Hitting the Hard Stuff

It is interesting to watch the tensions mount and see a large gathering of competent, mostly-professional, self-possessed people get all flustered and fall all over themselves when someone raises an uncomfortable issue.  It won’t be surprising to anyone to know that the gay/lesbian/bi-sexual/transgender relationship to the church was raised — and ruled “out of order.”  Whether it was a good or appropriate time or not is a secondary issue to the root problem we have.  We don’t know how to deal with this!  It is about relationships with God and one another, and we are looking to books (pick the Bible, the Book of Discipline, or both) and legislative process to tell us what to do.  Oh, heaven help us if we didn’t have our books (add Roberts’ Rules of Order to the list, can I hear an “Amen?”) or our cheat-sheets for parliamentary procedure.  We might actually have to deal with each other as human beings, and then where would we be?

I really don’t want to take a side here, or draw a line in the sand over which others are forced to take a stand.  The body of Christ is injured and in need of healing.  No one is doing well in this current state.  We are allowing our emotions to run rough-shod over both our reason and our faith.  People who know me know that I don’t even really approach this as “the homosexuality issue,” because for me, it isn’t an issue, and it really isn’t about sexuality.  I don’t have any control over anyone but myself, and there are those who think I do a pretty lousy job of controlling myself.  What I believe is right or wrong for someone else is a non-issue.  As for me, I love people.  I am from the camp that we are all in the same boat, and that we are better together than apart.  Does this mean I condone everything that everyone wants to do?  Of course not.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t want them to enjoy the same blessing and benefit in this life that I do.

I think the Golden Rule and the Great Commandment are real.  I think God and Jesus actually meant what they said, and that the Holy Spirit is sticking around to make sure we listen.  If I ever err (and I do, many times daily) I want to make sure that I err on the side of mercy, compassion, grace and goodness.  If I act, I want the fruit of my actions to be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  If I hold fast to God’s grace for myself, then I can do no less for someone else.  Am I saying this is what everyone should do or believe?  Absolutely not!  I am only saying to others, this is what works for me.

I love the Bible and I revere the writings it contains.  I believe it offers us contextual instructions that apply differently in different times, cultures and locations.  I believe the Holy Spirit is still at work in us to guide us in our interpretation and application of Biblical guidance.  I study scripture religiously (pun intended) and I honor a wide variety of readings and interpretations.  Yet, as much as I love scripture, I believe God lives and breathes in my brothers and sisters, and I know that in our relationships God is still writing sacred text for a new day.

The bottom line?  I want everyone together.  I want even those who test my capabilities to be with me, because if I cannot love them, then the love I do feel is suspect.  It is so easy to love those who love you.  It is so simple to accept those who agree with me in thought, word and deed.  It is so comfortable to never have to face anyone who makes me uneasy.  But if I want comfort, ease and simplicity, then I cannot be a Christian.  Christ not only asks me to accept the unacceptable, but to reach out and embrace it.  I need to be with everyone.  I need to learn to see the Christ in those who have a very different relationship with God than I do.  And even when I think another might be wrong, it doesn’t free me from my obligation to treat them like I would treat the Christ.

My heart breaks for the brokenness of the church.  I don’t want brothers and sisters, children of all ages created in God’s image, to be hurt and disgraced.  I want to connect and build bridges and bond and be challenged and witness to what I hold true and dear, and trust that God will do what God will do, so that I don’t have to judge or decide who God loves and who God doesn’t.  I want everyone IN.  In God’s house, in God’s grace, in my circle.  It is the hope I get when I see us at General Conference sing and dance and shout and laugh together — when we look and act as one body, the body of Christ.

12 replies

  1. If anyone else had felt “bullied” over any other “issue”, would it have been announced to the whole conference? If any other type of session had been “poorly/inadequately planned”, would it have been announced to the whole conference?

