I’ve been a bit surprised by how the recent United Methodist General Conference with all its disappointments has affected my mental state and mood because, truth be told, I feel strangely victorious. Let me explain. As I followed the reports from GC during the two weeks of the conference and as I’ve heard and read many conversations afterward, I have come away with a few important Truths.
First and foremost, there’s simply no amount of doctrine, dogma, or church legislation that can lessen God’s love for me and other LGBTQ persons – or for our heterosexual counterparts.God created us all in the Divine image and loves us all just as we’ve been fearfully and wonderfully made.
Second Truth, the end does not justify the means – no matter how strongly one feels about their beliefs and vision for the Church, unholy conferencing and underhanded politics are sins against God, the Church, and all the people involved. From what I’ve heard and read, folks seeking progressive changes in the UMC could walk away from GC knowing they had stood their ground with integrity, love, and a peaceful yet courageous witness. No institutional victory is worth compromising the Christ in us.
So where does that leave us? There’s no mistaking that the United Methodist Church is perpetuating ignorance and prejudice with its denominational policies that discriminate against gays and lesbians. Such policies and the sermons and counsel that stem from them undoubtedly contribute to the high numbers of hate crimes, rejections, and suicides of LGBTQ persons. As a religious institution we have once again failed to heed a higher calling for Justice, and from all appearances we will be trailing behind secular society in living out what it means to claim all people are of sacred worth.
But guess what? We as followers of Christ – and many others whose faiths emphasize love and compassion and justice – we can still lead the way forward with our own lives. We can stand in opposition to unjust and unloving policies and laws. Some may choose to defy those policies – either publically or privately. Some may choose to engage in dialogue with those who disagree. Still others may choose to leave the offending institution. No matter what we do or don’t do polity-wise, hopefully, all of us will choose to intentionally love and welcome the people the policies and laws exclude as well as – the real challenge – the people who fight to put or keep those discriminatory policies and laws in place. For this is the final Truth I’d like to share – we will only have a more loving Church if we continue to learn and practice Loving. I believe as long as we live that Love, we are victorious.
Read more from Renee Sappington at her blog.