My mind has been in a jumble since the LGBTQ Presidential Forum last month, and I have been unable to comment on it. That was unprecedented coverage of LGBTQ issues by Democratic presidential candidates. The upbeat tone of support of us quickly dissipated in the din of continued attacks on us by the Trump Administration. The contentious noise of the impeachment inquiries and rebuttals by the Trump propaganda machine have dominated the news cycle and my attention.
Last week, I attended “An Inclusive Conversation: A Biblical Foundation for Fully Including LGBTQ people in the United Methodist Church.” The crowd of about 160 people attending at Wake Forest UMC was a good turn-out, considering the overall conservative attitude of the North Carolina Conference. The Bishop attended the meeting and numerous other ones around the conference. A panel addressed the challenge of making some sense of the controversies regarding the Book of Discipline. We were guided by the former Chair of the Judicial Council, who understood the laws and policies of the church.
We had the advantage of a presentation by Dr. William Lawrence, former dean of the Perkins School of Theology, who reminded us of the inclusive nature of John Wesley’s ministry in 18th Century England. Wesley reached out to those who were unwelcome and physically excluded from attendance in the congregations of the Church of England. Even though he held advanced degrees and positions of honor, his priority always was directed to the plight of the common man. We have seen such a perversion of his concepts of religious traditions and doctrine, that it is difficult to sort out when and how his language was distorted and misused.
However much we may become discouraged in these troubled times, the power of faith and prayer will prevail. My church may not survive in its current form, nor should it since it continues to exclude some people. The re-structuring will be complicated and confusing, and at this point, no one know how it may end up. But the nearly 50-year internal debate over the single issue of human sexuality has robbed it of its primary mission to evangelize and to spread the good news.
My hope was restored by the live-streaming of the funeral of Elijah Cummings at the New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore. I knew only a little about the traditions of the Black Church in America, and the 3-hour ceremony was a struggle at times. But my interest was renewed repeatedly by the music and the evangelistic speakers who cited scripture about the hope and mission of the church. Citing his commitment to the church, his strong faith, and his empathy for people, they brought me to tears through their expressions of love and gratitude for a life well-lived. What more could be said in terms of Christian testimony?
As a gay life-long Democrat, I can hardly be described as objective. I do believe that the LGBTQ community can lead to a broadening of civil rights in America. I also believe that it can renew the vitality of organized religion to make it again relevant in our daily lives. Neither powers nor principalities can separate us from the love of Jesus Christ.