (so many people talk just to repeat a point that has already been said or does not address the issue at hand). It is hard enough work to walk up to those microphones and state your name, let along allow yourself to be vulnerable about your experiences. If any of you had seen Will in any of these discussions, you would have seen how patient, caring, and accepting he was of different perspectives and viewpoints. So I'm not so alarmed at your "harsh" words, according to some. They weren't the attitudes you showed consistently in the process and they are, in my mind, an accurate description of many of the people.

What I find unusual is that we are so scared of naming what is true racism, sexism, homophobia. If you are homophobic, it simply means, by the definition in any common dictionary, that you discriminate against homosexuals. By that definition, every single United Methodist contributes to homophobia, in that we discriminate against homosexuals that might wish to be ordained, accepted and nurtured in their sexuality, members at certain churches, or to be married. One person who was quite in favor of the minority report even admitted this on the floor--saying that our Disciple DOES discriminate against homosexuals in many places. That is homophobia, my friends.

I think we first need to start owning up to our own contributions to discrimination, whoever we are. Though I am a female pastor, I am aware that I too act in sexist ways and discriminate against other females. This may happen with males too, but I am an active participant in systems that perpetuate this form of discrimation and oppression.

Lastly, as someone who studied this topic extensively in grad school, the bible is NOT clear on its stance or position or viewpoints on this issue. I read through about 35 different biblical scholars' works on homosexuality, and not a single one of them agreed with each other. Smart enough to throw out such labels as conservative or liberal, these biblical scholars were wise to admit this topic was not a two-sided issue. There are many nuances and variances that contribute. I had to narrow them down, and so for my final paper and presentation, was able to definitively name 11 different perspectives on the Bible's language regarding homosexuality. I suggest many of you who think this is a clear and concise idea do the same.

Will, great job. Keep fighting. I was so discouraged to find out what had happened after I left. I take inspiration from your ability to share your experience and move forward through these tough times.

Peace,
Brooke Heerwald


to be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
--ee cummings