WHEN WE IN THE CHURCH ARE ON THE WRONG SIDE OF HISTORY…AND THE GOSPEL
We who call ourselves Christians have too often found ourselves on the wrong side of history. In the not-so-distant past, some of our churches supported slavery. Some became apologists for segregation and apartheid. Some defended Hitler. Some opposed the ordination of women. And on Tuesday, some of our brothers and sisters in the global United Methodist Church made a tragic mistake when they chose to stand on the wrong side of history—the side where fear, bigotry, homophobia, hatred, violence and sin reign, and where the gospel values of justice, love and inclusion that Jesus of Nazareth lived and died for are violated. A majority of the international delegates and one-third of the U.S. delegates to the United Methodist Church’s General Conference voted Tuesday for a plan of governance that will persecute and prosecute, exclude and excoriate those whom God created as LGBTQ and those within the denomination who are their allies.
The Maine Council of Churches is aware of the depth of pain, grief and sorrow so many of our state’s United Methodists are experiencing at this difficult time, and we mourn with you. (The United Methodist Church remains a member-denomination of our Council through their New England Conference who, since June of 2016 has been operating under a resolution of “non-conformity,” refusing to conform or comply with provisions of UMC Discipline that discriminate against LGBTQ persons.)
We especially wish to extend our heartfelt sympathy and compassion to the LGBTQ United Methodists here in Maine and around the nation and world who have been wounded and traumatized by Tuesday’s decision at the General Conference, who feel unsafe and unwelcome in the UMC, and who are grieving. We weep with you and we will not forsake you. And we weep for your denomination, who has chosen to deprive itself of the gifts God sent them through your ministry and presence in their pulpits and pews.
We call on Christians from other, more LGBTQ-inclusive denominations to practice compassionate sensitivity by refraining from proclaiming your own tradition’s openness or history of inclusion, and by refraining from suggesting to United Methodists that they “should just leave” the UMC to join your denomination. Let us not forget: we are one body, one family. As one, we grieve together. As one, we seek new hope within our Christian family—even if, in the words of Rev. Dr. Jim Gertmenian, “that hope is found in broken pieces all over the floor.”
For we who call ourselves Christians are a people of hope who believe in the transforming power of love and the reality of resurrection. After all, most of the churches and Christians who found themselves on the wrong side of history in the past, those who supported slavery, segregation, apartheid, the Nazi regime, those who opposed women’s ordination, came to recognize that they had made terrible mistakes. They repented, grew and changed to realign with gospel values. We remain hopeful that this will be true for those who voted on Tuesday to preserve a system that discriminates against and casts out our beloved LGBTQ siblings. We pray that they will realize their grave mistake, repent, turn and become the church God dreams we can be—where all are welcome and love wins. May that day come swiftly.