Do. The. Work.
My favorite story of Jesus is how he adapted his ministry to make sure he stayed in fellowship with other religious leaders. For example, Jesus would often be like “Yeah, go ahead and stone that adulterous woman. Me and my disciples won’t stone adulterous women but I want to give you all space to do ministry in your context. I mean, I totally don’t believe in stoning anyone but if you guys have to stone people, then I want to give you space because we’re all on different points of the stoning spectrum. Hopefully, if I’m nice and open to your beliefs, in maybe 20-30 more years, you’ll be ready to have a conversation about not stoning people. That’s real progress!“
Good old, moderate Jesus. Making room for people that want to stone people.
Sarcasm aside, narratives matter. Rhetoric matters.
With the current circumstances regarding full inclusion for LGBTQIA+ persons in The United Methodist Church, what gets me fired up and really grinds my gears is the term “progressive non-compatibilists.”
This term is utter BULLSHIT.
The problem is that the term is part of this misleading narrative that there are progressives and traditionalists who are equally intransigent (i.e. both equally wrong), and the “correct” position is held by the progressives, moderates, and traditionalists who want to compromise to keep the “negative peace.” They call themselves “compatibilists,” but basically they were just happy with the way things were in the UMC between 1972-2016. A lot of debate, no real change, and though many “compatabilists” may have had differing personal opinions, they were happy that the UMC machine, and its assets, survived and rolled on.
So now, to keep it that way in the midst of a debate they can no longer just ignore, there is a narrative being concocted that the way forward is to treat this conflict in the church like a debate in some (underpaid and mistreated) adjunct’s Philosophy 101 class. As if it’s just a matter of personal belief, but once class is over we should all go get a beer together. And if anyone doesn’t want to do that, they’re supposedly overreacting.
Again, this narrative maligning progressives who want full inclusion and affirmation yesterday is BULLSHIT.
The full inclusion debate is not about personal convictions. LGBTQIA+ persons, people of color, and all of their allies in the UMC no longer care about convincing your racist, homophobic relatives that God is happy when a same-sex couple finds one another and decides to get married and build a life together. Keep your trash homophobic personal opinion for the next 50 years or whatever.
THIS IS NOW ABOUT SPECIFIC CHURCH POLICY!
I believe those who are being called “progressive non-compatibilists” have chosen the more apt term “LIBERATIONIST.” Because this isn’t about compatibility. It’s about CHURCH POLICY. I reject the term “progressive non-compatibilist.” Don’t refer to me as that. And most importantly, don’t refer to LGBTQIA+ persons who sacrificed both now and in the past for the UMC, by that bullshit.
How many decades did these alleged “non-compatibilists” stay in a denomination that said they were incompatible with Christian teaching?
How long did they sit next to people that believed their very being is a sin?
How many got kicked out of ordination?
How may chose to walk away from ordination because becoming ordained meant they’d have to be closeted?
How many got fired from local churches? How many got outed?
How many were put through public trials?
How many got told the local church they contributed to was unavailable for their LEGAL weddings?
How many lost their lives, their livelihoods, or their places of belonging?
They stayed and endured all the horrendous pain, just so your denomination could continue to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. And now you call them “non-compatibilists?!” Fuck that!
Why can’t your nice and well-meaning conservative members/parishioners, who you swear will come along one day, sit in a church within a denomination that has full inclusion and affirmation as its policy? Better yet, why in the world do you expect LGBTQIA+ clergy in “progressive” areas to sit back and watch while one of their own is put on trial somewhere else?
Have you “compatibilists” forgotten that far too many of our out and ordained LGBTQIA+ clergy and church staff once found themselves in a hostile church environment - sometimes contemplating suicide - before finding a UMC church family that is openly affirming?
Do you really expect them to sit in silence while a hostile conference puts one of their own through hell, because you alleged “allies” who are “compatibilists” aren’t willing to stand up to what you claim you believe is wrong? In what delusional world does that compromise make sense to you?!
I’m not trying to convince compatibilists to become LIBERATIONISTS. It would be nice, but I think they’re too attached to the system and its considerable resources. That’s fair. I make no real moral judgement on that front. Resources matter to ministry and I’d be irresponsible to suggest every church leader can ignore that. But last August, I was very blessed to listen and learn from people who have been doing LIBERATIONIST work for quite some time. Their belief is that God can create a church of full inclusion and affirmation, focused on racial and economic justice, that seeks to dismantle systems of oppression. A church that centers the voice of the marginalized. Unapologetically. For me? I can get with that.
