A Sea of Red…


If your preferred social network friend list is anything like mine, the above image has repeated itself over and over again since the last week.  By replacing the profile pic formerly of their cat, dog, kid, or lunch, millions of people are declaring their declaration of support of marriage equality in the United States.  Instantly folks from all over the country were changing their pics, and the image went viral in a matter of hours.

As a result, millions of people logged and saw the flood of red in news feeds and status updates.   Now a week has past, and our limited attention spans are quickly being nudged elsewhere.  As such, you are slowly seeing a return of the aforementioned puppy, kid, or burger.   Come June, when the Supreme Court is slated to issue their ruling, I imagine that there will be few, if any, of the icons left on pages.  Perhaps on the eve of that decision there will be a new image that goes viral.


A Hope and Sadness (Tempered).

As General Conference of the UMC comes to an end, the best sense of where we are as a church seems best to be described as “hope and sadness – tempered.”   I have seen and heard a large number of fellow UMs possessing such a great passion to be that church that becomes the face of Jesus to our world by practicing radical and transformative inclusionary love, that I know deep down that my children will not inherit the same United Methodist Church that I serve within.    They will one day have that church of radical love.    The example of so many in Tampa goes to attest to that fact. 

(I offer my thanksgiving to them)

At the same time, I also am sad.    A piece of my heart has been broken yet again.    I think of the many friends and fellow faithful who have been hurt and continue to be hurt by many policies of the church.   Although I celebrate the signs and celebration of repentance shared during this conference for the very real hurts the church has caused in the past (with Native Americans, Women, and Race), I cant help but interpret those moments with a hint of irony.

Repentance is a ” an admission of guilt a promise or resolve not to repeat the offense; an attempt to make restitution for the wrong, or in some way to reverse the harmful effects of the wrong where possible.”  Is it truly repentance if we resolve but dont change?    I wonder how old my children will be, when the church has an evening of repentance for the injustice of  we shared under the banner of United Methodism today.   It is sadness that many will erroneously point to us – as leaders of the church – as ask why we were so broken or why we could allow it to happen.

Will the see our indecision as a reason to turn away?   Will they see our unwillingness to talk as yet another reason for leaving our faith?   Will they be scarred by our inaction?   Will they – or their children – feel that there is no place or pew for them?  Although we can celebrate the diversity of views, theology, and biblical understanding, why do we find it so hard to just simply talk?  Why is holy conversation so hard?

In the end, one day my kids will have to justify, explain, or rationalize my action or inaction today.    I hope that my children will know that their father was a proud and strong Christian, a faithful student of Wesleyan theology, and a man who loved his church passionately and with great conviction.   

I also pray that my children will know that my God and my Jesus is one of LOVE (capital LOVE intended!).  They will know that Daddy never looked at another man or woman and saw brokeness first and foremost, but rather saw the face of God staring back.  The will know that Daddy made a practice of embracing whole and full LOVE of his neighbor, as opposed to hiding behind the powers and principalities of politics, nationalism, or silly catch phrases such as “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” 

My girls will know, because I will continue to stand up, stand alongside, stand for, stand with, and stand before those who are hurt or marginalized by society and/or the church.    I do so as my own act of repentance.   I do so because of who I know Jesus to be.    They will know because I will continue to stand with those like Mark.  I will “Stand, because we…And I…can do a lot better.” (emphasis mine).

The following is an article from UM Insight, a General Conference educational project of St. Stephens UMC.

Love Your Neighbor Campaign Urges UMC to “Stand With Mark”

After forty years of the exclusionary policies, the General Conference conducted only one hour of “holy conversation” on the subject of the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people on first day of the General Conference. Many people reported experiencing hurtful words during these “holy conversations.” Members of the coalition working for full inclusion set the tone for the coming week by speaking out against demeaning words and actions against LGBT people.

During the Thursday evening plenary, Mark Miller, a delegate and openly gay man, brought the concerns of the coalition before the General Conference. As he rose to speak, allied delegates began to gather around as a visible sign of support.

 The following is the text of Miller’s witness:

As an elected, credentialed member of this General Conference, I am offering my voice to say that the attempt at Holy Conversation about Human Sexuality yesterday was incomplete. The process failed because of a lack of leadership and oversight. It failed because there wasn’t any careful preparation that really respects people and takes this work seriously.

So we are standing as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender delegates. Yesterday the United Methodist Church did us harm. When we are harmed, the church is harmed. We serve at every level of the church though no one will admit it. We were bullied, emotionally, spiritually and physically. And no one did anything. We were harmed by the lack of leadership by the bishops. We abide by Wesley’s rule of Do No Harm and that rule was broken.

We are standing because we’re not going to wait for broken promises to fix themselves. We’ve learned that in this church waiting doesn’t work. So now we’re being proactive. It’s time for this church to live our resurrection faith. And I know that there are others delegates who are GLBT and delegates who have family members and colleagues who are GLBT. We invite you to stand with us at this moment. All means all. Stand. Stand, because we can do a lot better.

At Mark’s invitation, those in the audience stood at their seats. The Presiding Bishop ruled Mark’s witness out of order. His words generated a “Stand with Mark” campaign which quickly went viral on Twitter (#standwithmark). The comments on Twitter supported both Mark, and called for the United Methodist Church to oppose bullying words and actions.

