GC MUSINGS: Are all people of sacred worth?

"The issue is not whether our writing (or speaking, statements, resolutions) will be political. If we are silent, our silence is political. If we write our writing is political." From Patricia Schneider, of Amherst, Massachusetts, a former Methodist/United Methodist. A well-known writer and teacher of writers.

I'm returning to my numbered musings:

11. Many of us in our prayer lives have remembered the death of Trayvon Martin and his family and George Zimmerman and his family, as different as the last few weeks have been for them. I am certain that UMC Bishops and the General Conference, particularly because of their meeting in Florida, will speak in public ways, pastorally and prophetically, about how what took place in Sanford, touches all of us. How can any of us avoid addressing the implications for the so-called "Stand Your Ground" legislation as it can affect the lives of all of us, no matter where we live? And, The United Methodist Church, more so than any other Church body, can interpret why the shooting of Trayvon Martin had such a particularly painful and negative impact upon African Americans; as parents, as men and boys, as families and as a community.

We are not in a "post-racial time" because the memories of verbal and physical violence, past and present, directed at black males, young and old, are, or ought be, very present in all of us. The history of the Methodist/United Methodist Church on matters of race, within and beyond our denomination equip us to speak not in judgment, but instead in ways that remind us of the negatives of our racial history that have informed our movement forward as a denomination committed to racial inclusivity. Some have said that being afraid to, or failing to talk about race, is "the new racism." The UMC, if it is serious about, "the transformation of the world", cannot be silent about race.

12. "I would not agree that the United Church of Christ has been 'ripped apart' (as a United Methodist Renewal and Reform Coalition statement says) by our discussion about LGBT inclusion. That's partly because our conversation has never been about 'homosexuality' but whether God's LGBT children are welcome in our fellowship, and whether their faithful and ethically-responsible relationships deserve to be treated with respect, rather than contempt". (Andy Lang, Executive Director of the UCC Coalition for LGBT concerns)

James Lawson, the well-known and much respected, retired United Methodist minister who was the leading exponent and teacher of nonviolence in the Civil Rights Movement has said this that our paraphrase: "One of the differences between the lives of black and gay young people is that we who are black, in the presence of racial bigotry had the support of our parents, families and our churches. Whereas gay young people in a society where anti-gay bigotry is the rule and not the exception, often, have neither the support of their parents, family or their church".

We United Methodists in our language and legislation since 1972 have spoken about, and legislated regarding "homosexuality", rather than speaking about and passing legislation that affects "God's LGBT children." I believe that prayerful consideration of this difference will enable and empower delegates at the General Conference to vote language and legislation that is person-centered and nothing more.

Each time I read and hear our declaration that "all persons are of sacred worth" and at the same time recognize how differently we respond to persons of "sacred worth" when they are same gender loving, I remember more than one "racial moment" in my history. One took place at Lake Junaluska when I was one of the few black students involved in the Methodist Student Movement. I have told the story of how I and the other black persons present were not allowed to use the swimming facilities because of our race. I remember one discussion as though it happened yesterday. An older, gentle and kind white Methodist leader said to those of us who were black as we challenged our racial segregation; "Don't worry too much about what happens to black people here on earth. When we get to heaven, we all will be equal."

Apparently some United Methodists believe that the "sacred worth" of LGBT persons and same sex couples will not be fully realized until they "get to heaven". And, maybe some United Methodists are not sure that it will happen then.

See all of Gil's blog posts about the United Methodist General Conference while the UMC legislative body meets in Tampa April 24-May 4.