I had dinner with an old friend last night, and we talked about some of the ire that my last post raised. Raising ire really isn’t my thing, nor was it the intention of the post. Rather, the intention was to raise awareness of the disproportionate level of attention that one issue, which our Discipline calls “homosexual practice,” has come to occupy in our denominational life. In fact, I think the reaction to the post demonstrated this, but I probably could have done this without stirring up as much anger as I did. My friend suggested, “Why don’t you critique your own post?” In the interest of greater clarity and receiving wise counsel, then, I’ll try to do that in the next few paragraphs.
If this were someone else’s post, here’s what I would say: First, the post sets up a hypothetical situation without sufficient explanation around the thought experiment that it is supposed to invoke. Second, it deals in hyperbole.
On the first point, some people read the hypothetical scenarios as setting up an either/or opposition, as if I were saying that we should substitute one topic for the other. Second, others read these scenarios as drawing an equivalence between our treatment of LGBT people and people with disabilities. Neither of these was my intention, nor do I think that the post necessarily reads in this way. I could have clarified, though, that my intention was specifically to address the level of attention that we allocate (or do not allocate) to a broad variety of important issues.
On the second point, one could read the post as if to say that we were doing virtually nothing to address the needs of people with disabilities and their families. This isn’t the case, and many faithful servants in the UMC are doing very good work in this area. I have served alongside the good people of the UM Committee on DisAbility Ministries and am very appreciative of the work they and other like-minded folks do. Additionally,it’s worth mentioning that the Discipline does contain some important statements about people with disabilities. On this last point, however, one should note that the fact that something appears in the Discipline doesn’t mean we will pay attention to it, as has become abundantly clear over the last year.
These shortcomings notwithstanding, I stand by the position that the post was meant to affirm: we have become fixated on the matters of LGBT intimacy, marriage, and ordination to the extent that other extremely important matters are crowded out of our public discourse. This state of affairs is unacceptable.
Another friend of mine recently asked, if the UMC stays together, is this our fate? Are we to continue for another four, eight, twelve years focused disproportionately on the issue of “homosexual practice”? And if the answer is yes, is staying together really the best option? Would it not be better simply to go our separate ways, allow each group to make a decision about this matter, and begin to attend more fully to the many other issues that are in need of our attention as Christians? I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I know something has to change.
4 thoughts on ““Why don’t you critique your own post?””
For the sake of conversation, consider this. The disproportionate attention to homosexual behavior, and its inclusion in so many discussions, is valid because of the disproportionate effect it will have on the future of the church. If all Discipline language is expunged, homosexuals couples are free to marry, seek ordination, and seek church funding for homosexual interest groups, the entire gospel dynamic for millions of conservative members will be changed. What will be the new message of repentance, forgiveness, and holy living for us?? How long before we have other groups seeking validation and institutional approval for behaviors which are considered sinful by conservative members. This is no small or insignificant battle. I see it as a battle for the soul of our church message. Pilate’s question to Jesus “What is Truth?” is rapidly becoming a new question for secular America. “Who says there is truth?”
There’s that old saw about “picking your battles,” but in this instance the battle was chosen “for us,” as it were. Many of us now find ourselves in a hot one we didn’t choose, but instinctively know it’s one we’ve got to fight, even while mourning “over many who previously sinned and have not repented…”
We are indeed fixated on this one issue. And we will continue to be so until it is resolved. We have bishops and clergy actively encouraging chargeable violations of our discipline. This has eroded trust in our leadership. This issue is a deal breaker, or maker, for a significant number of our members. We have people forming political action groups on both sides of the debate making our holy conferencing look more like the 1968 Democratic party convention. The rhetoric will become increasingly shrill, the cracks in our connection will widen, the tensions will increase and we will parse the words of our bishops looking for hidden meanings and screaming out when we do not hear what think we want to hear. If there is no resolution in 2016 then the fighting will simply increase and continue to do so until one group or the other achieves a dominant position. At that point the losing side departs, sometimes with the real estate. Is there a denomination in this country where it has not played out this way? Hang on, we are in for a rough ride.
David, your previous post needed no explanation for me. I understood completely. With the whole LGBT issue, I have another concern, though. How long before the government answers it for us? With states affirming/allowing same sex marriage, how long before our clergy are told they MUST perform these ceremonies and our religious freedom is once again jeopardized? Could this happen? I think we need to continue to ‘do all the good we can. By all the means we can. In all the ways we can. In all the places we can. At all the times we can. To all the people we can. As long as ever we can.’ That does mean accepting all the behavior we can! As a lay person, I have more to say but I’m not sure how to say it – there are so many “arguments” in this LGBT debate that it can make one’s head swim. Are there arguments regarding ministering to the disAbled? I would certainly pray not! Many of the disAbled NEED us to stand up and speak on their behalf, stand up and demand on their behalf, and just stand up on their behalf. All this IMHO
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