Another response to Bishop Brown’s statement

Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr. in his response to the Same-Sex Marriage decision of the Supreme Court, reminds us; “The heart of our call of to ministry is to be pastor to the people of the congregation, and the community we serve.” Now that the Supreme Court has declared that Same-Sex marriage is valid in the 50 states of the USA, we as United Methodists can no longer fail to be in total ministry to Same Gender Loving couples who seek to be married. We as United Methodists share the view of our founder that, “The world is our parish”. How unfortunate it would be if we continue to prohibit UM clergy from providing the ministry of marriage in the USA to Same-Sex couples who now have the right to marry in all of the “parish” we call the USA.

Years ago, the conservative columnist, David Brooks wrote in a New York Times op-ed that conservatives should expect same sex couples to marry rather than consign them to contingent relationships. Brooks in an op-ed in the June 30. 2015 New York Times titled; “The Next Culture War” says this to conservatives; “Put aside a culture war that has alienated large parts of three generations from any consideration of religion or belief. Put aside an effort that has been a communications disaster, reducing a rich, complex faith into a public obsession with sex”.

I was 20 years old when another Supreme Court declared public school racial segregation invalid. I remember well that some Christians and their Churches in their disagreement with that decision, established white-only schools called academies. They also were responsible for closing some public schools in the process. Segregation whether based on race in public schools or same-sex orientation in marriage, is at variance with the equal access and equality provisions of the Constitution. And, for United Methodists, “The practice of segregation of any kind, is incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Many of us had prayed and hoped that the United Methodist Church that came into being in 1968, 19 days after the assassination of Martin Luther King, would be a faith-based leader in response to the anti-black racism that had so distorted both church and society. But, in 1972 the General Conference approved anti-gay language and legislation that since then has dominated General Conferences. Where might the USA be on matters of racial justice today, if we had not engaged in our long debate and disagreements on same gender loving persons and our restrictions on their “sacred worth”? The UMC in the USA, with our significant racial diversity at every level of the denomination might have done things that would have helped heal the racial hatred that was so evident in Charleston and in other cities in the nation.

The Bible has not changed, but we as United Methodists have re-interpreted those Scriptures that at one time were misused to justify the discrimination of women and blacks, and prohibit interracial marriage. It is time that we re-visit and re-interpret those Scriptures that have been misused to limit the sacred worth of lgbtq persons and same-sex couples. Each time I hear or read, “traditional marriage” and observe how those words are used to deny marriage equality for same sex couples, I remember, as I lived in North Carolina, Texas and South Carolina, how many times I heard and read, “traditional segregation”. Tradition for people of faith must never be used to deny, separate or segregate persons because of who they are, or whom they love.

Bishop Warner Brown and columnist David Brooks have written words that can encourage the United Methodist Church to move out of the corner into which we have painted ourselves. The needs and demands of the 21st century call forth progressive and conservative United Methodists to embrace and begin to be in collective mission and ministry in response to the human survival issues of our time.

We have wasted so much of God’s Time in our debates since 1972. May the Supreme Court decision on marriage equality in the USA, enable us to now major in empowering persons to become Disciples, who with God’s guidance, transform a nation and a world that is struggling with violence and economic, educational ,healthcare, and gender and racial inequality. They represent the hurt and harm that must call forth the best ministry the United Methodist Church can offer in the 21st century.

I believe all of us can say, “AMEN!” to that.

Gilbert H. Caldwell
A retired elder; Member of the Rocky Mountain/Denver Conference
Asbury Park, New Jersey
(Named for Bishop Francis Asbury)

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