Current calls to “close” the highest doctrine-making body of the United Methodist Church are being made by persons of privilege who are ignoring what it means to put the abused in the same room with the abuser…alone.
General Conference Behind a Big Wall
Back in 2012, General Conference–the top legislative body of the United Methodist Church–was protested by progressives calling for the full inclusion of LGBT persons in the life of the church. Bishop Michael Coyner from Indiana called to close the General Conference and have police remove all non-delegates. While that decision was later reversed and no part of GC2012 was closed, the idea was retained in the consciousness of those seeking procedural advantage in the debate.
This past week in 2014, Dr. David Watson, Academic Dean of United Theological Seminary in Ohio, wrote that the 2016 General Conference in Portland should be closed to non-delegates from the get-go:
I suggest that we close the GC meeting space to all but delegates, bishops, and other essential personnel. Anyone who wishes to watch the proceedings can do so via live streaming. We should ban all caucus groups from having a presence inside our gathering space: no protests, no signs, no distribution of materials, no flash mobs, no stopping our work together. We should focus on the business at hand with as little distraction as possible…To have all of this business function in an atmosphere of constant distraction is unfair to the people who care deeply about [other] ministries.
The Via Media Methodists (sigh: this is the second post where The Watson and the VMM are together–what’s up with that?) also support this plan. However, they obviously haven’t attended GC: they say “the floor should be closed like Annual Conference” when that’s exactly how GC is set up now. They have an area closed to delegates only and with observation bleachers. Watson is proposing closing the entire room to anyone but delegates and pre-authorized people. Regardless, here’s why:
Closing the floor would prevent some of ideological grandstanding by unelected and uninvited parties. No protests. No propaganda. No seizing the table. No caucuses, at least inside the bar. Just doing the work the church has called this body to do
Finally, Joel Watts also supports this idea because to him, holy = separate.
So from the perspective of these guys, the body needs to be closed for a matter of integrity: GC cannot do what they are charged to do with outside people in the bleachers or within visual range of the speeches.
What We Don’t Get
Looking at the list of people calling for such things, here’s the thing: there’s a lot of things that particular demographics just don’t get.
- Men don’t need a friend to watch our bar drink when we go to the bathroom.
- White Men don’t need an advocate when we make a complaint about the police, or a translator when applying for asylum, or hope for a video camera on a cop that shoots them.
- Straight White Men don’t have to bring a partner to Thanksgiving dinner to feel safe with our families.
- Married Straight White Men don’t need to be walked home, and after being dropped off, we don’t need to be watched from the car to make sure we make it in the door.
I know because I am a married straight white man and rarely not in the majority culture. And I often have to see beyond my privilege, and I’m thankful to gracious friends who call me on it.
So hear this and understand: General Conference is a big scary room for our LGBT members and delegates. Imagine being in a room with people who want to change you, who want to ignore you, who want to exclude you, and in some cases, if you were in their country, who would turn you in to face the death penalty.*
Now imagine you are alone.
You don’t have to imagine what is needed to remedy this situation. Look at this picture taken when LGBT and straight allies made a declaration from the floor of General Conference 2012:
There’s a reason why advocates are invited to be with people at decision-making moments: it’s scary going at it alone. The protestors and the silent witnesses who stand when a statement is made at the microphone–the ones who blow whistles when renounced churchmen like Albert Outler called LGBT people sinful and promiscuous–they aren’t there for you. They are there to support the delegates who love their church but are in the lion’s den, and the gay MethoNerd teens who might happen to be watching from home on the livestream, yearning for change.
That’s why an open and transparent General Conference is so important. Its current form (with a distinct bar where only delegates can be, but non-delegates are in the room) is both inclusive of the voices of the diversity of Methodism and functional to allow for clarity of voting. You want a
via media both/and? You got it already.
Navigating a Tense Situation
Dr. Dorothee Benz, a GC2016 delegate from New York and outgoing chairperson of MINDNY, writes:
“As if the slogan ‘therefore, go’ weren’t enough of a marketing disaster for a denomination known for its exclusion of LGBTQ people, now comes the proposal to literally close the doors at General Conference and conduct its queer-bashing business away from any public scrutiny. This is a terrible idea, shockingly undemocratic and exclusive. What made the conferencing in 2012 unholy was not protest, but rather the abuse heaped on LGBTQ delegates by other delegates and the silent complicity of those presiding.
Public scrutiny is an essential antidote to abuses of power of all kinds, including the kind of spiritual violence we have been subjected to at General Conference. The proposal to close the doors at General Conference is nothing less than an attempt to make vulnerable minorities defenseless.”
– Dr. Dorothee Benz
So, yes, straight white men, it’s uncomfortable. Yes, it’s disruptive. Yes, those ministries that are So Important To You™ are not being given equal time.
Because the Church is doing violence and requiring the abused must be alone in the room with the abuser, without support or advocates, is a requirement that would be ludicrous in civil society.
If you want equal time, if you really want to stop the distractions at General Conference, then stop the abuse, fully include LGBT persons in the life of the church, and we can get back to peacefully discerning the best forms of the church in the rest of Christendom.