In the closing worship healing service, Bishop Robert Hoshibata preached on “Love Heals.” He reported that he wanted “the church to include all, whomever they love.” Supporters for full inclusion left worship early to stand in silent protest. According to one witness, there were over 200 people standing in silent vigil outside worship. Delegates walked past the demonstration, a visible reminder that LGBT people are still an active part of the church, despite exclusionary policies.


For more information on the history of this discussion within the UMC, the following link is a great primer.  http://um-insight.net/articles/will-the-umc-say-%27i-do%27/  This is also the same source of the article above.   The chalice is the one broken (to symbolize broken communion) at the Pittsburg General Conference, and reassembled as a sign of the desire for healing and one of the greatest artifacts of the contemporary UMC.  (Mark DuBose of the UM News Service)

The Next Step

The Next Step in the UMC Same Sex Marriage Debate:.

Although more than 900 United Methodist Clergy across the United States have contacted their respective Bishops declaring their intention of officiating same sex marriages as an act of faith, as of this morning a group within the New York Annual Conference of the UMC has taken it to the next step.   In an act of defiance of the formal rules of the greater church, these clergy people have reached out, with names and contacts, to the LGBT community in their region, offering to act..     In the end, this is akin to saying “we will, and we will now.”

The group notes that this move is unprecedented and is already causing ripples across New York and Connecticut, mere hours after the announcement was released.

There is certainly a great many opinions on this subject, and is certain to raise the temperature of the debate inside and outside of the church.   Believing that our church can move beyond this issue if we implement and practice Holy Conversation and Patience, as well as prayer,  I am very interested in hearing your thoughts, on new chapter in both the debate and the life of the church.

  • Are you happy/angry by this move?
  • Are you scared/encouraged by this new direction?
  • Is this a good/bad/or indifferent thing for both the local and greater United Methodist Church.
  • Are we “Christian enough” to finally (or continue to)have this conversation as a church and a family?

The following is the press release issued this morning:

Methodist Group to Perform Gay Weddings (10/17/2011)

A group of 900 United Methodists in New York and Connecticut today announced their intention to make weddings available to all people, gay and straight, in spite of their denomination’s ban on gay marriage. The announcement marks the kick-off of a project called We do! Methodists Living Marriage Equality. In an unprecedented move in any major religious denomination, We do! is not only bypassing the formal rules of the church, but also reaching out directly to LGBT groups in New York and Connecticut to let them know about the new network. This morning the group published a list of all its members: clergy members who will perform weddings for gay couples, lay members of the denomination who support them, and congregations who have adopted policies to formally make weddings available to all couples.

“We refuse to discriminate against any of God’s children and pledge to make marriage equality a lived reality within the New York Annual Conference, regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression,” the group declared in statement called A Covenant of Conscience and signed by 164 clergy members, 732 lay people and six entire congregations. In all, 74 congregations within the New York Annual Conference (NYAC) are represented among the signers. NYAC is the regional church body representing United Methodist congregations from Long Island to the Catskills and in southern Connecticut. The full list of signers, as well as the text of the covenant is here: http://www.mindny.org/mind-initiatives/marriage-initiative/covenant-of-conscience.

“My ordination vows require me to minister to all people in my congregation,” said Rev. Sara Lamar-Sterling, the minister at First and Summerfield United Methodist Church in New Haven, CT. “This is about pastoral care, about welcoming all people, but especially the marginalized and the oppressed, like Jesus did.” Lamar-Sterling and her clergy colleagues are risking their jobs and their careers by taking this stand, but they say their integrity as pastors leaves them no choice but to refuse the church’s mandate to discriminate. Over the years, many individual United Methodist clergy have defied the church’s ban, but the We do! project marks the first time an organized network of clergy has done so, and done so with the support of many hundreds of lay members of the church.

“The recognition of the full humanity, sacred worth, and equal rights of gay and lesbian people is crucial to the civil rights struggle of our time. Gay, lesbian, and straight United Methodist laity and clergy are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny,” the Covenant of Conscience states, citing Martin Luther King’s famous Letter from Birmingham Jail.  “The continuing denial of full access to all the rights and privileges of church membership in the United Methodist Church is causing deep spiritual harm to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters and is a threat to us all.”

The United Methodist Church Book of Discipline, the rulebook that governs the country’s third largest Christian denomination, states “Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.” It is one of several anti-gay provisions of the church, which since 1972 has declared “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” The church General Conference meets quadrennially to revise the Discipline and the issue of LGBT exclusion has been hotly debated at each General Conference in the last 40 years. The next General Conference will be April 24 through May 4, 2012, in Tampa, Florida. 


For Additional Information/Sources:

Just a note on the organization of the United Methodist Church:

Each year—usually in May or June—all clergy members and an equal number of lay members selected from the local churches attend their conference’s Annual Conference. Churches in New Hampshire are part of the New England Annual Conference, for example.   These conference sessions meet together to worship, fellowship, and conduct the business of the conference, which may last 3-5 days. During these sessions, members of the conference hear reports of past and ongoing work; adopt future goals, programs and budgets; ordain clergy members as deacons and elders; and elect delegates to Jurisdictional (Which exist to elect new Bishops, Select members of Boards and Agencies, and provide training and leadership foundations) and General Conferences (Which serve as the voice for the entire congregation). The bishop presides over these meetings. (edited from originals found at UMC.org -Rainbow Image CCL Lic. Tamara Reed)

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