The United Methodist legislative body voted today to keep the incompatibility language ("homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching") in the church's Book of Discipline and thus retain church-sanctioned discrimination. The vote was roughly 60% to maintain, 40% to change, percentages that have held steady for at least 12 years. The General Conference, as in years past, also rejected a compromise resolution that would have at least added that "we are not of one mind" on this issue. These votes are an indicator that the rest of the anti-LGBTQ language and laws about ordination and same-sex marriage will likely remain. Those votes come tomorrow, May 4, the closing day of the conference.
Today is yet ANOTHER sad day for those who have fought so hard to create change and those who look to the church for hope in their struggle to reconcile their faith and sexuality. The following is an open letter from Gil.
To: My LGBTQ sisters and brothers, The Love Your Neighbor Common Witness Coalition, and to all of us who were crushed and angered and disappointed by the inaction and action of The General Conference,"Grace and peace to US, from God the Creator and Jesus the Liberator."
Even though I am an "elder brother" who in the Civil Rights Movement and at General Conferences have "been there and done that" (Protested, picketed and got arrested in Cleveland), I cannot in good conscience tell you, "this too will pass away", and therefore you should be patient and wait to fight another day. Bonhoeffer wrote of "cheap grace". Acceptance of what some said would be inevitable and a too easy reconciliation can be "cheap" as well. Each and every day of the new Quadrennium, there should be some remembrance of what happened in Tampa! "WHAT HAPPENED IN TAMPA SHOULD NOT STAY IN TAMPA".
Some of the greatest threats to justice are our short memories, our amnesia and our acts of revisionism as a way to conceal the awfulness of the many ways we as humans harm and hurt each other. If we remembered more clearly the history of the mistreatment of women, people of color and poor people of all races and genders, we might now, not be mistreating LGBTQ persons. We engage in "serial isms" because we have become expert in forgetting earlier isms.
Our remembering of what happened in Tampa, ought not initially be the beginning of the strategy for the General Conference of 2016. Rather, it should provide a constant reminder of what happened on May 3, 2012 at the Tampa General Conference. "May 3rds" could become our United Methodist "May Day".
Maya Angelou has written these words that have an appropriateness. You may write me down in history, with your bitter twisted lies. You may trod me in the very dirt, But still like dust I rise.
You may shoot me with your words, you may kill me with your hatefulness, But still like air I rise.
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave,
I rise, I rise, I rise.
Maya Angelou writes of the long journey to freedom of those of us of African descent in her, "STILL I RISE". I have always hoped that the journeys of those of African descent; Journeys through Colonialism, Slavery, Lynchings, Racial Segregation, etc. would be a guiding light for those who today, because of their sexual orientation, are mistreated by church and society. But today, in the debate at General Conference I saw, and I heard persons from the USA and Africa who have been taught and have absorbed, a Gospel that has blotted out the history of struggle and triumph of their ancestors. They have forgotten that history, or they have been kept from learning it.
But, in spite of it all, we know that "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." I have been impressed, amazed, astounded, and spiritually enriched as I have watched you from afar. You have won and the tragedy is that our Church has not known that you have won. I quote again the motto of the Special Olympics; "Let me win, but if I do not win, let me brave in the attempt." You have been brave and you have won because you are on the right side of history! One day, The United Methodist Church will catch up with you.
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.