But if what you really want is to make decisions without seeing the consequences on people’s faces, and to use procedural motions to cow LGBT delegates into silent submission on the floor, then be honest about it.
Guys, I understand. It’s hard to see how a seemingly innocent change would actually make the room more harmful for persons without our privilege. But while General Conference cannot easily do what they are charged to do with an open forum, they cannot be the Church that “does no harm” with a closed one. Let’s start there.
Open Hearts* Open Minds** Open Doors***
*when we are comfortable
**when we argee with you
***when you are like us and aren’t challenging us
Well stated. thank you.
Open hearts, minds, doors. Can only pray (and vote and speak out) that we as Christians and as a denomination can walk the talk we profess to believe. A closed meeting? I think not. This is the work we need to do at conference.
John Taylor Wesley
If you think you are a member of a group, based on a belief you share and a book of discipline, but you don;t believe what they do or abide by that very book,
guess what, you aren’t actually a member of that group.
Perhaps the biggest issue the LGBT protesters have with the UMC is that they aren’t really members of the church. Or else they would abide by the rules. If they disagree there is nothing stopping them from making their own denomination that agrees with them.
The room is always scary for *all* of us who are called to repent of sin (including me), whether that sin is sexual in nature or not. You’re suggesting we should ignore or embrace sin, which would be hateful, not loving. We should graciously confront sin, whether that sin is sexual in nature or racism or sexism or whatever. Should the Church ignore or embrace sexual sin, racism, sexism, etc just because naming those things makes people uncomfortable?
Also, your suggestion that the naming of sin is abusive is beneath you, Jeremy. It’s like calling those who storm the floor after their side loses a debate terrorists. Neither theologically-flawed, politically-driven stereotype is true.
We should confront sin. In this case, the primary sin we need to confront is bigotry masquerading as faithfulness. It is abusive. It is unchristian. This has gone on way too long. We need to stop it. I am very sorry it is so painful for those who have been oppressing others to be told that they can no longer do it. I am sure it hurts to hear that message. Some day we will look back on this in the way that we now look back at those who opposed integration.
Bless your heart Keith, you’re apparently one of those stubborn people who still believes the Bible calls what we know today to be homosexuality as sin, and so you cling to that because you find it icky, so better to comfort yourself by cloaking up in your immature religious beliefs.
The sin of Sodom was being inhospitable (read the entire Bible sometime), so by all means, close and lock the doors, because that’s the response God calls us to. Right Keith?
Dear John, fellow brothers and sisters, if the sin of Sodom was inhospitability then why does Jude 1:7 read “just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” Jude calls Sodom’s sin sexual immorality and echos Paul’s Romans 1 language about unnatural passions. And a key word there is ‘pursued,’ holding us accountable to our actions despite having felt certain attractions from a young age.
Again in 2 Peter 2:6-8 the scriptures present the sin of Sodom as sexual and not about hospitality ” if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the SENSUAL CONDUCT of the wicked for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard; ”
With anguish and concern,
Brothers and sisters,
This debate rages on not out of fear and anger towards our brothers and sisters who are gay, although that is not the case for all people, but because there could be eternal ramifications for many involved if we get this wrong. For those that sin and do not repent and those that encourage our brothers and sisters to sin.
For the bible also says in Mark 9:42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”
We must ask ourselves, brothers and sisters, if Christ utterly convinced us that sleeping with someone of the same sex was a sin would we submit to God’s authority or cry out, “I know better and more loving than God.” We must look at scripture carefully and leave no stone unturned less a we place a millstone on our necks and on those we love.
Richard Worden Wilson
A big AMEN to Claudia’s comment here. Those who think we now know more about human sexuality than those chosen and inspired by Christ the Word to speak and lead God’s people into righteousness seem to need a closer walk with their Lord. Thinking we know better than God what we should do is the original biblical sin as portrayed in Genesis. There is no scriptural divergence regarding sexuality, even when we prioritize the teaching of the New Testament over the specifics of the Old; love of God comes first: believing, trusting, and obeying God are the appropriate outworking of love; loving people comes second; the rest is commentary.
This straight, white WOMAN agrees with the suggested policy. You forgot to note that MANY of the voting delgates are people of color, and there are even some non-straight (or crooked) voting delagates. I can name a few, and so can you.
The issue is the ability to do HOLY conferencing, not Biblical disobedience…
Biblical disobedience? Christ called on us to love one another, and leave the judgement to His Father. At least, that’s the message the UMC gave /me/, when I was young. Too bad they’ve veered so far off the path (or rather, are more open about how they disdain the path).
Yes, yes and yes!! All the best ways of saying this is so very wrong. Thank you, Jeremy for writing this.
As a male straight latino clergy in the UMC is important to be reminded of my privilege. Thank you Jeremy. I long for the day when the UMC as an institution will focus on biblical obedience and embrace everyone. God’s love is for everyone. In the mean time as Christian (aka follower of Christ) I will follow Christ’s example of denouncing injustices and standing in the side of the oppressed, because he came so that we might have life and have it abundantly as it says in John 10:10b Many times what the church does,or not does, gets in the way of people having that abundant life. I´m so thankful to God for having people like you, Jeremy, in the UMC.
