by Rev. Gil Caldwell*
To: Bishop Robert Hoshibata/Desert Southwest Conference
From: Rev. Gil Caldwell/Retired Elder, Rocky Mountain Conference
Dear Bishop Hoshibata,
It was with great joy that I read of the decision of the Desert Southwest Conference to support marriage equality for same sex couples. I amwriting these words on the morning of July 4, 2013, believing that we of the United Methodist Church, in our actions and practices, must be the kind of faith institution that allows our faith/spirituality, to complement when possible, the foundation principles of our nation. The nation, on some matters of race, gender and now homosexuality, has been ahead of the Church. Martin Luther King asked the question; “Why is the Church the tail light rather than the headlight on justice issues?” (paraphrase). The decision of the Desert Southwest Conference complements the growing understandings of the rights of same gender loving persons that exist in our nation and have been affirmed by the Supreme Court.
Some thoughts about the significance of the Conference’s decision:
1. David Brooks, the conservative columnist in a New York Times op-ed a few years ago, suggested that conservatives ought support and expect same sex couples to marry. Conservatives, Brooks wrote, believe that committed relationships are superior to contingent relationships. Thus the action of the Conference on marriage equality has conservative rooting as well as liberal.
2. I, as a soon-to-be 80 year old African American former activist in the Civil Rights Movement, have been astounded that some of the arguments used against same sex marriage are the same arguments that were used against interracial marriage: “The Bible does not condone interracial marriage”, or “The children of interracial couples would not
be embraced by others”, or “Interracial marriage if approved, would create a ‘slippery slope’ that would allow for other marriage practices”. The foolishness of these arguments against interracial marriage have been proven to be that, foolish. Scripture of course, is primary for us as Christians, but we as United Methodists believe that reason when observed, complements Scripture. The Desert Southwest Conference in its actions has taken seriously, the Quadrilateral that is described so comprehensively in our Book of Discipline.
3. I, am one of the founders of United Methodists of Color for a Fully Inclusive Church that is under the Reconciling Ministries Network umbrella. We believed at the time of its founding, that people of color in the United Methodist Church who have experienced racism, colonialism, slavery, and cultural imperialism, in our history, at times supported by Methodism, had an obligation to not allow the United Methodist Church to do to lgbtq persons what it has done to us, or allowed others to do to us. Women and people of color, have known, and know, what it is to have our God-given humanity demeaned because of gender and/or race. We of all people, could not stand on the sidelines as same gender loving persons are demeaned, at times demonized as well.
Bishop Hoshibata, may you and the Desert Southwest Conference, even as some may “knock you down” because of the decision, continue to ”stand up on the inside”, believing and knowing that “God is good all the time. All the time, God is good.” The decision is a reflection of the love and the goodness of God, that we as Christians claim to affirm and celebrate. Thank you!
*Caldwell is a retired elder and member of the Rocky Mountain Conference and co-partner in www.truthinprogress.com. A founder of Black Methodists for Church Renewal and Church within a Church, Caldwell lives in Asbury Park, N.J.