In the Crosshairs, at the Crossroads: Perspectives of LGBTQI Delegates
Series introduction: Given that the fate of LGBTQI people is at the center of the struggle over the future of the UMC, and that LGBTQI people represent only 2% of the General Conference 2019 delegates, the experience
- Rev. Gregory Gross, UMC: Care For The Children!
The Sin of Patience
Dr. Dorothee Benz
What will it say about the followers of John Wesley – not to mention the followers of Jesus Christ – if in this historical moment of crisis the United Methodist Church does nothing? What message does it send if the church decides to get rid of some pieces of discrimination and keep others and celebrates this as victory? What moral cover does it give to those who build walls on our border, pass legislation targeting queer kids in need of foster care, or seek to disenfranchise Black voters with voter ID laws?
Are “all people of sacred worth,” or just some?
Underlying all acts of discrimination and exclusion is an act of othering, of treating a human being or a class of human beings as somehow different (e.g., inferior, more dangerous, less intelligent) and therefore not worthy of the same rights, respect, etc. Whether we admit it or not, we cannot single out people for disparate treatment without this act of othering. And conversely, if we fully, truly recognize other human beings as fundamentally the same as ourselves – as equals – it becomes impossible to systemically mistreat them.
For LGBTQI United Methodists, this simple truth has long been the source of immense grief and pain underlying the specific harms of the church’s codified discrimination against us. Our Book of Discipline says “all people are of sacred worth,” but if church leaders really believed this, LGBTQI people would not
None of these things would be possible if our siblings in Christ truly saw us as their siblings in Christ.
It’s shocking, really, that we as a church have legislated LGBTQI people into subordinate members. Of some worth, maybe sacred-ish worth, but not sacred worth.
It’s shocking, too, that as we approach this special General Conference – called expressly to resolve the church’s impasse over homophobia – that the complete elimination of discrimination is not considered a possible outcome. The best we can get, we are told, is some version of the One Church Plan.
I don’t disagree with the assessment that the votes for full repeal of all the anti-queer provisions in the BOD are not there, but I do vehemently disagree with the willingness to settle for this as the horizon of our vision and our demands.
The Simple Plan is the moral baseline for this General Conference. It is the only plan written with non-token LGBTQI involvement, and the only one that does not re-inscribe discrimination into some other part of the denomination.
If we can’t even imagine a UMC without anti-LGBTQ discrimination, if after a half century of struggle we cannot insist that the only acceptable and just outcome would be an unqualified recognition of our sacred worth, then we should just close up shop now. We have no business calling ourselves Christians.
Of the many, many lessons and imperatives offered to us by MLK’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, there is this at the very end of the Letter:
“If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood [sic], I beg God to forgive me.”
There comes a time when patience is a sin. May we not be guilty of that sin as we enter and emerge from General Conference.
Dr. Dorothee Benz is a delegate to General Conference from the New York Conference. She is the founding chair of Methodist in New Directions and serves as its national representative.
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