All I know is at such a high monetary cost of putting on a GC shouldn’t the meetings be able to move without disruption from anyone. Congress allows people to observe without speaking or you are immediately ejected. Lobby outside, protest outside, but shouldn’t business of GC be allowed to proceed without unnecessary disruption?
BTW, be careful to claim that someone has never attended a GC unless you can back it up. Obviously you didn’t fact check that one!
Jon, I was one of the “whistle-blowers” (with actual whistles) at GC2012. After sitting through a morning when the delegates decided to debate for two or three hours whether God’s grace was available to all people – and then voting by a margin that wasn’t terribly heartening… 53%?… that grace is available to al, we had communicated to the bishops that we would no longer stand for vitriolic attacks on LGBT people from the floor of General Conference. We let them know that we had whistles, and that the next time a recognized delegate speaking at a microphone equated homosexuality with murder or other violent crimes, we would wait a beat to give the presiding bishop a chance to ask the delegate to refrain from such attacks during holy conferencing. We said that if the bishops would not disrupt this kind of hate speech on the floor of General Conference, then we would do so with our whistles.
As for arresting people for trespassing, don’t be so sure that such threats will have the outcome that you are aiming for. The call to love one another and the desire to build up a loving and justice-seeking church is pretty powerful. Our tradition teaches us many things about discipleship, including the very real possibility that radical obedience to the Gospel of Jesus Christ might land you in jail… or worse.
The optics of a closed GC would be VERY bad for the UMC. The optics of dragging faithful United Methodists away from the General Conference in handcuffs would be worse.
I think I will ask my Annual Conference to make sure that we send the entire Jurisdictional Conference Delegation, as well as their alternates to GC2016 so that our delegates need not be concerned that acts of solidarity with those who are locked out might leave empty seats when it’s time to vote.
See you in Portland.
Teri Nilson Baird
There was nothing holy about that discussion. It hurt my heart that people can be so judgmental about something they simply do not understand. Sadly, they think it must be condemned.
Jeni Markham Clewell
Here’s where we remember and contemplate the ministry of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. … or, if you prefer, what Jesus would do.
Closed does not mean secret, as I and others have made clear. There are legitimate concerns and corrections to be made to my proposal and to others’, but inventing conspiracies does not get us there.
No Drew, closed may not mean secret, but it does mean having the comfort of expressing your bigoted views (like the African delegate allowed by the presiding Bishop to compare homosexuality to bestiality right on the floor) to get away with it, without having to see the people you’re referring to. It clearly makes it easier to be a bigot, when one removes oneself from the view of people one wants to harm.
I was there, and it was with much trepidation that I too took to the floor in protest, but at some point…this harm the church is inflicting has to stop, and it won’t be stopped by protecting your bigotry behind closed doors. As another commenter noted, the solution to this is simple…stop the harm, stop the exclusion, stop the hateful language in the Discipline, and the problem will go away. How about that, just do the Christ-like thing instead of hiding yourself?
John, please explain to me what my bigoted views are and on what you are basing this insight about me.
When I read John’s statement, I did not believe he was stating your bigoted view – meaning “Drew McIntyre’s bigoted views”, but rather your as in the “Royal” or general “you”…
His response would have read better as “No Drew, closed may not mean secret, but it does mean having the comfort of expressing one’s bigoted views”
This comes as the context he gave immediately after about a speaker from Africa.
Nice to see how badly the HTML tags worked. Oi!
Thank you for the clarification, Dr. Long.
There are legitimate concerns and corrections that need to be made to the BOD.
Closing the floor at GC, not hearing the legitimate concerns, not hearing how people in the LGBTQ community are hurt by the hateful language retained GC after GC ad nauseum, IS the conspiracy. No Drew, what is wanted is for straight white men to have the only and final say as to WHO the “acceptable” people are within the precious BOD that you worship and magnify its holy name, world without end, amen.
Am I angry? You’re damned right I am. For 42 years. I am fully prepared for what will eventually happen at GC2016, which will no doubt retain the hateful language in the most precious Bible of Discipline; because straight white men are scared. What is it that they fear?
So please, yes, go ahead. Close your doors… and your minds… and your hearts. Just as you have for the past 42 years. Be exclusive. At the age of 57, I never thought I would live to see the day when I could legally marry my husband. We did. I can file our taxes jointly, and feel equal. I work for a wonderful congregation. But I can’t say that for all of the UMC, and I probably will not live long enough to see full inclusion within the UMC.
I am glad that you and your husband were able to be legally married. I believe that all rights and benefits available to straight couples should be given by states to LGBT couples.
But if you think that it is only “straight white men” who are standing in the progressives’ way at GC, you are very mistaken.
Not all are white men, you are correct. Some are African bishops who spread hate on the plenary floor and are not called out of order (unlike Mark Miller, who was called out of order. Don’t think I didn’t notice that.) And I’m sure some are women.
