As is to be expected these days, the Reconciling Ministries Network has issued a response to the statement of the central conference Bishops. You can find the Bishops statement here and can find the response by RMN here and of course, should you choose to, continue reading my thoughts on the matter here and here. Please read the two statements in full as I will only reference parts of them. Now, on with the show…
From the RMN response: “It is imperative that we speak unequivocally to the homophobia and violence found within the body of the pastoral letter.”
There is more to follow, but let’s take a moment and deal with this first. There is violence and homophobia in the pastoral letter…not sure where, but ok. Nowhere in the letter is violence suggested toward anyone, nor is any sort of fear mentioned. RMN produces great rhetoric that stirs emotion and effectively slanders (technically it is libelous as it is in print) the Bishops who signed the letter, though. That seems to be the only purpose of such language. To continue from where the quote leaves off:
Unfortunately, the vociferous and well-placed condemnation of global inequality and the historic abuses of power is significantly weakened of its prophetic authority because the bishops turn immediately from condemning abuse of power to upholding it. (emphasis theirs)
Again, nowhere in the letter is the abuse of power suggested to be a good thing at all. Perhaps the folks at RMN are reading something completely different than I am, but there is no mention of condoning abuses of power at all. The Bishops do mention, several times even, that those who have taken a vow to uphold the BoD of the church should do so. They even appeal to the church going back to biblical principles (whatever that actually means) as well. I will say that I believe in that appeal to be going back to focusing on those things that we hold as standards of faith. There is a lot of teaching in the UMC that is contrary to those standards of faith currently, and the Bishops are correct in having a desire to go back to proper teaching as the UMC understands it.
The letter fails to acknowledge the causal relationship existing between the plight of refugees, LGBTQ persons around the world, and systemic oppression; homophobia and transphobia, not unlike economic imperialism and colonialism, exist for the manipulation of the weak by the powerful.
Um…what the letter did was treat all of the refugees and displaced as the same. It spoke about them as victims and appealed to us to help and pray. What exactly is bad about this? No, they did not specifically mention LGBTQ refugees, I’ll give you that, but they also did not mention hetero refugees, or left handed refugees, or…you get the point. They had no need to as this is not a problem that has anything to do with LGBTQ individuals, but rather has to do with large masses of people that have been displaced due to war, terrorism and/or religious fanaticism. That is happening to large groups of people with regard to much of anything such as sexuality.
Yes, the Bishops treated all the refugees as equal (that is to say, equal in their desperate need for our help and prayers), and RMN is not happy about that. Shame on you Bishops for treating people equally and not extending your letter by several lines to recognize numerous individual groups. As for the remarks on homophobia and transphobia, it is just more garbage rhetoric to stir up emotions and deflect attention from anything else and laser focus it back on those evil homophobes….it is a tired tactic that unfortunately works. It is not an appeal to unity; it is a demand for capitulation. It is not an attempt to find a way forward; it is nothing more than an affirmation of us versus them. This does nothing to unite us, and does everything to divide us. How strange it is that those so dedicated to “justice” subscribe to policies that serve only to tear apart the church they claim to serve.
Before continuing, I do want to take a moment to comment on some of the laws that are found across the world that indeed criminalize, and in some cases call for the death of, LGBTQ individuals. These laws are unequivocally wrong, are sick and disgusting and should be spoken out against and opposed. I also want to note that is not at all what this letter was about. The statement by the Bishops is an appeal to the UMC to unite under the Faith and Order of the UMC (that practice by the way includes the ability to change things in our ongoing search for truth), not a political statement on the state of laws in some nations.
The UMC has spoken out about capital punishment, etc here. The specifically related sections are ¶ 164A. No, we did not single out any specific group here, we just went ahead and spoke out against all of it.
Reconciling Ministries Network rejects ecclesiastical teaching, policy, or leadership that refuses to fully embrace Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer persons as living members of the body of Christ.
OK, well good for you, so does the UMC. Contrary to popular belief, there is no UMC policy that does not recognize a person who claims faith in Christ and has been baptized in a Christian church “as living members of the body of Christ”. I get so tired of hearing that there is.
We will not be silent about the presence of LGBTQ persons, in African communities and United Methodist Churches everywhere, who are forced under pain of death to hide who they are and who they love.
Good, the UMC is not silent about it either. See the above opposition to the death penalty, torture, etc. as it applies to everyone.
We will not hide our anger and grief as The UMC continues to collude with anti-Christian forces that seek to eliminate the diversity of God’s good creation.
Now see, this just really pisses me off (pardon my language). Vague and unspecific accusations again designed not to promote conversation etc. but designed rather to state clearly that if you do not agree with bus, you are in opposition to Christ. Who are these forces? What UMC policy seeks to eliminate the diversity of God’s creation? It is crap, and on top of that dangerous crap and inflammatory crap.
RMN will continue to “draw the attention of our denomination to the stark realities of needless suffering and pain in our world as a result of global terrorism, unjust political systems,” and the abiding religious oppression experienced by LGBTQ refugees everywhere who are told that they are “incompatible with Christian teaching” and cut-away from the body.
Next thing that really pisses me off. The actual doctrine of the church does nothing claimed above. It does say that sexual relations between two people of the same gender is a sin, yes. The action is sinful, and thus incompatible with Christian teaching, much like telling a lie is. The Action.
Once more, in bold even, THE ACTION. Saying anything to the contrary is purposeful misinformation that should be stopped.
It is a lie. Yep, I said it, RMN is telling bold faced lies to try to promote their cause. They have stepped over the line of civil discourse and disagreement to the end justifies the means. While calling for a big tent where all are welcome, they have only succeeded in saying that all who think as we do are welcome. They have decided that it is fine to slander and print libelous comments to achieve their goals.
To sum up, the Bishops statement appealed to the rule of our church, our faith and practice and scripture. The response of RMN appealed to emotional response based on inaccurate statements and lies. It can not be said any simpler than that. It is left to you to decide which promotes the unity and mission of the church.