Western Jurisdiction should take ‘executive action’ on gay rights

By Gilbert Caldwell, Special Contributor …

I have just received the “WE WILL NOT BE SILENT” statement approved by the Rocky Mountain Conference. I was particularly inspired by these words: “RESOLVED, that the Rocky Mountain Conference looks forward to the leadership of our annual Annual Conference and the Western Jurisdiction Conference in formulating an action plan for a new day in our denomination, based on the 2000 and 2004 statements, We Will Not Be Silent …”

Is it not time for United Methodists who “affirm full and ecclesiastical privileges of all persons including LGBT persons…” (I would add same-sex couples) to act in “executive fashion” in response to the failure of the denomination to do this in the 2012 General Conference?  President Obama has  done this in response to the failure of  Congress to act on immigration matters. The Western Jurisdiction Conference, in response to the significant steps forward on gay rights by President Obama, Courts and State Legislatures and the bi-partisan efforts to achieve marriage equality for same sex couples, has an opportunity “to be the Church” in ways that General Conferences since 1972 have not been.

My suggestion of “executive action” by the Western Jurisdiction Conference is based on this rationale offered at the end of the Rocky Mountain Conference statement:

“No other marginalized group has been singled out in the Book of Discipline for discrimination or special exclusionary treatment. We believe this is in conflict with our traditional and historic emphasis on God’s grace being available to all. The discriminatory language is itself in conflict with the inclusive language in other parts of the Book of Discipline, including the Constitution of the denomination.”

I have wondered for years why General Conferences and Judicial Councils have not seen the “conflict” as described in the rationale above. Our nation’s Congress does not have the right to enact legislation that is in conflict with the Constitution. And, I do not believe that a General Conference has the right to single out a “marginalized group…for discrimination or special exclusionary treatment.”

Many of us have wished that our Judicial Council could “rescue” the denomination from enacting legislation that is at variance with the inclusive language of the Book of Discipline and the UMC Constitution. Long ago United Methodism should have realized that our discriminatory and exclusionary language and legislation in response to LGBT persons and same sex couples, “places us in bed” with the language and legislation of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and even the anti-homosexual vulgarities of the pastor and members of the Westboro Baptist Church.

The Judicial Council meeting in Tampa ruled the proposed denominational re-organization plan unconstitutional. Yet, the Judicial Council has been unable to rule that the anti-gay, biased, language and legislation in our Book of Discipline contradicts the language of inclusivity of our UMC Constitution, Book of Discipline and the Bible. The inability of the Judicial Council to do so, compels the Western Jurisdiction Conference and other Jurisdictional Conferences to act.

I cannot as a third generation “cradle Methodist” who has resisted the language and legislation of discrimination and exclusion regarding black persons in both the Methodist and United Methodist Church, now be silent as General Conference after General Conference mis-uses “The Authority of Scripture” to claim that, “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” I have as a black lay person and now clergyman, lived through a time in Methodism when being black made me “incompatible” for full participation in the life of the Methodist/United Methodist Church. This was also justified by “The Authority of Scripture.”

It is difficult to understand why some women and blacks who have known discrimination in Methodism based on “The Authority of Scripture” and lived to see that discrimination end, even though Scripture has not changed, can now support Scripture-based prohibitions against same gender loving persons.

If I were “silent” in response to the anti-gay language and legislation of today’s United Methodism, I would be no different from the white persons who in the past were “silent” in response to the anti-black language and legislation of earlier Methodism.

Paragraph 543.7 of the Book of Discipline, page 346 says this of Central Conferences: “A central conference shall have power to make such changes and adaptations of the Book of Discipline as the special conditions and the mission of the church in the area require ….” If we are  serious about “the special conditions and the mission of the church” in the Western, Northeastern and North Central Jurisdictions where states and the District of Columbia have approved or are considering marriage equality for same sex couples, then these Jurisdictions are challenged to preserve the mission and ministry of The United Methodist Church vis-a-vis same sex couples through affirmation and action.

The General Conference in Tampa illustrated some dysfunctionality in our denomination and the illogic and irrationality of quadrennial decision-making. Jurisdictional Conferences as they meet in July, if they have the will, God-given boldness and a desire to preserve the justice commitments of The United Methodist Church, can act in ways that preserve the integrity of the mission and ministry of the denomination.

I suggest that at each Jurisdictional Conference these words from Hymn # 577, “God of Grace and God of Glory”,  “set the table” for the decision-making that must follow:

“Save us from weak resignation to the evils we deplore; let the search
for thy salvation be our glory ever more. Grant us wisdom, grant us
courage, serving thee whom we adore, serving thee whom we adore.”