And thank you for being honest, that you feel states should give LGBBQ couples rights. I noticed you didn’t include the church. That exclusion is what is standing in the way of the church BEING the church. Hope you feel better now that you can defend your hate.
Is there a way to make those in power get it? Cuz the Gospel is not doing that, it seems.
You have some fair points here. But in the end, you blow your argument a little out of proportion. Like Holly Boardman said, its not just straight white males supporting the policy. Subsequently, labeling it as such is a bit misrepresentative. Plus, the delegates are not alone out on the floor if the Conference ends up closed. Each side has many representatives, so it’s not the “solo abuser/abusee in a room” illustration you refer to here. This is not to say there are not abusive attacks. The African delegate who referred to bestiality in connection LGBTQ people at the last GC is proof of this. But I chalk that up to a failure on the bishops and those in charge of the sub committees to control such rhetoric and provide an moderate atmosphere for governance.
In the end, I hope GC 2016 stays open. But if its ability to be the defining legislative body of Methodism is threatened by people on either side, then yes, closing it is a legitimate option as long as there is transparency to what is going on.. Democracy has to work this way sometimes, we elect these people to represent us, so we can not blame them when they ask us to step outside so they can lead.
It is however, mostly SWM from the IRD and such organizations who work mightily to organize the delegates from Africa, and ply them with cell phones and such in order to instruct them on how to vote. So while I agree it takes more than SWM to continue this farce, the organizers seem to primarily represent that demographic.
Jesus is all through Watson’s comments isn’t he? Not. Makes me glad I’m a newly minted “None”.
When are we truly going to have lovingly open hearts, compassionate open minds and inviting friendly doors? With that the thought of closing GC would be moot.
I write this not only to the author, but also to the many who have offered their thoughts. If the atmosphere of General Conference is as hostile, to any group, as described in this post and comments then I am ashamed to be a pastor in the UMC. I wonder if anything of lasting value can be accomplished when there is such vile hatred felt by opposing sides. We are a year and a half out and it has become obvious that dialogue is not desired. This post seeks to silence anyone who happens to be a white, straight male who may have a less than progressive theological understanding. I understand that, others have felt that WSMs have gagged non-WSMs for too long and that unless WSM voices are silenced the desired change will not come about. As a WSM I cannot fathom what it is like to not be one. But, I have experienced what it is like to want change, to want a voice at the table, and to desire that people look past my skin color, anatomy, and sexual orientation and see me only as a child of God. But I have largely been ignored or marginalized, seen to have little value of consequence. Once again, I can not fathom what it is like to be a non-WSM, but I could be your ally, even if not 100% with you. What scares me is the willingness to to verbally abuse each other, the willingness to threaten each other’s ministry, and the willingness to do so despite the harm caused to the kingdom. As I read this article I felt threatened, I became concerned that should I dare speak out in concern, ask questions, or dare offer an opposing view I would be labeled as a WSM homophobe desperately trying to maintain the status quo.
Why would you threaten me and those like me? Why make the road harder. Why not communicate with those like me in a way that invites us to think, invites us into a place of safe dialogue. Wouldn’t you like to walk into GC13 with WSMs who are willing to listen, willing to stand hand in hand with you despite the differences, and willing to consider change. Why create more enemies when what you need is more allies.
Yes, I desire a GC that is not high jacked by special interest. I want a GC that can conduct it business in a safe (for all) and loving manner. So yes, a closed but live streamed GC is appealing. I don’t want to hear rhetoric from any side. I want a working path forward. I don’t know what the path forward would like but I do know he has to be a path without threats. The people leading us can not threaten to break away or threaten to hold the UMC hostage. I know that if we are to be the Church, GC 2016 must be a holy, Spirit led gathering where all people are treated with dignity, compassion and seen as children of God, having value.
Scripture says that we will be known by our love. Can we move forward in love?
I appreciate your thoughtful comment here, and I think I understand your points, all of which are good. Here is the concern I have. You seem to refer, since this has largely come up in response to the protest actions by LGBT members at GC 2012, to LGBT people as a “special interest.” “I desire a GC that is not high jacked by special interest.”
I believe that is where the conversation breaks down. LGBT Methodists are not a “special interest.” We are Christians, Methodists, and members of the church catholic. We do find ourselves, as a group, having to actually fight for our full inclusion in the Methodist connection, but I resent being referred to as a “special interest.” I don’t want anything special Rev. Moreau, I want the same things you have in your Methodist experience. The right to be treated as an equal; the right to marry the person I love and have been with for 16 years, in MY church; the right to not have a governing document of my church which says my very normal life is not compatible with what other Methodist think it should be. Dr. Moreau, I know a lot of people calling themselves Methodist who I believe lead a life that is not compatible with our teachings, but I don’t ask to single them out in the Discipline.
