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.