Rev. Amy DeLong, God Bless You!

I note that on June 24, 2011, the Wisconsin United Methodist church trial of Rev. Amy DeLong resulted in a finding that she violated the Discipline by performing a religious ceremony blessing the union of two women.  Rev. DeLong admitted that allegation.  The trial court suspended her from her official duties for twenty days, instructing “that she use her 20-day suspension as a period of “spiritual discernment” in preparation for a process of restoration.”  See http://www.umc.org/site/apps/nlnet/content3.aspx?c=lwL4KnN1LtH&b=5259669&ct=10885719  for the news release.  The use of the word “discernment” is interesting.  Some Christians cite Paul to distinguish their negative discerenment on GLBT issues from the command, “Do not judge.”

The article notes in part: “The presiding officer . . . asked all potential jurors whether any prejudice, bias or opinion would prevent them from fairly applying the law in this case.  ‘I don’t know how one fairly applies an unfair law,’ one said. . . .'”   Such courage!

The church’s counsel, Rev. Lambrecht, had urged suspension “indefinitely until [Rev. DeLong] agreed in writing not to perform any more same-sex unions or the denomination’s law banning such unions is changed.”  Rev. DeLong refused to sign such a document.  Courageous!  Isn’t that what we tell our children: stand up for what is right?  How do “men of God,” lose that courage once they are entrenched in the system and disguise their sins of ommission with such letter closings as, “Blessings” or “Peace.”  Are they the “scribes and Pharisees” of the Christian church?

One of the main principles of true civil disobedience is to act openly in violation of an unjust civil law or rule, and to take responsibility for it, both for the act and the consequences.   The purpose is to  reveal to the conscience of decent people who may see the injustice and demand a change in the civil (or in this case the denominational) law.  I attach a chapter of an unpublished book I wrote some years ago, Cry, “Justice:”  Chapter 9, Civil Disobedience and Natural Law, The Action of Spirit in the Becoming of the World.  Jesus was civilly disobedient, which was the reason the religious leaders felt threatened and plotted to destroy him.   Rev. DeLong was civilly disobedient.  And now she will decide what she must do with the penalty.  God bless you, Rev. Amy DeLong, and I really mean it.

See, also, a petition to end Methodist church laws that discriminate at: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/pocforlgbtq/  What I find particularly interesting is that thirty-six retired Methodist bishops signed it.  I know that active bishops have assumed a duty to support the denomination and area they serve and so they may not justly hold that position and violate the rules they have the duty to uphold.  But, even then, nothing would prevent the bishop from advocating the repeal or modification of an unjust rule.  In my last post, I noted that Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño is a bishop of such courage.  She hasn’t waited until retirement.  God bless you, too, Bishop Carcaño.  Are there any other bishops who, while they still have the power and influence to help achieve the repeal or modification of unjust or uncharitable denominational rules, are willing to take a personal risk for justice?  What about pastors?  As you encounter the injuries caused by bad fruit, are you helping to heal the resulting injuries, or are you fleeing into the background to avoid the complications and difficulties of caring, as in Van Gogh’s The Good Samaritan?  Are you helping to heal, prune or irradicate the bad trees, the source of the bad fruits?

Thank you, Rev. Delong for providing this opportunity for the good Christian folk of the UMC to see y0ur good works of correcting the source of these bad fruits and to heal the resulting sick.   God bless you and your good work that demonstrates your faith.  James would be proud.

Rev. Amy DeLong, God Bless You!

“Clergy Call For Justice and Equality” by Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño

At the beginning of this year the state of Arizona experienced yet one more tragedy. We have had one tragedy after another in the way that our political leaders have treated immigrants, have failed the people of our state in providing leadership in a time of economic recession, and have contributed to a blatant revival of out and out racism. Then we had a shooting. Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords continues to struggle to overcome the impact of the shooting upon her body and her life. Six other people died. Several others were wounded.  The world looked upon Arizona and thought, ‘how much worse can it get?’

But on the day of the funeral of 9-year-old Christina Green, one of the shooting victims, when we heard that the gay-bashing Fred Phelps group was coming to town to bring their message of hate, people of every race and every culture, citizens and undocumented immigrants, and people of different sexual orientation and gender identity, made a human line on both sides of the street so long and so strong that it blocked the Phelps group from any and all access to little Christina’s funeral. It was an empowering and life-giving experience.  Out of a moment of deep sadness came the recognition that we are bound together in our humanity, and hate is not the way.

Our states and this country will find a way to build strong and healthy communities when we fully accept that in all of our diversity of sexual orientation, economic status, race and culture, and immigration status, we are all persons of sacred worth. Without exception we are all created in the image of God, and are all beloved of God.  Standing together we must denounce and deplore all acts of hate and violence in our communities.

