These are uncertain times. Christians all over are wondering what God is up to. It’s obvious our world is filled with turmoil and unrest. We see news clip after news clip telling us all is not right in this world. People feel threatened by the invasion of illegals flooding our borders. People are horrified by the incessant violence pervasive throughout the world. People are left dumbfounded by the senseless acts of murder plaguing our society. And now many Christians are aghast that same-sex marriage is now legal in Oklahoma (as well as many other states).
As a child I remember we would handle conflicts by drawing a line in the sand. That line was the barrier to determine what side you are on. We like to have those barriers. They let us know who is for us and who is against us (or better yet, who we are against). They keep us safe.
We each have our perspective, our understanding of how things are; how things ought to be. When our perspective is challenged we like to draw a line in the sand. We set up a barrier to protect us. We want to control what ought to be. We take a stand.
I was asked why I didn’t fight harder for my position as a pastor in the United Methodist Church. Instead, I gave in to my bishop’s suggestion I should resign. I was told I gave in too easily to a system of oppression. Maybe I did. I have wondered if I made a mistake.
I dedicated over eighteen years to serving the United Methodist Church. Recently I was reminded why I love being in ministry. My daughters, partner and I worshiped at Epworth UMC, a reconciling community in Oklahoma City. During the communion liturgy I was reminded of a question my bishop asked me after I told him I’m gay. My bishop essentially asked me what I would miss about being a pastor that I can’t do after I’m removed from ministry.
Drawing a line in the sand inhibits true expressions of community. It’s like sending out invitations to a party then preventing some of the guests from coming inside. My greatest pleasure is to help people experience communion with God in a community of faith. There is no greater expression of the presence of God we can experience outside the sacraments of communion and baptism. What I miss most is guiding people in experiencing God’s grace and presence through participation in the sacraments. The line has been drawn.
There is a barrier between LGBTQ persons and the church. One pastor told me, “If a gay person came to my church I would love him.” It makes me wonder why the church is waiting for people who are LGBTQ to come to the church. The line has been drawn.
Legally recognizing same-gender marriage is forcing the church to confront her faulty perceptions of people who are LGBTQ. Bishop Hayes, the bishop of the Oklahoma United Methodist Church, now wants to have a conversation about same-gender marriage and how the UMC can move forward. Bishop Hayes, I challenge you to include people who are LGBTQ in that conversation. The line in the sand must be removed. The conversation is not about an issue. We are people. We are people who love God and the Church (and as is the case for so many of us, the United Methodist Church).