The 500 lb United Methodist Gorilla

Day 14/30

The United Methodist Church isn’t doing a good job loving our gay and lesbian neighbors.

In February 2019 in St. Louis, MO, the members of our called special conference doubled down on existing restrictions and expanded punitive measures against any clergy who crossed them.

But this post isn’t an argument about the issue of homosexuality. It’s not about the exegesis of the clobber passages or the breakdown of μαλακός or ἀρσενοκοίτης. No one’s mind was ever changed or heart softened by an argument on Facebook.

More importantly, this isn’t about an issue. It’s about people.

There is a real human cost for our behavior. Just my suggestion in a Facebook post in March of 2019 that I’d rather answer to God for who I included rather than who I excluded put me on the hit list.

But the cost to me was negligible. Those paying the real price are the people who were in the cheap seats in St. Louis wondering if they have a place at Jesus’s table, the student in your youth group struggling with his sexuality and wondering if the church where he was baptized is a safe place anymore, and the woman in your choir who’s allowed to sing every week so long as she doesn’t talk about her roommate.

It’s so much easier, though, for us to analyze issues. Theology is simple when it’s divorced from actual people made in the image of God. People are messy. They have real dreams and real fears. When we use words like incompatible, it really hurts.

Yesterday I wrote briefly about one of my church’s ministry to the skating subculture. And my buddy, Jeff, in the comments reminded me of a rule I established for adults when they needed to reprimand them: Learn their name first.

Learning someone’s name takes time and commitment. It shows you care (or at least fakes it). For all the reasons a church member may have had to not trust those kids, they had more to not trust us back. They’d spent their whole lives being excluded by church folk like us. So every time someone scolded one of them, it reinforced the wall they’d built between them and God.

Friends, we’re building a wall between folks and God.

“And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” Luke 11

While my preference would be that you stop loading people down with new laws, or old ones for that matter, I don’t suspect this post was so persuasive.

So I’m not asking you to lift the gorilla, just one finger. Take a gay or lesbian friend to lunch or coffee. Hear their story. If you don’t know any, step out of your bubble. If the ones you do know won’t meet with you because you’ve proven yourself unsafe, repent. Ask their forgiveness and send the gift card for lunch in the mail.

Have your beliefs. But for God’s sake, learn their names.

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