This week--in the midst of a natural disaster of yet-unknown but epic proportion and on the heels of the still-simmering confrontation with evil that merely raised its ugly head at Charlottesville, Virginia--in the midst of matters that cry out for the attention of Christianity and its churches, a large body of what has become known as the "Evangelical" wing of the church but which we have also long known as the "Religious Right" has issued a manifesto of hate. Not that they have applied that label to their dull-edged-knife of a missive to their political base; they have chosen to call it, instead, "The Nashville Statement." Residents and leaders of Nashville must be recoiling from the taint upon their good name.
The Nashville Statement (okay, for simplicity, I'll use the name they have chosen) is, simply put, an attempt to divide Christians in America by picking out verses of Biblical text, with no regard for context, as a basis to spew the disgust that these "Evangelicals" and others who have signed on feel towards human beings who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer. In addition, the Nashville Statement vilifies those who love, affirm, support or otherwise minister with respect and dignity to the "LGBTQ Community."
Until I got to know real people, people just like me except that they were drawn--drawn, whether they were comfortable with it or not-- to love people of the same sex, or to real, sincere confusion over their gender, or otherwise to a sexual identity different from my own, I might have shared in some of the fear or doubt about those real people, human beings, neighbors, friends, teachers, cops, soldiers, relatives. I think it is important for any or all of us who grew up with one idea or belief to acknowledge that truth and then to define what has changed and who we are now. In my own adult life, I have been introduced to many people with different sexual identities from mine and, over time, I have made the transition from someone who focused on what they do in the private moments of their lives to what their character consists of. That has made all the difference.
The result of a personal transition that each of us could make--seeing others in the light and the grace in which we, ourselves, hope to be seen--allows for a change in the frame of reference. Identifying someone, first, as a person--a neighbor, a teacher, a co-worker or client or friend--frees us to see, first, how very much alike we are and, then, second, how little difference there is between us. Whom someone loves, or how those most private and intimate moments are spent,
is not only none of our business but, in truth, is of very little interest.
I am committed to the United Methodist Church; in good conscience, I believe very strongly in honoring all vows made before God, including those of ordination. I am pleased that none of the authors or initial signers of the Nashville Statement are representatives of the United Methodist Church. Like most United Methodists, I suspect, I agree with some of the church's positions and disagree with some; overall, I'm pretty much a Methodist at heart. But I firmly believe that it is wrong to label someone's God-given sexuality as sinful, or as incompatible with Scripture, and I have known too many of God's children who have had no choice in their sexual identity, including some
who, had the choice been their own, would have made very different choices--choices that would have allowed them to continue to live in harmony with their families, choices that would not have hurt spouses, children and parents, choices that would have allowed them the cloak of invisibility--too many for me to believe that God has not made them to be as they are. Just as God has made me to be as I am.
Can anyone who knows anything about Jesus really believe that God loves these children less?
There are people who choose to divide, rather than to unite. There are people who prefer the notion that differences outweigh likeness; these tend to be people who hold themselves out as being superior (and generally for differences over which they, themselves, have had no control, whatsoever). There are people who seek power and wealth and fame and choose the path of causing pain in order to achieve these wretched goals. As for me, I am weary of them.
Let us love one another and all of God's children and let us recognize that we are all sinners who can be saints, not by emphasizing our differences, but by leaning into our sameness. Let us never grow weary of love--love first, love last, love always. They will know we are Christians by our love.