I want the right, if I’m called, to be able to serve as an Elder in my church…all benefits you enjoy without exclusion, and we have waited Rev. Moreau, and waited and waited. But their comes a time one must demand what is our right as Methodists, and so now, in the face of GC delegates comparing my life to one of bestiality on the Conference floor, without repercussion, we demand to be treated as every other Methodist. To my thinking, it is the African delegates, and the IRD supportive delegates, and the likes of perennial anti-gay delegate Eddie Fox, who constitute a “special interest.” The interest of someone wanting to put down another in the name of their religious beliefs.
So, while I appreciate your concerns and desires, understand that I have a desire for full inclusion within the church to which I was born, and I’m too old to continue to wait. What would you have me do?
Special interest? You mean the full inclusion of all of God’s children? Thank you for being honest, for seeing that LGBTQ people aren’t people, but a “special interest.” Wow. Perhaps you would rather have people like me just leave. That way, you won’t have to deal with any special interests.
Jeni Markham Clewell
Privilege is sometimes blind.
Let me be clear. I don’t have a dog in this particular fight (though I will have one in a field next Wed. in southern Ohio). I won’t be anywhere near Portland, but I do want to make an observation about your fourth bullet point. My wife *ain’t* a straight white married male. She *has* worked nights in some very rough parts of Dallas, TX, Charlotte, NC, and Dayton, OH. And she’s *never* been walked home or dropped off. And she most certainly doesn’t need to be “watched.” The same goes for her step-mom, my mother, my sister, and a whole lot of other women I happen to know.
Jason, you obviously missed the logic of Jeremy’s post. It is impossible for him to wrong, for he is an Enlightened One. Therefore his sexism is justified.
Oh, you two!
All I can say is, the Lord be with him if he offers to walk any of the women in my family home at night.
Drew McIntyre, you went from a respectful engaged of Jeremy’s material to writing off everything he says and employing ad hominem attacks in every comment you make. If I didn’t know better I would say you were acting like a 3-year-old. I have lost a lot of respect for you. Maybe you ought to consider the consequences for your ministry before you hit “send”.
Carolyn, I have been pretty exasperated by this whole conversation, so I apologize if my frustration came out on screen. That said, feel free to employ the same high standards (not writing off everything an interlocutor says and using ad hominem) to the OP, who dismisses a carefully reasoned argument by three reasonably intelligent folks simply by calling them all (unenlightened) straight white males.
Drew- I think many are missing the point here. So many folks are operating from a place of privilege that they don’t even take the time or energy to walk a mile in the other person’s shoes. And that can refer to a straight African delegate or a straight white male one. The value in having an open General Conference is it forces one to confront their privilege. And that can be uncomfortable. I had the opportunity to hear you speak at a forum on the Ogletree case and you argued the value in hearing the other side. But if the other side is systematically excluded and marginalized through abusive behavior at GC that cannot happen. The outside groups are a check on that. I am concerned that Via Media Methodists are not seeking to first understand before seeking to be understood.
Thanks for your note, Jason. It’s helpful to remind us that some cultural norms are not shared. For example, I was raised in Oklahoma before the age of cell phones and taught to always make sure whoever you were dropping off got in the door okay. That may be a relic from a bygone era, or it might be just a difference in experience.
The thought that we have to defend including all to other followers of Jesus is mind-boggling!!! Can you even imagine Jesus condoning the exclusion of any group?!!! Discouraging to say the least.
Paula Trietsch Chaney
It is backward steps like this that have removed my family and many others from association with the United Methodist Church.
On a factual basis, Jeremy is simply wrong when he says that having the meeting space for the actual plenary sessions for General Conference be limited to the actual voting members is “how it is set up now.” Unfortunately, in 2012, Randall Miller (RMN board member) led the GCGC to have an open room where demonstrators marched and chanted around the delegates which also made storming the floor an effortless act. I think that Dr. Watson is going too far to say that the entire building should be closed but he modified that after discussion. If the argument is “free for all” versus “Star Chamber” then nothing is going to get done.
Having spectators in the bleachers has been the past practice before 2012 and is what we should go back to doing. People who act to take over the proceedings of General Conference should be arrested and charged with trespassing like they were in 2000. The enabling approach taken since has only served to embolden revisionists like Jeremy.
Creed- So you want to have us arrested for exposing the abuses that GC has perpetrated and continues to? As Br’er Rabbit used to say, “[p]lease don’t throw me in the briar patch!” I think you’d only be further exposing the cruelty of our denomination if you did that. Blessings, Rev. Paul Fleck
This is a never-ending debate. Both sides think the other side is misinterpreting the Bible. The problem is that the LGBT community and its supportive members think they are fighting for justice and equality. But the conservatives believe that they are protecting the church from wicked sin (homosexuality). This endless debate will only hurt the denomination and make matters worse. The UMC should either split or the LGBT community should consider joining the United Church of Christ.
>The UMC should either split or the LGBT community should consider joining the United Church of Christ.
My proposal is that the LGBT folks should stay (if they like) and help us save our church.