As Christians we believe that God calls us to nurture human beings into the fullness of their humanity. We cannot be about this sacred task and allow hate and violence to stand. Hate and violence against persons, whether it is bullying in our schools, the taunting and violating of a person’s privacy to the point of humiliating that person and destroying his or her sense of self worth and belonging, to beatings and even murder on our streets or on the outskirts of our towns, all because of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, cannot be left unchallenged or unconquered. Such violence against our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender sisters and brothers is a violation of all that is good within us, and destroys the inherent human dignity of all of us.

Violence also comes in the form of lack of full employment rights. Every person has the right to a job at a living wage. Employment is basic to the well being of persons and families. Gainful employment also makes possible persons’ contribution of their gifts, skills, and wisdom to our communities of faith and to society in ways that better our communities and our world. In a just society there is no room for employment discrimination. Employment discrimination undermines our human potential and our responsibilities in God’s world.

Finally, I have come to see the deep intersection of the work we must do together for justice for the LGBT and the immigrant communities. Both have for too long been the victims of hate and violence, and both struggle for the right to employment without prejudice. I am convinced, however, that together we can overcome hate and discrimination of every kind and build a nation and a world that will one day value all God’s people; a world of justice full of the love and peace we all long for. May God be our help.

I copied and pasted the above statement from http://desertsouthwestconference.org/churchmembers/bishopscorner/living_the_connection/single/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=219&cHash=76a827bb3e

“Clergy Call For Justice and Equality” by Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño

It’s a Matter of Choice

It’s a Matter of Choice

We often hear of objections to the GLBT community: “It’s a matter of choice – to sin or not to sin.”  I believe the resolution of the conflict in the various Christian churches over full inclusion in the life of the church is a matter of choice, not of gender or sexual orientation, but of where we put our faith.

I note in the article concerning Rev. Amy DeLong , http://www.rmnetwork.org/trial-of-rev-amy-delong-approaches/, that it concludes that the trial is “incompatible with scripture . . . [and] with our larger Church Tradition . . .”  I do support Rev. DeLong in this matter.  But I think it is as mistaken to quote scripture as though it is definitive on loving inclusion of the GLBT community within our own  as are the various biblical arguments for judgment and exclusion.

To some degree faith is a gift; but it also involves choice.  I am reminded of Hans Kung’s book Does God Exist?  He proceeds through the proofs of God and concludes that there is no ironclad proof of God’s existence.  He then traces the proofs that there is no God to its ultimate conclusion of nihilism. He likewise concludes that it cannot be proven that there is no God, or that there is no purpose in life.  As I interpret my recollection of the book, one is left with a choice: choose God or no God and take the consequences: meaning in life or no meaning.

Eric Fromm, in Psychoanalysis and Religion asserts that a healthy religion is necessary to mental health.  Interesting coming from a person popularly categorized as an atheist and a humanist. He defines religion as that which gives us an object of devotion and a sense of orientation.  Rev. Bruggeman says that the command not to worship idols also means not to reduce God to our private purposes, as in church fund-raising.  Have we idolized God into the form of our image, our prejudices or our purposes?  That would certainly be contrary to the Jewish (Christian Old Testament) notion of the nameless God and the living God.

How does this apply to my view of GLBT issues?  We must accept that the Bible can be used to support almost any position, no matter how disparate.   We find the same of Jewish, Muslim and other sacred scriptures.  We like things to be black and white, right or wrong.  But, as our world is a mixture, from our individual point of view, of good and bad, so is our scripture.  The Wesleyan Quadrilateral recognizes this.  In this blog, I have attempted to set out the various biblical arguments used by some Christians to judge GLBT issues (sometimes politely distinguished as “discernment”) and, at the opposite end of the spectrum, I set out a homosexual’s biblical argument justifying his sexual orientation.

I suggest here and in the blog that we will not find clear, consistent answers in the Bible on the issues of gender, sexuality or sexual orientation.  We are in the same position Hans Kung found himself on the issue of whether God exists:  we must make a choice, and that choice will have practical effects: ranging from “life has meaning” to “it has no meaning;” or from, “I am the center and condition of all existence”  to “life is bigger than I am;” or “I am the author  of my fate” to “life is something that happens to me.”  My father, Rev. Edgar F. Wheeler, once put it to me this way, “People think Christianity is all about dying and going to heaven.  I say, ‘No.  It is about living a life of eternal significance.’”

For my part I choose for my object of devotion and sense of orientation Matthew’s quotes of Jesus: “Inasmuch as you did or didn’t do it unto others, you did or didn’t do it unto me;” “By their fruits you will know them.”  To paraphrase a great figure in another day and situation, “Choose you this day whom you will serve.”  Life involves choice.  It just does.  Make your choice and see what kind of fruit it bears.  Does it bear hatred and exclusion or love, respect and inclusion?

In this blog, I note the biblical contradictions and I suggest that if you can find an honest way to both judge and to love unconditionally, to both judge the act and love the “sinner,” and if it bears good fruit, do it.  As for me, I must make a choice between the two.  I can’t hold onto judgment of another’s gender or sexual orientation, whether by choice or circumstance, and still love the person.  I choose to love unconditionally and share in the rich give-and-take of community.

It’s a Matter of Choice