This happened in Charleston this past week:
Meeting in Charleston, W.V., nearly two-thirds of the 227 delegates at the Northeastern Jurisdiction of United Methodism approved the resolution on Thursday.
“…while bound to the Book of Discipline, [Jurisdiction leaders] are also bound to exercise their consciences and are bound by Jesus’s commandment to stand with the marginalized and the oppressed in our midst when called upon to enforce unjust laws, policies and procedures to the detriment of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals wishing to participate fully in the life of The United Methodist Church,” reads the resolution.
I have a few structural problems with this.
- The Book of Discipline supersedes our individual consciences and interpretations. There is a reason we covenant together in an episcopal style church. We are not Baptists – we are not individual churches in union, but a universal church under a covenant. We cannot decide to simply ignore that covenant because we disagree with it. We work with it and in it, but to suggest that because we disagree we can ignore it is dishonest in my opinion. It is dishonest to the covenant and to one another. And I remind you that the covenant is made to one another before God.
- Where is the prophetic friction? Prophets are not kings, rulers, and bishops. They aren’t the elites and the leaders. They are the rabble rousers, the dirty, the psychotic, the war torn, the abused, the homeless. They do not force justice upon the people, but call them to justice, show them justice, and die for justice. When elite groups in safe havens push prophetic messages, it is, sadly to say, little more than a collective pat on the back. Further, something could be said that such an event actually causes injustice. Indeed, how many will be positively affected by this resolution? A few, perhaps, but only with personal edification. But, how many will be affected worldwide in a negative manner? A great many more, and many of those are the very ones this resolution is designed to protect. Prophetic friction comes not from kinds, but from the oppressed. Liberty given is a disaster, by the way, but liberty won builds justice.
I think that we should be called to covenant, obey that covenant, and if that covenant needs to be changed, be forced to do so, but not by the elites, the powerful. Several theories of ethics show that those who do these things are no more free of guilt than those who oppose such measures. This resolution, but a select few that has no real bearing on the everyday, is worst than a measure that would push these people further in the closet.
But, I am a Methodist and tomorrow, I’ll go to my Methodist Church. We are, after all, God’s people.