What affects one climate affects the entire climate, and what affects one part of the Body of Christ affects the whole Body.
From Climate Deniers…
Rev. Dr. Mark Y.A. Davies is the Dean of the Arts and Sciences School at my alma mater Oklahoma City University. His blog “One World House” is a powerhouse of rhetoric about climate change and equality. Recently, Davies noted the increasing temperatures across the globe and wrote:
With evidence like this, one would think that we would be experiencing a sense of unmatched urgency to stabilize the climate through the most massive shift in energy use and energy production seen in the history of humankind for the sake of all generations of humans and all life to come.
Instead, we have witnessed a systematic and well-funded digging in of the heels of the fossil fuel industry led oligarchy who still have trillions of dollars to make on the exploitation of fossil fuels at the expense of future generations.
In the face of overwhelming evidence from scientists across the globe in multiple disciplines, it would seem like “denial” is too small a word. Davies has a stronger word in fact:
We have moved beyond the point of climate change denial to a climate of betrayal of future generations for the sake of current comfort and greed…Much like the human actions of the past that have led to the destruction of so many human lives, we cannot use the excuse that “we did not know.” We know, and we have chosen a climate of betrayal of the future…
Our generation is pulling the trigger on the climate change gun while billions of persons of current and future generations have their hands up pleading for us not to shoot.
Denial is not just saying “no” to the way how life is now. It is a robbing of future generations of something that they may not be able to stop, but we can. We haven’t reached all the tipping points, we can stop the cascading effects, and we have the scientific know-how to drop our levels of CO2.
But we are choosing not to.
And instead of denying something we are suspicious of, entire nations and industries are willfully betraying future generations for short-term gain.
…To Church Betrayers
To me, Davies’ linkage of denial and betrayal in the climate change debate is a parallel to the debate over the full inclusion of LGBT persons in the life of the church.
In many ways, denominations are seeing the existence of the gifts of the Spirit on LGBT preachers and pastors, as well as the existence of love and accountability in same-gender relationships. Stories of men together for decades waiting to get married. Stories of LGBT clergy who have served the Church faithfully for decades. The evidence is there and it is overwhelming.
So at what point do we see that deniers of LGBT inclusion are in fact betraying the future church of reaching entire swaths of humanity–and indeed, the losses have already begun?
The Gay Christian Network conference was recently held in my town of Portland, Oregon. Marg Herder’s reflections seem a perfect parallel to this analogy:
Christians have been isolating themselves from us for so long that they just can’t know how bad it is. In conservative or evangelical Christianity, the first thing that happens when someone comes out (as LGBTQ) is that other Christians turn away from us. They restrict access and build walls with rules and invalidation.
Since we’ve been exiled in the first act, nobody among the group that banished us ever knows what happens next. We’re not around. They don’t see the anguish in our eyes, or sit with us as we cry.
Before this event, the author suspected that straight conservative communities were just in denial about the harm of their beliefs. But then…
But after spending a weekend with over a thousand LGBTQ Christians at the 2015 Gay Christian Network conference, and listening to story after story of injury and thoughtlessness, I am ready to admit that my previous explanation of Christians’ unawareness as an excuse for the pain inflicted is certainly no longer true. I no longer believe that they just don’t know.
And I don’t care what kind of mental gymnastics keeps them from integrating that understanding. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that they see our pain and it doesn’t move them. They see us hurt; they see us begging them, as fellow believers, to love us. And they are unmoved.
Such active betrayal leads Herder (and others) to cease the conversation, be “done” with the Church universal (including progressive communities), and work to heal their own community without the Church. Quote:
For me, I’m going to turn my attention toward my own people. I’m going to try to figure out how to help the wounded among us move through our trauma and pain to become the extraordinary spiritual human beings that Christ/Sophia created us to be.
I know that She forgives the Christians who know what they do, when they see us lying wounded by the road and show no mercy. I know She forgives them.
Maybe with Her help I’ll be able to, someday, as well.
It’s not too late…
Often in my online engagements about LGBT inclusion, I get pushback very similar to Herder’s: it’s too late. The church has done too much damage, has sawed off the gay arm of the Body of Christ, and now must just apply a tourniquet instead of trying to reattach the appendage. LGBT Christians have left the church and see no reason to encourage LGBTs inside the church walls to stay.