John- This God’s church. We are also a part of it. Rev. Paul Fleck
I think that as the UMC we need to keep in mind that we are supposed to have open hearts, minds, and doors.. right? Closed doors is in complete opposition to our mission. I grew up in the UMC, and am currently at a Methodist Seminary. I should be on track for ordination. I know that I have much to offer the church, but refuse to be ordained in a denomination that doesn’t follow the example that Christ set, to love all of God’s children. It isn’t our job to judge one another, that is for God, and God alone! I refuse to be a part of this denomination any longer, if we can not figure out the most important commandment that we should love God and equally love our neighbors!
Thank you Nicole for your faithful witness.
John & John,
My apologies, my objective was not to offend or to single out LGBTQIA as “Special Interest”. My thoughts were toward any who try to supplant the work of the church with a political agenda. I believe many who are striving for recognized equality of all people within the church are doing so from a theological perspective. They believe that this is a Spirit led movement and act accordingly. I applaud, support, and stand with this movement of God’s people striving to achieve equality in the church for LGBTQIA people, even as I personally struggle to reconcile my own theology (my head and heart are at war). My comments of “Special Interests” are directed to any-progressive, middlers, conservatives or any others- who seek power instead of holiness. The last few GC’s have been high jacked by a number of groups who only want power and control.
I wish instead of attacking me, you would invite me along on the journey. Help me see how I can reconcile my heart and mind. I have family, friends and parishioners whom I love who are LGBTQIA. I desire no harm for any of these. I desire only to see them prosper in every way. I have sat in a courtroom with tears running down my cheeks, holding the hand of a mother as she was told she had no rights to the child she raised because she was not able to be on the adoption paperwork. I have held a gay man as he wept, because his family would not accept him for who he was. I have read, asked questions, and asked questions, and read and asked questions….so that I could better understand and counsel loving couples and individuals who are LGBTQIA so that they might find shalom.
Attack me, insult me, dismiss me if it makes you fell better and if you think it furthers your personal agenda. But I have to ask, is it loving God, is it loving neighbor, is it living and teaching the way of Jesus Christ?
I want to travel this journey with those who truly live God & neighbor and seek to live the way of Jesus. How about it? Nctonymoreau@icloud.com
I very much appreciated and related to the words and beliefs in your last post. I pray that all UM leaders and members would be so wise and loving while struggling with the internal wars that are occurring between our hearts and heads on this subject.
Simple solution: All the straight white males shut up. Jeremy, you need to be lifting up other minority voices rather than promoting your own. I think it is harming the LGBTQQIA cause for you to be the loudest voice for them. Literally a white knight. I would urge you to offer a detente with the other straight white married males that you’re spatting with so that others who are actually affected can get some attention and have the conversations out in the open for themselves.
Jeremy is acting as an ally for the LGBTQ community. His article is speaking out against the injustice that is being done within the UMC.. there is nothing wrong with him owning his privileged and speaking against the hate and suffering that is being done, by men who share his privilege. I agree that the LGBTQ can and should speak for themselves, but it doesn’t hurt to have people to stand with them!
Not sure yet what I think of “closing” General Conference, but you are definitely finding a conspiracy and isms where they don’t exist. The pro-lgbt speakers are not standing alone. 40% of delegates are with them. It is unfortunate, and a significant part of our problem, that every proposal must immediately be endorsed by one side and rejected by the other. Closing a session, not all of the conference, allowing streaming so that none of it is in secret, and allowing protests outside the building, which might actually generate more publicity than one inside, would not be the end of the world.
Let all things be done decently and in order .
I have not been a delegate to General Conference, but it saddens me that my church is being torn apart like this. I am reading angry unloving words fr both points of view.
Logically it ss toe that official delegates should take care of the usual business at hand first. Then the meeting could be opened for ORDERLY DEBATE on issues of concern with rules. Offenders on either side would be removed. Each side would be given a set and fair amount of time for both presentation and rebuttal. After a fair and reasonable set time has passed for the issue to be presented a ore of the seated delegates would be taken.
Spectators would remain orderly as in a court room or be removed. Why is this so difficult?
It sounds to me like there are some people involved here with some major control issues on both sides.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to get on our knees on this.
Jeni Markham Clewell
Jeremy, thank you for your willingness to transform the world in the way of Jesus. You inspire me. I am also grateful to whatever group first embraced the “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors” campaign, because it has guided us, and continues to guide us, as United Methodists in the sneaky, funny way of the Holy Spirit. As I contemplate GC2016, I pray that love for each other motivates our business and spirits, rather than winning.
I’m a straight white man and the thought of walling off the General Conference violates my faith and makes me sick. Two requests:
(1) I’m not an expert on the “legal” aspects of the United Methodist Church, but I hope those who are can comment on whether such an action would be legal under our Constitution.
(2) I pray that these “Closed Hearts, Closed Minds, Closed Doors” people will not succeed, but just to be on the safe side, would someone who knows how to do so please draft and submit a resolution (to all the Annual Conferences and, via them or directly) to General Conference that would ban closing of any GC sessions in this manner.
Julie A. Arms Meeks
I’ve got replies to a number of comments and rather than do them individually, I’m going to lump them all together.