    I don’t know where to stand on this issue. There are days I question standing with the UMC at all because of other issues nowhere related to this one and that are much more basic and personal. What I am tired of is this one issue being allowed to tear this church apart. There is something so wrong about that aspect of it.

    I recently found this quote in a column explaining why Robert’s Rules of Order are not appropriate for any church:
    “Robert’s Rules fuel the unholy viewpoint that we have—and should have!—“sides.” Worst of all, Robert’s Rules seduce us toward a vote, where majority “wins,” and it’s winner-take-all. On an issue, the vote might be 51 percent-49 percent, but the “official” outcome is just one, unhedged thing. Winner-takes-all . . . and then we have “losers.” A political democracy works precisely this way with strategizing, clever plotting and fist-pumping victories.
    When the faithful disagree, as fallen, imperfect Christians do inevitably, the advantage goes—always—to the one who is the master of the rules more than to someone who might have some wisdom or humble insight on their side, but isn’t swift to the microphone or doesn’t grasp a “substitute to the amendment.”
    “… But we are the Body of Christ, where we don’t have winners and losers, but members. According to Paul, the most valued member of the Body isn’t the big winner who is crafty in procedure; in fact, Paul would dismiss such bunk as the world invading God’s church. The priority goes to the weakest member. What majority vote would Jesus ever have won?
    ” … Quakers know how to “discern” quietly, listening for the movement of the Spirit, refusing to vote in some fractional majority that will create wounded losers. Robert’s Rules of Order aren’t best guide for GC,” By Rev. James C. Howell , Special Contributor, April 4, 2012, UM Portal

    For me, this is fast not becoming about the issue itself, but about how it is being handled on both sides.

  2. I agree with both you and John. I’m a thousand miles away from y’all so I didn’t see what happened yesterday. I think that bullying sucks, period, but nobody has exclusive title to the bullying card. We have to be very careful not to bully those who have earnest moral convictions by calling their graciousness into question on account of their convictions. I wrote something similar to you with a slightly different slant: http://morganguyton.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/bullying-and-humanity/. Peace of Christ.

    • Bill, the date and time in Greenwich Mean Time which means midnight hits around 7:00 pm CST. Overlook the 5 hour difference and know that I scheduled this to post at about 5:00 am CST. So, the time is a bit weird. Why do you ask?

  3. Thank you for your larger context. I was struck by the process of ruling a particular act out of order. Mark was recognized for a moment of personal privilege and the presiding bishop subsequently shifted his ruling from a personal privilege to a point of order and ruled that point out of order. It is this ability to shift our focus that keeps us off-balance and unable to connect with one another.

    One common cycle is for someone to assertively/aggressively stake out a position in no uncertain terms — when called on an unbending application of their position a shift goes on and accusation become complaint that they are being persecuted or pained because they are forced to lose their source of authority — and we are back to the accusation. Never in this cycle can enough of a person poke out beyond a position to engage. And around and around we go, missing one pentecost opportunity after another to listen and speak another’s language.

    I’ll be interested in your take on the act of repentance regarding the church’s on-going actions deserving active and intentional repentance in human-identity revelations of G*D – Indigenous Peoples tonight and GLBTIQ Peoples in another 40 years.

  4. It is interesting to read your comments against the comments of other people I know. I got a report from one delegate who supports the traditional (and current) UM position who feels hurt by the assertions made by many that you cannot support such a position without being a bully and unloving and against God. The not so subtle argument that supporters of the current position are not sophisticated or careful in their reading of Scripture is also hurtful. To be called a bigot and an oppressor hurts.

    It seems to me that if we use “I feel hurt” as the standard by which we make our theological decisions we cannot do anything on this issue. It dissolves into arguments about whose hurt is more worthy of sympathy.

    I have friends on both sides of this debate. I do not see a way to choose between them on the basis of which ones of them are nicer people or attempting to be more faithful. I certainly do not relish the solution that declares one group wicked and the other righteous.

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