Better start swimmin’

Some of you may be aware that, while I am currently attending an Episcopal church, I retain my membership in the United Methodist Church, and consider myself a “Methodist in exile.”  You may also be aware of the decisions made at last year’s General Conference that precipitated my decision to leave the United Methodist congregation that had been my church home since returning to Durham – the congregation in which my daughter was baptized.

Just yesterday, my former pastor wrote to me with news of the recent gathering of the North Carolina Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.  He knew that I would be interested in a resolution that was brought to the floor by the Youth Conference, and that passed by a wide margin.  It is worthwhile to quote Resolution #3 in its entirety:

Resolution 3: Concerning the General Conference’s Decision Regarding Homosexuality

WHEREAS, according to The Social Principles of the United Methodist Church, “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching” and,

WHEREAS, two “agree to disagree” proposals were soundly defeated during separate votes by the nearly 1,000 delegates gathered for the United Methodist Church’s General Conference in Tampa, Fla, therefore keeping the previous language unchanged [1], and

WHEREAS, “One proposal would have changed the Book of Discipline to say that gays and lesbians are “people of sacred worth” and that church members differ about “whether homosexual practices (are) contrary to the will of God” [1] and,

WHEREAS, at least 15 regional Annual Conferences have already rejected the denomination’s stance on homosexuality [2], and

WHEREAS, when asked by The Barna Group what words or phrases best describe Christianity, the top response among Americans ages 16-29 was “antihomosexual.” For a staggering 91 percent of non-Christians, this was the first word that came to their mind when asked about the Christian faith. The same was true for 80 percent of young churchgoers [3], and

WHEREAS, “The gay issue has become the ‘big one’, the negative image most likely to be intertwined with Christianity’s reputation. It is also the dimension that most clearly demonstrates the unChristian faith to young people today, surfacing in a spate of negative perceptions: judgmental, bigoted, sheltered, right-wingers, hypocritical, insincere, and uncaring. Outsiders say [Christian] hostility toward gays…has become virtually synonymous with the Christian faith” (Kinnaman, David, unChristian) and,

WHEREAS, “one of the top reasons 59 percent of young adults with a Christian background have left the church is because they perceive the church to be too exclusive, particularly regarding their LGBT friends” (Kinnaman, David, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church…and Rethinking Faith)

WHEREAS the 61st Annual Conference Session of the United Methodist Youth Fellowship of the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, acknowledge that the church is divided on this issue but feel that such language is harmful not only to the groups that it attacks but to the future of the church, as such language is alienating to both present and future members.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that we implore the General Conference to change the language used in The Social Principles, and to affirm the place of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) members within the church, lest they risk losing not only those members but any and all members with family or friends who are LGBT.

THEREFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that copies of this resolution be sent to the General Board of Church and Society and the Council of Bishops.

As my home conference of Virginia begins their Annual Conference in Hampton this afternoon, I am disappointed that a similar resolution is not even on the agenda for consideration. Perhaps next year Virginia will join the growing numbers of U.S. regional annual conferences that are speaking up in opposition to the actions of General Conference last year?  It is hard to say.  But it does seem that momentum is growing for full inclusion of LGBTQ individuals in the life of the United Methodist church (in the U.S. at least.)

I will continue to prayerfully consider where God is calling me to be at this time – with my Bible in one hand, and Bob Dylan in the other:

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’