Shaping the Contours of the Rising Sun

We mark two events in the LGBT Equality Movement last week. First, we join the celebration of the passing of New York State legislation granting the freedom to marry to same-sex couples! The final moments before the vote in the state senate were moving as senators spoke about how they had changed their minds, why they couldn't see any good or legal reason to keep same-gender couples from marrying, and how it was time to be heroes. So many people were involved in the keen strategy to change minds and gain key votes. We applaud those working on the phone banks, in behind-the-scenes meetings, with New Yorkers United for Marriage coalition and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. We're still riding the high of your success!

Second, we share a bittersweet triumph with the Rev. Amy DeLong, lesbian United Methodist pastor who was brought up on clergy charges in for stating that she is in a loving relationship with a woman and for conducting a same-sex wedding. She was found not guilty on the charges of being a "self-avowed practicing homosexual" because she chose not talk about her sex life. She was found guilty on conducting the wedding, but the penalty was 20 days suspension rather than having her credentials revoked, which has been the penalty in other church trials. The bitter is that there are still church laws that ask LGBTQ pastors to be closeted or celibate or silent about their sexual expression. The sweet is that Amy will continue to pastor. Our commentary on Amy's case is below.

These two events in the same week highlight the struggles of our movement, our judicial systems, what motivates people to change and act with integrity and courage, and what stands in the way of progress. We live and breathe the euphoria of change, and we hope and act for more of that pure sweetness!



Dear EB,

An idea came to me during a dance class last night that I want to share with you. Okay, so I should have been keeping my mind and spirit in the dance, but I was also working on letting go of my frustration and anger at the continuance of United Methodist Church anti-LGBTQ laws. I am amazed that the “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” language that was added to church law in 1972 still stands in 2011. Think of the shifts in thought on race and gender over nearly four decades. Think of all the changes in our society in general, yet words and misinformation of the early 70's have carried into the second decade of the new millennium.

Does this make you angry? Is there a rise in you at this blatant discrimination?

As you know well, I'm no longer part of the church though my sense of deep faith (however multi-faceted that is) remains. And as we have discussed, we recognize that the church does not lead the way on justice issues. So why would I care that the UMC maintains archaic laws? Partly because of my roughly 40-year involvement with the church from local to national levels; but, more importantly, it’s because there are still LGBTQ youngsters and adults in the church who believe that the church has spiritual authority over their self-worth and because prejudicial laws inside the church fuels toxic bigotry outside of the church.

My main frustration though is not with the church’s conservative element that has a mission to maintain these exclusionary laws at all costs, but it is in the moderate majority who are silent. It is in the church leaders who say they are supportive of LGBTQ people and their families,

yet never speak of the discriminatory language to their parishioners, who laud the UMC “Open Heart, Open Minds” advertising campaign, but don't admit the denomination's wrong against LGBTQ people. How many "some of our best parishioners are gay" pastors actually mentioned that the UMC charged and put on trial a lesbian last week? No matter how relatively positive the outcome of the trial was, can people really lose sight that an actual trial was held?

Back to dance class, my thought was of a parody: a trial of an openly female minister or a self-avowed-practicing-African American pastor who had the audacity to preside over Communion. Not only that but the female had served other men, the black, whites. Of course, at times in our history, the trial part was the only parody; the reality was that women were not allowed to have authority over men, blacks over whites (if one interprets pastors having authority over lay people, which is also suspect, but that’s for a different time). What does it take to jar people into recognizing discrimination and in turn using their awareness to fuel institutional change?

My greatest sadness is in the silence and the hidden corners where vulnerable people cower. However, my heart is lightened by the many people who fight injustice, live in the world with integrity, have found happiness in who they are, and then share their strength with others. There are many of these wonderful people. I just want more to join them, is that too much to expect?

Yours truly, YS


Dear YS,

If there is such clarity on the wrongness of punishing/harming persons because of their race or gender, where were the Church Trials of those Church members who engaged in actions, sometimes violently, against persons because of their race or gender in the past? I thought more than once of a question Martin Luther King asked, as I followed from afar the trial proceedings of Rev. Amy DeLong. Martin King asked the question: "Why is the church a taillight rather than a headlight on justice issues (paraphrase)?”

I have long wished that both the UMC and the USA would use hindsight that is supposed to be 20/20 and look back and see how foolish, irrational, illogical, anti-faith and anti-American were policies and practices that once segregated persons because of their race and in the church prohibited women from being ordained to the ministry. I am beginning to wonder, since it appears that neither religious faith nor American patriotism motivates some persons to accept and embrace those who are considered to be "different", we must consider other possibilities. What are those possibilities? There is something in the DNA of some persons that must cause them to engage in bias and bigotry. Is a DNA transplant for them possible? Or, there may be within them an illogical, irrational insecurity that requires them to hate others because they have not yet learned to love themselves. Would they benefit from spending some time with someone trained in the arts of psychology? But, maybe the heterosexism, sexism and racism that strangely still exists in the 21st century is a manifestation of the song in South Pacific, "You've got to be taught, the people to love, the people to hate, by the time you are 7 or 8." We must help them unlearn lessons they learned long ago.

I continue, as an African American straight ally/advocate of gay rights to believe as Martin King said so many times, "Truth crushed to earth will rise again." Despite the years of anti-gay bias, bigotry and too often hatred, the "truth" of EQUALITY for all is rising and rising. Maya Angelou wrote, "And Still I Rise". We see light at the end of the long tunnel and nothing will put that light out! Let us take joy in the fact that a new day is rising, and we are shaping the contours of the rising sun.