What the United Methodist Church can learn from this first anniversary of the ending of Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Today, September 20, 2012 is the first anniversary of the ending of theMilitary’s "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. An analysis of the success or lack thereof of the new policy has proven that despite the dire predictions of many, morale has not suffered, the mission of the military has not been impeded, and honesty and openness about the historical reality of the presence of lesbian and gay persons in the military has once again proven that "truth crushed to earth will rise again."

What does this mean for The United Methodist Church?

First, seldom do we in the Church do what the military has done; evaluate the success of knocking down the barriers that have for so long restricted persons because they are women, or because they are black. When the presence of women or of blacks becomes a reality in those places and positions from which they were once restricted, and that presence is viewed as positive rather than negative, we in The UMC have a variety of responses:

a) We act as though there never were barriers erected to keep "them" out. b) We have amnesia about the reality of those barriers. c) We engage in a peculiar type of revisionist history, that claims those barriers never existed. d) We are reluctant to evaluate as did the military about the end of DADT, or we find it difficult to admit that our practices of exclusion and/or separation were wrong, and that the practice of inclusion is right. Because to do so we think, would weaken the "Authority of Scripture" and/or prove our interpretation of Scripture to exclude was wrong!

Second, point (d) above has been the cause of The United Methodist Church engaging in dishonesty, irrationality, untruths, contradictory language and behavior, a dishonoring rather than honoring of Scripture, a failure to take Jesus seriously, and a less-than positive response to the claims we make about God.

Scripture remains the same, but our understandings and interpretations of Scripture have changed, and we are afraid to admit and acknowledge that our understandings and interpretations have changed. We foolishly think that to do so, weakens the influence of Scripture, reflects negatively on our faith journeys and reveals as the old folks used to say; "God is not finished with (any of) us yet".

The United Methodist Church, if it has the will, can learn from the military and its ending of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. We too, if we have the will to rescind our UMC practice of "DADT", will discover that for 40 years we have been in denial about how significantly God has used the lay and clergy United Methodists who are gay and lesbian, and we have been wrong!

I suggest that if we in The United Methodist Church took seriously the REASON portion of our quadrilateral, we would rescind our negative language and legislation about "the practice of homosexuality", same sex unions and marriages, and United Methodist clergy performing same sex unions and marriages.

We say in our Book of Discipline. "...That any disciplined theological work calls for the careful use of reason." We say this about Reason: "By reason we read and interpret Scripture...determine whether our Christian witness is clear...ask questions of faith to understand God's action and will...organize the understandings that compose our witness to the biblical testimony and to the traditions that mediate that testimony to us...we relate our witness to the full range of human knowledge, experience and service." We can learn from the United Negro College Fund with its slogan, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste".

On this the first anniversary of the ending of the military, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" practice, The United Methodist Church can begin to recognize that the use of the mind and reason will deliver us from our "40-year wilderness" of bias linked to the Bible, that our anti-gay language and legislation represents. Our 40 years of disregarding Tradition, Experience, Reason and most of all the totality of Scripture, can end, if we listen to and learn from the U.S. Military.