Bishop Palmer, I share this letter with you and others, as my contribution to the work of the Commission

The Commission On A Way Forward has these words in its Mission Statement; “The matters of human sexuality and unity are the presenting issues for a deeper conversation that surfaces different ways of interpreting scripture and theological tradition.” And, in the Vision Statement, this about unity; “This unity will not be grounded in our conceptions of human sexuality, but in our affirmation of the Triune God who calls us to be a grace-filled and holy people in the Wesleyan tradition.”

The above words from the VISION statement prompt the following about how the Commission can move The United Methodist Church, FORWARD.

1. The UMC came into being in 1968 not long after the assassination of Martin Luther King. Many of us felt that after Methodism in its history had baptized blacks, but then engaged in discussion about the enslavement and segregation of blacks that resulted in separations and divisions, the “new” UMC would have as one of it’s major mission/ministry efforts, a confrontation and transformation of “The practice of racial segregation.” The “new” UMC that abolished the racially segregated Central Jurisdiction we thought; “could do no other”. Did not Martin Luther say something like this? But, what happened at the General Conference of 1972, became a barrier to The UMC becoming the major faith-based opponent of racism in the world.

2. 1972 introduced Church-based discrimination against lesbians and gay men! Why and what prompted the introduction of language and legislation that ignored the race/racist realities that were front-and-center in the USA, the world and religion in 1972? Some have suggested that this was a way of diverting the attention of The UMC away from the oppressive reality of racism. We have seen in the USA presidential campaign how one candidate has pandered to the racial prejudices of some for political gain. Was this the motivation of some of those who introduced the 1972 language and legislation in The UMC; pandering to anti-gay prejudice among some United Methodists?

3. Scripture, Wesleyan, Covenant, Christian Teaching, Triune God, etc. Sadly, these words and others that have arisen re; sexuality, are words that in the past were used to justify slavery and segregation. Bishop Gilbert Haven an outspoken proponent of interracial marriage, centuries ago, heard about interracial marriage what some United Methodists today, are saying about same gender marriage. Anti-black racism for centuries has been fueled by a misinterpretation of the Biblical “Curse of Ham”. Since 1972, The UMC has embraced language and legislation responsible for charges, trials and suspensions based on another Biblical Curse; of same gender loving persons and their expressions of their love. It is not “The Sins of Scripture” (Spong), but how Scripture is misused to undergird bigotry. (John Wesley’s Sermon on Bigotry)

4. African United Methodists; The contribution they could make in the Church-based war against racism in the USA, if they were not focused on “The practice of homosexuality”. How strange it is that those whose history is a history of colonial exploitation (at times Church-based), slavery, residents of the Continent from which the “Middle Passage” was launched, are welcomed in United Methodism because we are told they are anti-gay, but we are not told if they are anti-racism as well. Africans present in The UMC could do wonders in the struggle against racism in the USA, in Africa and the world, if they allowed God to guide them. They know first hand about anti-black racism, and today are been victimized by African leaders who are betraying the intentions of the hopes of African Independence. Have they become useful, only in our debates about homosexuality?

5. The UMC and the 2016 USA presidential campaign. We are observing how many “evangelical Christians” are setting aside the values they have claimed in order to support the Republican candidate. How about those in The UMC who boldly claim this identity? And what if any is the relationship between some white southern Christians who in their voting were anti-Barack Obama, and some white southern United Methodists? There is a symmetry between anti-blackness and anti-gayness, we seldom mention. And tragically, many Black persons who are anti-gay for “Biblical reasons”, do not acknowledge that they are kin to those who were/are anti-Black for “Biblical reasons.”

The Commission has the opportunity/challenge to proclaim; “The practice of discrimination for any reason, is incompatible with Christian teaching.” Too long have Churches justified discrimination on Biblical, Orthodox, Wesleyan, Triune God, etc. grounds. A long-time friend taught me how to say; “GOD DON’T LIKE UGLY!” Commission, discrimination is ugly! It exists in our past and our present. I “double dare you” to eliminate it from our future.

Rev. Gil Caldwell

The Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell is a retired United Methodist Minister who lives in Asbury Park, N.J. He was active in the Massachusetts unit of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and participated in the civil-rights movement throughout the nation. In 2000, he, with others, organized the RMN Extension ministry United Methodists of Color for a Fully Inclusive Church (UMOC), an organization committed to the full inclusion of LGBT people in every aspect of church and society. His recent book, Something Within: Works by Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell is available from Church Within A Church. Gil's advocacy efforts were also featured in the film "From Selma to Stonewall - Are We There Yet?" Learn more at truthinprogress.com

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