But if you have not been welcomed, I want to invite you to my church (St. Andrew's Episcopal, Rapid City). To stop by for a breather, or hang out for a while, or join our family.
Outside of the Unitarians, my parish may be the most open and accepting church in town, and maybe in the Black Hills. Our minds aren't checked at the door (sample a sermon as evidence), and the doors and hearts are open for you at St Andrew's.
10 December, 2008
If the hearts and minds and doors were really open . . .
. . . more United Methodists would be singing these lyrics by Shirley Erena Murray:
For everyone born, a place at the table,
To live without fear and simply to be,
To work, to speak out, to witness and worship,
For everyone born, the right to be free.
And God will delight when we are creators of justice and joy
Compassion and peace.
Yes, God will delight when we are creators of justice,
Justice and joy!
A gay former member of one of the ministries in which I served wrote to me recently: “Why do you bother? Why do you keep working to get United Methodists to really be what they say they are? Their hearts and minds ain’t never goin’ to be open to people like me, and you know it!” The letter concluded, “Thanks for your love, and thanks for trying, but don’t waste your retirement on all those hard hearts!”
These are the feelings of one whose dignity has been bashed by the United Methodist position that GLBT [gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered] people are “incompatible with Christian teaching,” bashed to the point of having to find and experience God’s love in a church with a different attitude. How very sad. What a sad commentary on our “incompatible” teaching of the love of God revealed in Jesus.
This is the testimony of one whose very being has been bashed by the Church that gave him baptism and welcome, by people who testified at his baptism, “we will live according to the example of Christ . . . we will surround him with a community of love . . .we are all one in Christ Jesus. With joy and thanksgiving we welcome you as a member of the family of Christ.” [Quoted from the United Methodist rite for baptism and confirmation, United Methodist Hymnal.] But obviously that love and that welcome didn’t hold when the United Methodists learned he had been given a gay personhood by God.
This is the farewell from one whose personhood has been bashed with qualified love, with conditional welcome, something, it seems to me, quite incompatible with the God of real Christian teaching as given in the New Testament scripture.
We have a lot of beautiful words in our rituals. From our pulpits we hear a lot of Godly admonitions. There is a lot of piety flowing from regular attendance at Bible studies and Sunday School classes. But when we withhold that place at the table, when we fail at justice for one or for all, when our compassion is tainted with prejudice, when our offering of peace is less than inclusive of all God’s people, when our creative wills are jaundiced by condemnation, when our hearts are hardened by judgment, which isn’t our prerogative, then our witness is false. When our proclamation of love can not be perceived as love, then we have failed.
This is Advent, the season of waiting, of preparation. It is time for a new openness to the message of the child in the manger and the Son on the cross.
“Open hearts, open minds, open doors?” Sorry, you have the wrong church!
And that’s my irreverent “take” this time on the irresolute goal of United Methodism!
William George Myers, O.S.L.
[Brother Bill is a member of The Order of Saint Luke, a member of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference of The United Methodist Church, and in retirement lives in South Dakota and Arkansas. He has been a pastor, community center administrator, a chaplain, and also a teacher of theology, English, and theatre. He writes this column with the hope to further the “open” ministry of our Church. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]