But like climate change, what affects one climate affects the entire climate. And what affects one part of Christianity affects the entire Body of Christ. For straight allies and denominationally-minded LGBT Christians, we must refuse to allow our pockets of Christianity to actively betray the future Church.
The dear readers of this blog might be first to say “that’s not me! I’m not betraying anyone!” That may be true, but by our silence while denominational leaders and Christian figureheads on television and the Internet keep actively betraying the church, we are working for them.
The generations in power hold in their hands the possibilities: either a future filled with hope for climate change and LGBT inclusion, or a future where the church and world are irreversibly broken and stuck in closed-feedback loops that lead to their own destruction. While the earth is pretty dang important, as a person of faith, I’m here to say the church is important too, and it’s worth the effort and the coordinated opposition to the powerful betrayers to help it survive the winter of discontent.
During this time of Lent, which means “spring,” may we find new clarity in the sunshine as to what denial actually means, and may we work together to oppose the entrenched betrayers in our midst.
Yes! Like the prophets of old who could not separate themselves from their community, LGBT-inclusive churches are still apart of the church and still must mourn, lament, and ask God for forgiveness on behalf of the unrepentant entire church. For me, this is how I understand sin. Can “the church”, The UMC still not know of the enormous rates of homelessness for LGBT youth? The incredibly high rates of murder for Trans* women of color? The “kill the gays” bills in Africa? The bills/laws like in OK? Work against “human trafficking” yet ignore LGBT persons whose only way to survive is sex work?
And yet, the church does little if anything– we continue to oppress the poor, including the disproportionately represented LGBT community, by the homophobic language in our Book of Discipline, and not welcoming LGBT persons (the stranger, our neighbor) fully into our church communities. Can anyone truly blame LGBT persons from turning away from the church from the 1960s, through the AIDS Crisis, continuing today? Can God?
Michael L Mckee
“Has the LGBT[Q] Debate gone from Denial to Betrayal?”
We [UM church] crossed that threshold long ago and are now far passed the point of even trying to refute the betrayal claim.
Justice itself demands no more delay, it is time for full inclusion, time to begin trying to heal the wounds and damage created by our profound and prolonged bigotry.
The problem with the whole “the LGBT community has already left the Church” idea is it assumes that the currently (presumably) straight members won’t have any LGBT children. The LGBT community isn’t some static group of people who have gone over there and won’t come back.
Thabk you for using your voice.
In the future, please remember the laity of our church. We do the work of the church and are as oppressed as clergy. (See choir directors asked to leave.) Some of us have callings and because we can not live them out as clergy live them out as lay leaders. Do not forget us.
Please keep using your voice for justice.
Not all LBGTQ have left, many remain. Many remain in silence, in fear. Many straight people either unaware or betray out of fear. Whoever we are, may we each work to continue the dialogue with one another and LISTEN to one another’s stories as we look into each others’ eyes and see Christ. In our listening may we not be fearful of taking faith steps of action to love one another as we are loved by God.
The Rev. Dr. James J. Olson
I write, as usual, as someone outside of the pitched battle within the UMC over this issue, but as someone who has observed the UMC and its schism (and it is a schism in all but actual legal division) over this matter rather closely and with some care.
“The church” however you want to define that (as the UMC, or the UCC, or the ELCA or the ECUSA) or whatever other word-salad, or as “the baptised”, “the community of believers” largely does not want LGBT persons in its midst, and I have come to believe never will. There is a vast expanse of the church where we are simply not welcomed, and where people do not care to even make the attempt to understand that we are in fact here, have always been, will always be a part of the church. Some of us choose to remain, but it is a daily struggle to do so. We carve out little places of safety (some larger than others…most of the UCC is safe, but not all of it is, for example.) It is wearying. I’ve been in parish ministry for nearly 20 years and I no longer have the energy to fight the national and international battles on this matter. I serve a very small local congregation that is (in UCC speak) “Open and Affirming” in ways that many other local congregations will never be, even within the UCC. It is a rare and special little congregation and I have decided that while I no longer care to, or have the energy to fight national battles, I can help this little congregation make a small difference in our little corner of the world. I no longer want to tilt at windmills. I no longer want to sit across tables with representatives from other traditions who are convinced that I am not, and cannot possibly be, a Christian, given that I am also gay. I refuse to defend myself and other LGBT persons any longer to those who think that they can decide on God’s behalf who can and should be a part of the body of Christ; their truculence on the matter no longer concerns me. I no longer want to subject myself to the tirades of “well-meaning”, “thoughtful” “Christians” who think that their attitude of loving the sinner but hating the sin is anything other than simple and profound bigotry about something that they do not have the desire or capacity to understand or be compassionate about. You’ve said it just right; this attitude is a betrayal. Y’all got plenty of chances. I’m not willing or able to allow myself to be burned again, nor am I willing or able to allow those whom I serve as pastor to be subjected to the nastiness of those who think they know better. We will walk with Christ. We will be patient and forgive, but we will NOT and I will NOT allow myself to be subject to any of this rank discrimination by other Christians any longer.