One obvious challenge is they will need resources. If you’re truly an ally (and oddly a compatibilist), consider how you can help with the LIBERATIONIST movement. Money matters. Money helps. Votes matter. Votes help. There’s nothing that says you can’t contribute to BOTH movements. Maybe help a less-resourced progressive church looking to disaffiliate and join a LIBERATIONIST movement. Just please stop trying to get LIBERATIONISTS on board with your new (or really, OLD) compatibilist movement. And quit trying to label them as sore losers who want to take their ball and go home. That’s the literal least you can do.
To be clear, yes, my rants were “inspired” by the recent Leadership Institute in Kansas, and more accurately, inspired by the reactions of people I trust who were there. I personally was not there, and I am not speaking on Adam Hamilton as a person or leader. He has become the subject of much disdain - and maybe rightfully so - but I have no desire to discuss whether he’s a good, well meaning person. I assume he is. And I assume the folks following him, and trusting him - and trusting leaders like him, all mean well. But I realize the time has long passed for trying to convince folks of an inner goodness deep down in the heart, no matter the position on full inclusion. Time to get down to the strategies and the processes and there are far too many people applauding what Adam and other compatibilists are trying to do WITHOUT listening to the critiques of actual LGBTQIA+ persons. I’d be a terrible ally if I didn’t echo what they’ve already said long before me and better than me. I cannot let you off the hook based on rhetoric and statements. Time to shit or get off the pot. People have to hear where you stand on this POLICY debate. Especially if you’re an “ally.” Too many want the label of ally but not the WORK of ally. I hear people lament: “Why can’t we just move past this?” Well, it’s because your scary ass won’t do the work to move past this.
A month ago, McKrae Game, a well known, infamous advocate for conversion therapy came out as gay and tried to apologize for his role in promoting the quackery that is conversion therapy (and emboldening the morons who believe in it). And while it’s not my place to speak on that apology, I will note that many of the comments I saw from LGBTQIA+ persons who had been harmed by conversion therapy were understandably less than forgiving.
I’ve said this before: as a young Black kid, one of the tools I had against racism, was a community of melanin that assured me that I am not less than because of my skin color. I knew that people that I trusted and loved would always build me up. And it was not lost on me that racists were directly insulted and no one ever told me I needed to walk with racists or help anyone get over their racism. And when I hear the stories of LGBTQIA+ persons who have endured the harm of our collective homophobia and transphobia, I cannot help but wonder how much harm could have been avoided if those young persons heard more people unapologetically denouncing conversion therapy and homophobia/transphobia in all its various forms. What if a young trans person heard someone - ANYONE - affirming their worth AND also directly challenging the harmful statements of bigots? How much better would life have been for someone we lost, or someone still alive but still dealing with the trauma of a world that devalued them? What if we hadn’t failed them with our silence?
Some people may feel they are called to usher along someone wrestling with being inclusive. Some may want to calmly listen to someone who thinks the Bible/God is against homosexuality and try to convince them otherwise. That will NEVER be my ministry. If someone chooses to walk with those people who they believe “might” change, fine. Go ahead.
I cannot and will not do that. My calling is to loudly proclaim that I believe that God celebrates when a same sex couple finds each other, and that couple engages in a healthy relationship, marriage or not. I also believe that God 100% accepts all trans persons and that God in no way feels that a person’s transition is a statement that “God made a mistake.” And - this is key for ME - when people disagree with that, I will unapologetically tell them they are dead wrong and that I do not respect their opinion.. I do not respect anyone’s homophobic/transphobic friends or relatives, and I will not mince words when I respond to their terrible theology and beliefs. Because I truly believe that marginalized people NEED to hear their allies STRONGLY denouncing bigotry. So when I show up on a Facebook post and read a comment from someone’s homophobic high school friend, I purposely say his comment is stupid because I think it’s vital that people see someone saying that homophobia/transphobia is indeed stupid. Your friend won’t get to protect themselves with “that’s my opinion” or “those are my religious beliefs.” No, your homophobia/transphobia is stupid. There could be someone who needs a vocal and visible ally, but because you don’t want to be rude to your “well meaning, but conservative” uncle who has gone to church forever, you don’t clearly state what needs to be said. That uncle means little to me when there’s a chance a not yet out LGBTQIA+ person stuck in a hostile environment could be listening. We never know who’s listening or watching.