First, to those who ask why isn’t Jeremy letting the LGBTQIA among us speak for ourselves? He IS. A few have spoken here in response. Jeremy opens to guest posts from time to time. Jeremy also had a number of us speak for ourselves regarding “A Way Forward” – see https://www.hackingchristianity.net/2014/06/a-way-forward-for-whom-guest-post.html, https://www.hackingchristianity.net/2014/06/lgbt-methodists-seeing-a-way-forward.html and https://www.hackingchristianity.net/2014/06/missionary-conferences-a-more-just-umc-guest-post.html. Yes, I am one of those voices. Do you like what “we” have to say? Maybe you do and maybe not. We do speak and sad to say and when we do, many suggest that the UCC is a better fit for us, or the PCUSA, the ELCA, etc. How does that tie to letting us speak when your response is to say (Therefore) Go.
I think Jeremy’s collective Straight White Married Male (SWMM) is a pretty accurate demographic of GC delegates. A number of us in North Georgia refer to our delegates as the Dour Old Men – they may/not be dour, they may/not be old, they may/not be men, they may/not be white but collectively, they represent that demographic and attitude of stuck in the past with their privilege, closed minded or afraid to boldly go into an inclusive future.
We speak of closing GC to live streaming. That they are “our” delegates elected by “us.” This is somewhat true but in conservative conferences, many progressives aren’t elected to Jurisdictional or General Conferences. How can you ever think that a conservative delegate speaks for me, a life-long UM, who is out, white, 50-something and married to a woman? Does he/she (the conservative delegate) have MY best interests at heart when deciding the future of the UMC?
Let me say I’m not against conservatives. I do count some of them among my friends, despite our differences. I’ve made connections with some at the last two GCs while volunteering with the Common Witness Coalition, talking about why our differences have meaning to us, recognizing we have our love for our Church in common and that that love is a tie that binds us, despite our differences. I even talked with a SWMM IRD guy daily at GC08 and didn’t run into him until the last day of GC12 when he hugged me and said he’d been looking for me. Please don’t think we are so blinded by our own hopes and wishes that we don’t see another person and their own. Another example: at GC12, I sent a simple “thank you”on a business card via a page to a conservative SWMM delegate in committee, because when they voted on the perfected petition going forward, he chose not to speak against the (slightly) toned down wording. This man was so touched – he told me so and it began a conversation between us; he told his wife; his wife came up to me a day later to say how touched her husband was and we began a conversation; 2 years later we are STILL speaking and sharing news in each others’ lives ranging from blessing & congratulations on my marriage, to the birth of their first grandchild, to his offer to write a letter of recommendation to a position I’d applied for in my job search. I’m no longer an “issue” to him but fully a person with a comparable life to his own. Will he stand as an ally at GC16? Highly doubtful. But he HAS tempered his public writing when on the topic of full inclusion of LGBTQIA persons and admits it is because of our connection that was born at GC12.
Closing GC will hinder much and cause ongoing harm that has already been perpetuated for 42 years. It will not solve our concerns, it will solely remove our face and voice and presence, that the majority can vote in a vacuum without seeing the tears or hearing gasps of pain at “your” words or on tallies of votes.
Do I take the needs of people other than straight white men seriously? Indeed I do. Do it take the objections of this blogger seriously? Not when the argument basically reduces to saying that people have to fear being slipped a mickey at General Conference. I too think we should have open meetings, but I reject arguments such as this one that suggest we have something to fear from our brothers and sisters (though the OP suggests it is mostly brothers) at General Conference.
Hi Gene. I don’t think you are giving enough voice to those who have been victims of hate speech at General Conference. There was a delegate in whose speech he equated homosexuality with beastiality. There was a delegate who cornered an lgbtq delegate in the bathroom and told them “people like you should not be allowed to live.” To go through such circumstances with support and friends and whistles and shouts from the balcony is more life-giving than going through them alone.
Julie A. Arms Meeks
Thanks for that reply, Jeremy.
I’ll add my two cents from April 25, 2012, the “day” of holy conferencing at GC12. I sat with 8 people outside the delegate bar, particpating as if we were within. One person had his say when the talking stick was in his hand. While his words weren’t terrible (though I disagreed with them), what bothered me most – and I got the talking stick after him – was his use of “they” and “those people” – it was never a ‘you’ or ‘lgbtq persons.’ I told him “I am they. I am a partnered lesbian. I am they. It is not they/us. It is we, we are the church too, homosexual and Christian and UM are not separate things.”
We need be recognized as present in the conversation, let alone as present (and active) in the UMC.
I let this sit with me for over a week now.. And in reading for class I came upon some pretty awesome thoughts about who Jesus was and who as Christians we are called to be:
° He loved people and used a few rules—not the other way around.
° Jesus regularly hung out with riffraff, sick folks, prostitutes, and other outcasts.
° He wasn’t afraid of powerful, rigid people.
° He asked really hard questions, and when people asked Him questions, He didn’t give simple answers—if He gave any answers at all.
° He loved people so much that He was severely criticized for it.
° At least once or twice, He used calculated violence to make a point. (I probably shouldn’t have included this one, but it’s the truth. Maybe protesting is the same thing for us.)
