Unity in the Body of Christ
 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,  with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,  eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (ESV)
This week is a crucial week in the life of the United Methodist Church in the United States. This is the week that that the General Session will vote for full inclusion of LGBQT people into the church. It seems that this is not going to be the case, and that the church has decided to hold to the traditional teachings of the bible regarding human sexuality. The issue really isn’t about human sexuality, but unity. Two plans were presented at the General Council of United Methodists which is meeting this week in St. Louis, Missouri. One is called the One Church Plan supported by progressive United Methodists, and the Traditional Plan which is supported by evangelical United Methodists.
My understanding is that the One Church plan would allow individual conferences and local congregations to decide whether to ordain people who are gay, and to marry same-sex couples. The Traditional Plan would affirm the language in the United Methodist Rule Book about homosexuality that it will not support openly ordained practicing homosexual clergy or those clergy that marry same-sex couples. They would have to “find another church home.”
Other denominations had split over the issue of human sexuality, the ordination of openly gay clergy, and whether or not clergy can marry same-sex couples. This has happened with Episcopalians, Lutherans, and Presbyterians.
Other denominations like the United Church of Christ are openly gay affirming.
To many of the LGBQT Christians that worship within the United Methodist Church, this vote against the One Church Plan felt like a sucker punch. Many advocates and allies of LGBQT Christians felt that love and justice was not served during the council.
To many, being a welcoming and affirming church is an all or nothing proposition. John Pavlovitz writes:
This should be a pass-fail deal breaker for people who claim to love LGBTQ human beings.
Traveling this country and engaging thousands of Christians every month, I encounter local faith communities, both inside and outside the United Methodist Church—who claim to be LGBTQ-affirming or LGBTQ-inclusive, but who want to do so with all sorts of caveats or conditions in place. They aspire to see themselves as open to diversity in areas of sexuality, but with barriers in place that make those aspirations disingenuous at best.
I would agree with John. It is all or nothing. Honesty and integrity are values that LGBQT Christians look for when they are wanting to participate in a local church. They do not want to go to a church which openly conceals or lies about their position when it comes to human sexuality, inclusiveness, and gender issues. They want to participate in the church and use their gifts and talents in music, leading groups only to be rejected because of their sexual orientation. The website http://churchclarity.org helps LGBQT Christians and their allies find openly inclusive churches in their area. This website will inform LGBQT Christians which churches in their local community are not affirming even though they maybe welcoming and relevant (worship style, preaching, etc.).
Jesus was inclusive and openly welcomed the outcasts of his Jewish/Palestinian culture of his day. He welcomed the tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, and others that would be considered unclean to follow him and accept the Kingdom of God. (Mark 2:15) I believe if he walked the earth today, he would welcome openly LGBQT people into his Kingdom.
Every church had stipulations for its members going back to the first church council in Acts 15. Gentiles were welcomed into the ekklesia and into God’s new covenant community with other Jewish believers, but had to not participate in sexual immorality, eat meat sacrificed to idols, or eat raw meat. The Gentile believers did not have to adhere to the kosher laws and ritual laws held in the Old Testament like circumcision like other believers. Yet to keep the peace with other Jewish Christians, they had to adhere and flee from sexual immorality which would include homosexual acts.
Many conservative Christians point to Acts 15 as a way of justifying excluding the LGBQT Christians from participating in church leadership. Yet, many forget, that all of us have fallen short of the glory of God, gay and straight Christians alike (Rom. 3:23). Again according to the One Church Plan, it would be regulated to the local congregational level, not on a denominational level.
John Pavlovitz continues:
The UMC, like many religious entities and local communities is talking in semantics right now, when it needs to be cutting to the heart of the matter.
Either you believe LGBTQ are made my God and fully indwelled with beauty and dignity—or you don’t.
Either you value their contributions and talents and intellects and stories to allow them to share such things—or you don’t.
Either you declare their worth by inviting them fully into your community—or you refuse to.
Either you believe gender identity and sexuality aren’t moral flaws—or you believe they are.
Choose which of these is true for you, and get on to living that out.
Love isn’t inclusion or affirmation, it’s participation.
I myself am gay affirming, yet go to a church that is not. I do believe that it is up to the local congregation whether they are fully inclusive or not. Whether it is a United Methodist congregation or a Southern Baptist congregation. Like what Paul says above, what unifies believers is not whether or not a church is gay affirming, but if we believe in one Lord (Jesus Christ), one baptism, one faith, and one Father (Source) who is in all and overall (Eph. 4:6). Unity is about what we believe as Christians who Jesus is (both his humanity and divinity), his calling, ministry, death and resurrection. Being a Christian is centered around Jesus Christ. So whether someone is gay or not, in my opinion is irrelevant.
Again, I feel deeply for those that are allies and are LGBQT Christians who choose to worship in the United Methodist Church. I know that Jesus accepts you as you are. I am sorry that there are still hoops to jump through for those that are LGBQT Christians in the UMC. I am sorry that you do not feel loved. I am sorry that you feel excluded from using your gifts and talents to grow the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:7). I am sorry that equity and justice hasn’t been served for your today in the United Methodist Church. There are other churches and denominations that are openly gay affirming. Go and be part of a church that will accept every part of who you are in Christ.