Several denominations have seen major rifts occurring over the issue of gay marriage and LGBTQ clergy. The Episcopal Church of the USA (ECUSA) has been rent asunder by the issue with other Anglican conventions (primarily from Africa) rushing into cater to congregations that are unwilling to accept the fact that homosexuality has become rather mainstream in American culture. The Presbyterians have face similar challenges. Now it’s the United Methodist Church’s turn on the spit. Will it become the Untied Methodist Church?
At their meeting this week, the UMC will vote on two proposals – dubbed the “Traditional Plan” and the “One Church Plan.” The New York Times explains the differences.
The Traditional Plan:
“essentially maintains the church’s practice of denying gays and lesbians equality and appears to have the most support. The church’s policy, which dates from 1972, states that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”
The plan prohibits gays and lesbians from becoming clergy and forbids same-sex marriage. It defines homosexuals as people in same-sex marriages or civil unions, and those who “publicly state that they are practicing homosexuals.”
Clergy who officiate at same-sex weddings would receive a one-year, unpaid suspension. A second offense would result in removal from the clergy.
The policy would also require groups within the denomination to “certify adherence” to the rule. Those who refuse would be “urged” to leave the United Methodist Church, which would prohibit them from using the denomination’s name or logo.
The primary supporters of the proposal are church members from African nations and the Philippines, as well as evangelical Europeans and Americans, who expressed a desire to retain the church’s longstanding rules.”
The One Church Plan:
“would allow individual churches or regions to decide for themselves whether to hire gay clergy or to perform same-sex weddings.
It would also eliminate the church policy that homosexuality is incompatible with Christianity.
Churches that choose not to hire gay and lesbian priests or to conduct same-sex weddings would not be punished. Bishops and clergy who choose not to officiate at ordinations or same-sex weddings would be protected from being sanctioned.”
Red was raised in the UMC and still attends just frequently enough to maintain a claim to membership. Sadly, Red is predicting the same fate for the UMC that has befallen other denominations that have faced this issue. Most major urban congregations are unlikely to accept that they must repudiate gay members who wish to be married or serve the Church. Rural and small town churches will seek refuge in what can only be called Christian bigotry. The Church will split and be further weakened by a fight that doesn’t have to be fought. It seems the haters will win a pyrrhic victory no matter what the outcome as they will go their separate way to wallow in their intolerance and self delusion of their holiness and “perfection” of Christianity that even John Wesley ultimately repudiated.
Red would like to think that in God’s eyes we are all saints and sinners and that no one is perfect and no one should even strive towards perfection as the ultimate goal of a spiritual quest. Only disillusionment lies on that path. If God created us, he created us as flawed and highly imperfect creatures who must cooperate despite our differences to survive in what can be a very hostile world. And if God does not love his gay children just as much as everyone else, then something is wrong with his creation.
As the old saw goes, maybe “God is alive and well and working on a less ambitious project.”