° He was rigidly nonpolitical (“Render to Caesar . . .”)
° He taught and modeled a powerful combination of truth and grace.
° He accepted everybody, but He never abandoned the brutal truth to accommodate differences.
° Rigid, self-righteous, power-hungry, political people felt threatened by Him and hated Him.
° He prayed often, long, and hard.
° He had such a clear sense of His purpose
° Popularity and success never went to His head. He always moved toward people in need, not toward people who would give Him applause and power.
° Interruptions (like four guys lowering a paralyzed friend through the ceiling in the middle of His talk) never fazed Him. He saw every moment as an opportunity to do the Father’s will.(Rasmus, Pastor Rudy TOUCH: Pressing Against the Wounds of a Broken World)
The last one about interruptions, spoke profoundly to me… To close General Conference would not leave room for interruptions. It would eliminate the possibility of one of the delegates hearing what they might need to hear in order to have a change of heart. If we as a Christian Denomination are unwilling to accept and love EACH of God’s children, made in God’s image, we are failing miserably at being Christians. It is time to end the power struggle, welcome each of God’s beautiful, perfect, children into our churches, congregations, and pulpits. By silencing someone’s voice for justice, we are silencing EVERYTHING that Jesus was, and that we are called to be.
But those who followed Jesus repented of their sin to follow him.
So the riffraff, sick folks, prostitutes, and other outcasts left their sin behind and did it no more.
Thats the difference here. The LGBT community still wants to continue in their sinfull ways and say they are followers of Christ which cannot be.
Yes we are all sinners and we are to refrain and fight against it. If you wish to be LBGT then you do not follow the teachings.
That is all there is to it.
Sin is Sin, period. Whether you are gay or straight. To truly be repentant is to change what you are doing and believing. To live a clean lifestyle and pray for God’s help to maintain it. To refrain from Sexual Worldly lusts. By refraining you are no longer Gay or Straight, only Righteous is the eyes of God.
As much as many would like to make a sexual act to be called Love, it is not. It is just a Sexual Act. Love is much more. I pray God will truly give you the answers you seek. Look to Scripture and not to a bedroom.
I would point out that our entire United States Constitution was drafted in closed session, and the Constitutional Convention certainly didn’t have the transparency available through live streaming. It did however provide an area for open and robust discussion without overwrought theatrics and outright violence in the meeting hall.
Ah the good ol’ days when Women and Minorities were excluded! That would make for easier decisions at General Conference–they would then reflect the bloggers listed above.
This article shows precisely why Watson is right. If the protests in Portland are as intense as they portend, you might just as well pile 11 million dollars in the street and set it ablaze.
Here’s my comment on Dr. Watson’s page:
Hello Dr. Watson, I hope this message finds you well.
I believe time spent “working through” your argument was well spent on my end. The time frame between seeing your post and posting mine was 4 days, whereas the time frame between my post and this one was four hours. I would concede that your mind likely works faster than mine.
Regardless, while I appreciate the engagement, here’s two areas where I don’t believe your blog post engages my argument well.
1. “Apparently for Smith, part of the solution to the plight of LGBT people includes the right to distract and disrupt the work of GC delegates.” Correct by consequence, but not by intention: my argument is that observers have the right to be at General Conference in the room, a right that you seek to remove for the full 10 days, not in response to protests. Further, the plight of the LGBT persons is that they are in the room alone or in small pairings with people who have voted to do them harm by excluding them from full participation in the life of the church. While that’s not an argument you are willing to engage (by your own words), the argument is that by removing observers and people whose faces they can see, it increases LGBT delegates’ sense of isolation in the UMC and does them harm in ways that people who are often in the majority culture (like me) do not often fully recognize.
2. “[A]pparently through some epistemological miracle, Smith has been able to see beyond his own privilege as a straight, white, married male, and as such, he is able to see into the true, pernicious nature of people.” There’s that word “apparently” again. You are indeed correct that our personal experiences shape us and we are more than the sum of our demographics. However, in claiming I have no personal experience of you, you also make the same error by assuming epistemological miracle instead of knowing my experiences. For instance, I’ve sat at GC 2004, 2008, and 2012 alongside LGBT delegates and allies through their pain and exclusion and tears. Those experiences shaped me into wanting GC to be as safe a place for LGBT persons as it can be. Excluding friends, supporters, friendly faces is contrary to my (and others’) experience of what makes a place safe. I could post again about reason, tradition, and bible if you feel that would better round out the argument and you could hear those elements more readily than one focused on experience.
We often learn new ways of seeing through epistemological leaps or through someone telling/showing us how we are wrong. As someone who has been wrong many times before, it’s important to share when I do believe elements of our social location in the majority culture is holding us back from seeing the effects of our proposals.
Intellectual virtue does not exist in a Kantian ivory tower: it exists alongside its effects. “How” we discuss matters as much as being cognizant of “the effects” of our discussions. I hoped to compare the LGBT experience to other situations whereby advocates and supporters are commonly accepted to draw out the reason why: safety. For a church that professes to “do no harm” I had hoped for better.