Sunday, May 01, 2005

Geography and Methodists

Last year a church court in the Pacific Northwest acquitted the Rev. Karen Dammann, the other lesbian minister recently brought to trial for going public about her gay partner.

Conservatives in the church yesterday attributed the decisions in favor of openly gay clergy members to geography. They said church regions in the Northeast and the West were more liberal toward homosexuality than most other Methodist regions.

"You have a radical group of people that are determined to force homosexual practice on the church," said Dr. Ira Gallaway, associate director of the Confessing Movement, a conservative Methodist alliance. "It's a tragedy, it's destructive of the church and brings division. But I'm sure the Judicial Council will overturn this decision."

The church's Book of Discipline says that active homosexuality is incompatible with the teachings of Jesus. But it also calls homosexuals "individuals of sacred worth."

Ms. Stroud had written a letter to her congregation in April 2003 saying that she was living in a committed lesbian relationship. She then gave a sermon saying: "I know that by telling the truth about myself, I risk losing my credentials as an ordained United Methodist minister. And that would be a huge loss for me. But I have realized that not telling the whole truth about myself has been holding me back in my faith."
Both/and: Gallaway and Stroud both have the truth. (Yes, my opinion and nothing more.) Stroud's motives are noble, but they also seem to me to be destructive. Destructive is not always a bad thing of course. And a "don't ask, don't tell" policy in the church is hypocritical and corrosive.

Still, I'm one of those who is saying give us some time and trust that the church will grow into accepting homosexuality. Your needs are not higher than the church's need to focus on the truly needy. And the church has diverted its focus from the truly needy to address your needs.

Yes, I am predicting that the Galloways will ultimately disappear. Those who are fighting the battle against secularism will continue their battle, I trust, focusing on what it is about modernity that is truly separating us from God. In this there should be plenty of common ground throughout the church.

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