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Separating Bigoted Churches. I’m All For It.

United Methodist Church Splits Over Gay Marriage and Gay Clergy

Originally published on Medium.com

A quarter of Methodist congregations abandon the church as schism grows over LGBTQ issues — USA Today. 12/20/23

When I heard that the United Methodist Church officially split over same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy, I was outraged.

For more than a decade I was a content Methodist. I walked in wary, not one to embrace shaming language and guilt-soaked preaching, “sin, repent, Original Sin” or conditional entry into the Gates. Blekk. Not my kind of God.

I had no reason to feel this way, having had zero religious trauma as a child. Mom was an easy-going Methodist, Dad a humble agnostic.

I joined because I believed in God. I needed religious comforts and rituals, and I wanted my daughter to grow up with a sense of faith and God-love. The Methodists seemed the least worst. Less wrathful God, more loving Jesus. Women in the clergy.

Back then I paid almost no attention to LGBTQ issues, pro-choice was high on my activist radar. I was not pleased with anti-choice Methodism but I made peace. I dove deep into Bible study, praise songs, filled with Spirit and church fellowship.

It was as I got older and became an LGBTQ ally that I started to examine where the Methodists stood. No to gay marriage or clergy.

This anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ was not the Jesus I followed and so my love for Methodism waned. That, and 16 Bible studies that gently affirmed, believe in Him, or say no to Heaven. Bullshit.

My former church, First United Methodist of Oviedo (FUMCO) recently voted to leave UMC. I’d already left them and all Christian churches (I’m a Unitarian Universalist).

I only paid attention to the split because I’ve been hell-bent on outing religious harm and hypocrisy.

And I hoped my former church would do the right thing. They did not.

Worse, as James Finn, an LGTBQ activist, pointed out after he read my post:

The congregations that voted to leave were under no compulsion to do anything. Nobody was requiring them to have queer ministers, to conduct same-sex weddings, or anything.

The departing congregations that left (for the most part) had already voted down the One Church plan that would have allowed each congregation freedom to act on their consciences.

The people who left did so because they couldn’t stand sharing a denomination with people who affirmed queer folks like me. That’s the kind of extraordinary bigots they are. That’s the kind of extraordinarily evil people they are.

One of the reasons I left was my church was gradually moving conservative. Thanks to older monied congregants whose purse strings wielded great power. Old farm money, a few local streets are named, demanded things stay the same. Tradition!

Those monied congregants said, don’t get all crazy and cow-tow to the liberals who love the gays. I mean sure we love the gays too but within limits, mind you.

Pearl-clutchers were aghast at the thought of gay marriage and gays in the clergy.

Because as all thinking people know, radical changes to doctrinal tradition affects congregants’ health, tax rates, home value, job opportunities, cost of living, menopausal symptoms, and ability to get an erection.

The third pastor I met during my time at my church once or twice referred to Satan. Not Methodist language I’d been accustomed. So my instincts said, uh-oh, this guy isn’t my sort of God guy.

So now, after many years of debate and discord, UMC is officially divided. At first glance, a sign of rampant LGTBQ phobia across UMC.

But look again at the headline above. Reframe. It’s not that a quarter of UMC congregations left to form a new branch, it’s that three-quarters stayed.

Can I hear a Hallelujah?

I prefer these rancid behind-the-times churches stand full frontal on what they believe. Let us see you for who you are. Segregate rather than pretend to integrate.

I prefer bigoted congregants sit in their new Global Methodist Church (the conservative branch that left UMC). Rather than alongside congregants who are genuinely Christ-like.

Which is not to say everyone who joins GMC is homophobic or transphobic.

Some congregants whose church voted to split and become GMC stayed because it’s their church home, full of love and fellowship and decades of familiarity. I get that.

But to the others, go on to your new pew and do your Godly gaslighting (“God loves you just don’t practice homosexual sex, get married or join the clergy. But remember my child, God loves you!”)

We should readily separate churches within a denomination that refuse to afford the LGTBQ community dignity, respect and full rights.

So I say to all bigoted churches across all denominations:

Reveal thyself. Declare your fearful, ignorant heart.

Stand loud and proud for your homophobia and transphobia.

Be obedient to your bigoted God.

Stand firmly on hateful ground, on your Godly gaslighting (“God loves you but…..”)

Do not budge as the world passes you by.

Conviction is bravery. Is it not?

Hold to tradition, to rancid thinking, to devolved views.

Closet your gayness while you denounce gay marriage and gay clergy.

Squirm as you justify views discordant with Jesus. Or instead, feel righteous and resolved as Westboro Baptist does when they call the LGBTQ community an abomination.

Sit uneasily with your cognitive dissonance about your child, sister, brother, uncle or niece. Your spouse. Then pray away your discomfort. Pray for the Queer community to convert. Pray away the gay.

As I will pray away your ignorant harmful heart.

Stand in obedience to your wrongful God. While Jesus His son, frowns, and you remain in the minority, left behind, stagnating and afraid.

Amen.

Postscript: Methodist minister/teacher “disciplines” young students with homophobic slur.

James Finn, who I mentioned above, shared the following with me:

You know, I had a really horrible but illustratice interaction with a North Texas UMC Conference just last year.

I had done some investigative reporting, after being contacted by several families whose children went to a school where a United Methodist minister was also a teacher. They contacted me because that teacher had been calling children fags to discipline them, and had other children to call children fags. He went so far as to organize games of “tag the fag” on the playground!

I spoke to one set of parents at length, and they put their 11-year-old son on the phone for a moment. He told me personally how the teacher had called him a fag in class and urged other boys to call him a fag.

I spent a couple of weeks contacting administrators at the school district, phoning the UMC church where the teacher is a pastor, and contacting the conference.

Nobody would take my calls until a parent managed to dig up and give me the direct phone number of the conference’s spokesperson.

I got her on the phone and pinned her down. I asked her repeatedly to tell me if it was morally acceptable to call children fags. I asked her repeatedly if this was acceptable conduct for a UMC pastor.

She refused to answer me, so I took it to email. She never got back to me.

So I started tagging the North Texas UMC Conference and the Conference bishop on Twitter, demanding that he respond.

Finally, (after many days!) the spokesperson replied on Twitter that the conference believes that calling a child a fag is wrong. But it was like pulling teeth to get even that simple, obvious statement out of them.

Eventually, the Conference reprimanded the pastor. But they took no other action. He’s clearly a depraved homophobic bigot who is not safe around children.

But you know what the ultimate outcome was? Nothing. He’s still teaching children at school, and he’s still pastoring his church.

Most of the churches in that conference are leaving. Because the people in those churches are as despicable and revolting as that pastor and that depraved spokesperson who couldn’t even admit that calling a child a fag is wrong.

So yes, it’s very very good to know who the departing congregations are. It’s good to know who the foul, abusive homophobes are.

Laura G Owens

Writer. Blogger. Essayist. My focus is wellness, social commentary and personal essays that explore the messiness of being human. Our ambivalence. Our uncomfortable feelings that when revealed, shed shame and reveal our authentic selves.

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