Those who are holding fast to the scriptural description of marriage are no better than Judas. Further discussion is pointless. This is a declaration of war. There can be no compromise.
It’s Sunday, Kevin. Go to church and calm down the escalation.
Good advice. Church canceled. Weathered out.
Thanks for posting your thoughts on this, and for the others who have commented. It is a betrayal, and I like the way you contextualize it with climate change.
I’ve been walking into the fury of the anti-LGBTQ Christians for over 30 years now, since I came out in 1979. I’ve been forgiving and forgiving every step of the way. Because I was taught to forgive. I thought that’s what “good” Christians were supposed to do. I had to walk away for quite some time because it got impossible for me to forgive, but I found my way back. I found a way to forgive again.
Until I couldn’t do it anymore.
I’m not advocating that all LGBTQ Christians and allies turn away from the efforts to connect with anti-LGBTQ Christians. I hope fervently, as you do, that there are many who are able to continue to be a presence, to thwart the efforts to isolate from us. To protect those who grow up in the midst of those who oppose our equality. I hope there are many who, in your words, will assist in reattaching this arm of the church.
I will continue to help my wonderful friends who advocate for our inclusion and welcome. But I don’t feel like I have it in me to walk into the fury any longer.
Jeremy, I have read through this blog from you now twice, and I promise I will read it again. But, I really am having a hard time placing myself on what seems to be a false dichotomy. I have commented on a few of your blogs before, so I am not a total stranger here, but not a ‘regular’ either. I am a 38 year old elder in the UMC. Among other things, (just for reference in this article), I do not find the evidence for anthropogenic climate change convincing, nor do I agree with the normalisation of LGTBQ. I know saying both of those things are loaded guns in a sense. So before you or anyone else shoots me, let me try to explain. Because I also don’t feel I ‘fit’ in how the other side is described in your blog. I am not anti science at all, nor do I consider myself any type of science denier, not betrayer. I read popular books about string theory physics, like Brian Greene’s, Fabric of the Cosmos. But I do have serious reservations and questions about the methodology of so called ‘climate science.’ As a trained historian (BA in History from The University of Texas), I look at the history of prediction of science (which is important for validity of both history and science), and find it to be sorely lacking. So I don’t deny science. I do have serious reservations and questions about self predictive scientists who are rewarded literally millions of dollars for finding research that totally fits their predictions, all the while long range history of their predictions being proven as false. I could go into more detail, but I believe that suffices to say, that I don’t think I fit into the dichotomous groups your post characterises.
Ok, now to the LGTBQ question. Let me try to sum up a great deal, and please all who read be kind as I am trying to condense a great deal here. I do not believe in The Theory of Evolution, and I do believe in a physical and time bound Garden of Eden and in a literally Adam and Eve. (that might explain a great deal with regards to both items here). So I, like John Wesley, believe in The Fall. I believe in the prescription of marriage as between one man and one woman as being God’s plan before sin entered into the human experience (echoed in the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 19). But on the other hand, I don’t know that I believe anything like what is described as the ‘betrayer’ in your post. I do not believe in kicking anyone out of the church. At the congregation where I serve, we both uphold marriage as between one man and one woman (basically the BOD of today), and also treat people, ALL people as sacred. I have baptised LGTBQ folk. We have LGTBQ folks in leadership position (at least one I am very aware of, and others where I just don’t know because it isn’t a litmus test). So I believe that one can be somewhere not in the dichotomy of your post I guess I want to say.
I do want to say, I write all this to be in relationship and conversation. I say this because we either are going to have to find some resolution in the middle as a denomination or we can’t stay together. I am not one hoping for a break up not itching for a fight either. So peace and blessings upon all.