The Rev. Gil Caldwell is a retired elder of the Rocky Mountain Conference/Western Jurisdiction.

 

Join the conversation....

  1. richard says:

    Sure, let's go ahead and 'force' rebellion into the church by taking 'executive action' re: gay rights… after all, that is the way of the world (as quoted in the above article re: Pres. Obama). Let's let Pres. Obama, a socialist, show the church how we are to conduct ourselves. And we wonder why the U.M.C. is floundering??

  2. It would be hard to overstate the importance of Gil's career-long witness on this issue, of which this commentary is only the most recent example. At least since his pastorate in New Haven more than 30 years ago, Gil's ministry has included words and actions affirming the full Gospel and advocating for LGBT folk in and beyond the church. Perhaps most significantly, he did not wait until it was "safe" for him to do so. His call here for a kind of "ecclesiastical disobedience" to the rules for the sake of adherence to the UMC Constitution is exactly what is needed. One would hope to hear a similar call from some of the active Bishops who are so certain they should be allowed to provide a greater degree of leadership so that the denomination will no longer continue to flounder.

  3. megmorin@frontiernet says:

    Blessing to you, dear brother in faith, for your words. Yes, having walked through the dark days of the late '50s and '60s for civil rights and now as a female pastor, I have been unable to understand this resistance to full inclusion. I grieve the use of the words "incompatible with scripture." I am stunned by the tendency of some of our best clergy people to "proof-text" scripture in this case, but call for learned exegesis in other areas of theological debate. I thank you so much for your courage in those days and for your faith in these.

  4. “No other marginalized group has been singled out in the Book of Discipline for discrimination or special exclusionary treatment." Mr. Caldwell, no other "marginalized group" is advocating that sin not be called sin, but be considered a gift from God! No other "marginalized group" has jettisoned the clear teaching of Scripture and 2000 years of tradition to proclaim its new and superior wisdom. No other "marginalized group" is calling for recogntion of homosexual marriage as an acceptable mainstream lifestyle option… for the first time in recorded human history!

    Mr. Caldwell, and your friends, show a little integrity. The UMC did not change it's stance on this issue…. ever. You did. Therefore, you should have the integrity to LEAVE… rather than pretend to remain in the covenant while willfully breaking it. There are plenty of other denominations around that agree with you. Go there, and quit fighting against the growing consensus in the UMC.

  5. friar pat says:

    Good word davidt!!!!! We will continue to whine about losing members and strength while we continue to fail being a faithful Church!!! Amazing!!!!

  6. jdcurtis says:

    Long ago United Methodism should have realized that our discriminatory and exclusionary language and legislation in response to LGBT persons and same sex couples, “places us in bed” with the language and legislation of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and even the anti-homosexual vulgarities of the pastor and members of the Westboro Baptist Church

    You are so completely and spiritually blind it constitutes being delusional. If principaled, empathetic opposition to a clearly defined sin that causes markedly higher rates of domestic violence, physical ailments and mental health problems (including suicide) is seen as being allied with Fred Phelps, then God help you.

  7. thundercloud says:

    I am sympathetic to the issues of LGBT persons. I also am sympathetic to persons with disabilities and those minorities of various ethnic backgrounds. I am disabled, as are we all. I am a sinner, as we all fail in our efforts to follow God's commandments. The difference here is whether you recognize your own weakness and through prayer strive toward a more perfect union with Creator.

    I quit drinking in 1996, and with the help of God and AA, I have remained sober. It doesn't make me better or worse in God's eyes and I am blessed with His Grace each day. I do not condemn others for drinking. Yet if an alcoholic were to lead Sunday worship drunk, we would all agree that person needs help.

    We all have sinful thoughts and desires at times. And we often fail to choose wisely in our actions. We recognize our sinful nature, and ask for forgiveness. Then we make a conscious effort to do better. To get back up out of the swamp of evil and once again walk on the road toward salvation. We know we will trip and fall once again, but we keep trying.

    We do not need our leadership, our guides, to openly declare that we can pick and choose the scriptures we like and disregard those we don't. I have a child who is an openly LGBT adult. We discuss this openly, honestly and lovingly. God loves all my children equally, but does not love everything we do. I love each of my children, but do not approve of everything they do.

    Mr. Caldwell should refer to the Wesleyan tradition. Everyone is a sinner. Repent and ask for forgiveness, not a position of influence.

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