Not With Interest of Debate...

photo credit: “At Least Water” by Rev. Alex da Silva Souto, Connecticut, USA.

photo credit: “At Least Water” by Rev. Alex da Silva Souto, Connecticut, USA.

Not with interest of debate, not even with interest to persuade, but simply to share my own perspective because it’s been asked:

Why I support the Simple Plan and do not support the One Church Plan for the February 23-26 global gathering to discuss and vote on the UMC’s proclamation on queer lives and loves.

1. There is no progressive plan. The Simple Plan is the only one with any integrity in its treatment of LGBTQ people. I will not endorse teaching of the church that blatantly reinforces and even affirms treating LGBTQ people discriminatorily. It is not obvious to me that passing the One Church Plan is better than not passing anything. We know that if the OCP doesn’t pass, people will continue to agitate and advocate for LGBTQ justice. We know that conflict is necessary for change. We know that conflict will continue. We do not know with certainty, however, the long-term impact of the OCP passing. I believe it will make the fight for equality longer and harder, especially for those most vulnerable. I struggle to understand where the certainty of those who believe the OCP is better than nothing comes from. I can entirely respect delegates who are, “with fear and trembling,” struggling with what to do if they have to vote on OCP or nothing. I do not envy my queer and ally delegate friends facing that challenge. I absolutely hold space to acknowledge I could be wrong on this. And I wish others who are choosing so adamantly to say OCP is better than nothing would too. Much harm will be done by the OCP and to oversimplify that harm as being obviously less, simply because it is immediately before us, is of questionable certainty. I say this as one whose significant other is actively under (their third) complaint which has been held over their head until GC decides what to do. Though that complaint would need not continue under the OCP, neither of us support it.

2. The Simple Plan requires nothing of communities and certainly not of individuals not yet ready to be released from queer and transphobia. It requires nothing. It actually only removes requirements.

3. I do my best to live my theology. I certainly fall short - often. But the same theology that led me to come out in Texas in my ordination process, the same theology that has sustained me through incredible degrees of hate, the same theology that has shaped me and connected me to the saints who went before and the ones who are to come, leads me to support the Simple Plan alone. I orient myself and my place in the church theology-first. And my theology is less interested in an abstract concept of togetherness and more interested in the flesh and blood of those the church targets. I genuinely trust that plenty others are living theology-first as well. We disagree, likely, on the theological beliefs. I believe in proclaiming and voting and witnessing to the Love that sets the captives free and rejects all forms of evil and hate even if it doesn’t get the votes. That is the kind of thing that keeps people alive under great distress. Collective resistance to evil and care for one another in the midst of our struggles is holy and transformative and powerful in and of itself. This is the message I glean from the Christian scriptures.

4. Trans people, especially trans women, are dying every day and can’t even get access to basic needs. And queer people are still being violently attacked. And religious freedom laws are used to deny us all rights. And church policies continue to teach our parents not to support us. This is literally everyday life for LGBTQ people in the U.S. and across the globe. And what the UMC decides in Feb affects all my queer and trans friends whether they are a part of the church or not. It shapes culture and political decisions and it shapes what progressives spend their time on. I disdain arguments that suggest “there are more important things the church should be focusing on” when they pretend like all of those other matters, that are certainly very important, do not still lead to affirming or rejecting LGBTQ people. Racism, classism, sexism, homelessness - all of the “other” issues are heightened when those who bear those oppressions are also queer and/or trans. There’s no running from our stance on this - internally or externally.

5. I am from the south. The majority of my life thus far was spent in the only annual conference in the United States that still does not have even a Reconciling Community (Alabama-West Florida). I then went to seminary in Texas. And I came out in Texas. And I got dragged for it in Texas. And I would have felt so betrayed by my colleagues in “safer” conferences who were willing to throw me under the bus if I still lived in Texas. I do not believe in the “we’ll come back for you later” styles of change making. They have always done harm and people rarely “come back.” I also cannot condone the violence of suggesting “context” (as in, the south) is an excuse for continuing to bully LGBTQ people.

6. A plan that “compromises” or “takes achievable steps” (which again, the Simple Plan IS a compromise) did not need to look like adding harm or furthering toxic theologies that can serve other forms of injustice in the days ahead. It could have looked like “ordination rights only” or “marriage rights only” or “funding ban lifted only” or many other possibilities. It’s too bad more queer folks weren’t invited into the process. This is what happens.

7. I love and believe in queer and trans people. So much. Like, I think LGBTQ people, especially my black and brown LGBT kin, are the best thing the church has going for it. As it continues to decline, these folks are doing the most creative, sustaining, interesting, salvific work I know about. Hands down. If there’s hope for a church worth saving, they’re/we’re a part of it. If there’s hope for a church of cishet people, it’s in divesting from antiqueerness. The Simple Plan is the only plan that has the input of *any* LGBTQ people of color. The folx who have been relentlessly supporting the Simple Plan are also many of the people who have shaped me, gone before me, taught me, and supported me, and where they go I will go.

8. This is the church we are talking about. At it’s best, we are baptized into a commitment to fight for one another’s ability to flourish and to assuring everyone of their God-given belovedness. We are baptized into a commitment to “resisting evil in all its forms.” We are supposed to be sanctuary when we are together - and we so rarely have been for so many marginalized people. For all the political metaphors that have been both inaccurate and misleading (there is no “either or” vote), likening people or plans to bernie or hillary or or or...if the fact that we are church doesn’t feel like an important difference or change our strategies for decision making, I’m just not sure what we’re doing.

Rev. M Barclay

Rev. M Barclay