Not at this River, part the fourth

Cuyahoga-River-Fire-of-1969The first part of this commentary may be found here and the story from Gather at the River it is about may be found here.

In our baptismal vows, the second promise answers the question, “Do you accept the freedom God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?” (Bishop) Talbert noted that the Church is asked to renew its vow at a baptism and charged the church to be faithful to that promise. “The way our church treats LGBTQ people is oppression, and we are called by our baptism to reject it.” Boom!” 

The church is apparently oppressing anyone it refuses to marry, and anyone it says is not qualified for ordination. That is what this statement says. Again, we can, and should always be in discussion of what is and is not holy living that is pleasing to God. The UMC has been engaged in this regarding sex between two people of the same gender for longer than I have been alive. It is continuing today. When does it cease to be a standard and start being oppression? Who gets to decide that? Those are questions without any satisfactory answer if it is not the church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Attitudes like this, and others mentioned before, do not even allow for the compromise that groups like RMN pay lip service to. How could you exist in a denomination that allowed even a single pastor to refuse marriage to a couple based on them being the same gender if it is oppression? There is no compromise here if that is the belief, yet they will call out any and every conservative unwilling to compromise because they can not allow for some to endorse acts that they find sinful. Their own words declare that any compromise is not a solution, but rather just another step toward their singular goal. It shows that any compromise they would view as highly as the Bishop who made the remarks viewed his vows to the church, that is to be broken at leisure when it suits them.

“Dear Bishops: I repeat my earlier appeals. PLEASE declare clearly and firmly what is right. Declare that our Book of Discipline is wrong and refuse to enforce these unjust and sinful bits of church law. Ask the Judicial Council to sustain you and to set the harmful and discriminatory language aside. Carcaño, when asked what the church was going to do assuming the Supreme Court of the US approved same gender marriage, quipped: “We’ll have to catch up.” Bishop Melvin Talbert, a hero in the cause of righteousness in The UMC, said, “Discrimination is discrimination wherever it is. Being a bishop does not exempt me from making that statement.” “God does not intend for us to be in chains, but to be free,” Talbert said. “The paragraphs that are derogatory toward our LGBTQ siblings in The Discipline are chains that must be broken.” He added, “The General Conference is the ‘last word’; but for me, the last word is what I have to say when I face God.””

Dear Bishops, I repeat my earlier appeals, destroy the connexion. That is what he should have said, because that is what the call is to do. Use the judicial council…in other words go to the court and ignore what the GC has said under the guidance of the Holy Spirit is the proper direction for the UMC. Let me put it an easier way…listen to me and ignore the church. That is what it boils down to. Carcano says we’ll have to catch up to the SCOTUS but the reality is that the decision of the court should have little to do with how we view holiness. If a court got to decide holiness, at the absolute least, it should resemble the Judges and not the SCOTUS. Then again, things did not go so well in those days. God does not intend us to be in chains…what? Of course not, but he does not intend us to do whatever we want either. If calling an action a sin is a chain, than without those chains there is no guide to what constitutes holy living. We have no way to know how it is to live a life pleasing to God. Yes Bishop, you, like all of us will have to give an accounting for our lives, that is exactly why the guidance of the church, it’s pastors, Bishops, etc is so important. You are to be a guide and an example for us little guys. Your example is one of disobedience to vows despite the voice of the church. You are teaching me that I can do whatever I want and that it does not matter where the church stands on it. You are teaching me that the Holy Spirit does not speak through our process at all. Matter of fact, you are teaching that since the church has no real authority anyway, that nothing it says really matters and that I should just figure it out as I go outside of the church. I mean, why show up if the church doesn’t have any authority on moral issues? Why show up if the church can not show me the way to live a holy life?

“In her sermon, Sara Thompson Tweedy said, “Bigotry is as bigotry does.” In a direct swing at UM bishops, she said, “With friends like that, who needs Westboro Baptist Church.” This was followed by a holy moment.”

In delivering a sermon, everyone who sees sexual activity between two people of the same gender is a sin, is called a bigot and bishops are called the same as members of Westboro baptist? And those who are theologically conservative are fundamentalist in their belief? This is not about civil discourse, or holy conferencing or really anything holy at all. This is little more than insults hurled at anyone different than you and open condemnation of everyone who disagrees. One might go so far as to say it is “fear of the other”. The message is clear, think and believe as we do or be a bigot. Do what we say or be a hate monger. That is quite the message of unity. Thank you pastor for doing two things. One, going a long way to helping me realize that there can be no compromise with radicals, and two, for reminding me how thankful I am for my pastors who treat any who come with dignity and respect; who offer forgiveness not condemnation and who would never, publicly (or privately, for that matter) think it was ever acceptable to refer to anyone in such a vulgar manner.

“The next time such a gathering is held, I’ll be sure that some continuing education funds or accountable reimbursement funds or personal budget dollars are available.”

If this were a Good News event would he support funds being used? Wait, I know the answer, of course not, because that is supporting bigotry. The things he found moving in the story he is sharing show that. Not equal, not trying to live together, just calling for complete compilation of theological conservatives.

Back to the Cuyahoga river. The fires were caused by excessive pollution in the river and, in 1968, Time magazine observed the following when speaking about the river: “it oozes rather than flows, and a body in it would not drown but rather decay.” That is how awful the pollution was. It had ceased being a vibrant and flowing river and had instead turned into an unhealthy and polluted mess not fit to sustain life. That is not a river I will gather at…neither is the Cuyahoga.

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