By Jessica Brodie
Shortly after General Conference ended, a friend who is gay reached out.
“I have no words,” he said. Pain, hurt, betrayal—none of them were strong enough, fitting enough.
On Twitter, my news feed contained photos of sobbing Christians, some escorted by police. “The church has told us they don’t want us here,” one message flicked across my screen.
My heart broke for my brothers and sisters—gay and straight and anywhere in between—in anguish now because The United Methodist Church, through its delegates to a special called session of General Conference, voted by a narrow margin to uphold its stance that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.” (See article, here.)
I must clarify: the UMC did not vote to exclude lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning/queer and intersex people from the church. It did vote that being a “self-avowed practicing homosexual” is not acceptable behavior for Christians and that the church cannot perform gay marriages or have “practicing” gay clergy.
Still, the message many are gleaning from what happened is one of rejection: The church doesn’t want us; who I am is not welcome here.
As Adam Hamilton, pastor of the largest UMC in the denomination, said in a meeting to UMC communicators the day after GC2019, “The message conveyed is that the Methodist Church in 2019 said once more ‘no’ to gay and lesbian people, and it feels like it’s rejected them.”
Friends, despite how many are hearing rejection, let’s all work to send a different message and narrative—one of God’s love and unity. I pray to cling to these truths:
One is that the UMC fervently believes “all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God.”
Second, people are hurting. Regardless of where you stand on this, acknowledge that pain. Reach out to people and show you care for them and value them. Work to foster relationships with people of a different perspective. Love each other. Tear down fences.
Third, understand the UMC is implored to welcome all people with radical hospitality.
Fourth, we have a mission in our denomination to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world. That comes first.
As our South Carolina Bishop Jonathan Holston has said, “It’s not a day to talk wins or losses. This is the church of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. We have to find a way to be God’s Kingdom.”