“Can we sit inside the sanctuary and talk?’ asked one of the many people who had gathered outside Cassopolis United Methodist Church, after officiating, witnessing or attending the wedding of Rev. Benjamin David Hutchison and Monty Hutchison, outside the Cassopolis Village court house. We were informed by a member of the church that they had decided to keep the church doors locked for that day.
We all understood the decision and conversations continued in the front lawn of the church for several more minutes. At the end we held each other’s hands, prayed as each felt led by the Holy Spirits and then most of us went on our journeys back to our home communities.
I left too, but the image of the locked doors of Cassopolis United Methodist Church building did not leave me.
It stood strong in my mind and continued to haunt me.
The decision of the church leaders to keep their church’s doors closed stood juxtaposed to the current stance of our United Methodist Church to keep the denominational doors closed to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and queer children of God.
And we even have the audacity to proudly proclaim- “Open Minds, Open Hearts, Open Doors: The People of the United Methodist Church.” What happened in Cassopolis – UMC leadership forcing the resignation of a young, successful, and beloved clergy person because he is gay – continues to happen in our United Methodist Churches everywhere and all the time. People who have been called to ministry are told by our church that they cannot be pastors- as if their sexuality or gender identity has something to do with their calling! How can we do that? How dare we do that!
And if so, then how dare we call ourselves people of the church that has open minds, heats and doors?
How dare we claim to be followers of Jesus Christ and judge some for who they are?
How audacious of us to close doors of the church to some- who also, might I add, are beloved children of God?
It is sad that our church continues to cause pain to the many faithful servants of the gospel. “How long will we continue to cause such pain?”
I ask our church, “have we not learned from our mistakes?”
History is a witness to the tremendous pain that the church has inflicted for ages. Eventually we come around to say sorry for the pain. I have been attending General Conference since 2000 and every time we have witnessed The UMC apologize for the wrong we have done.
In 2000 we had the service of repentance which publicly stated that the sin of racism significantly contributed to the division of African Methodist denominations from the predominantly White church.1
In 2004 we continued to acknowledge the wrong and appreciated those African Americans who stayed in The United Methodist Church.
In 2008 the repenting was done in the form of acknowledging the ‘white privilege.’ A 16-minute video titled ‘Truth and Wholeness Replacing White Privilege with God’s Promise’ was made available (May 2008) for study and reflection.1
In 2012 we apologized to the Native Americans, after, the Native American International Caucus called for a similar act of repentance at General Conference 2004, noting that the 1996 General Conference apologized for the Sand Creek Massacre but never followed through with its intended “acts of repentance.”1
How long? How long will the church continue to cause pain to the people and continue to apologize to them later? How long will the doors of our church remain closed to the beloved community that waits outside or is it?
Wake up, United Methodist Church!!! We may not ever again have another ‘2004 experience’ of thanking those who stayed with The United Methodist Church in spite of the pain caused, wounds inflicted and lives risked and lost! We may not have anyone left!
But it does not have to be that way. In fact- it should not be that way!
We are the church!
We should be about saving lives and welcoming all.
We should be about opening doors of possibilities and opportunities.
I hope that the 2016 General Conference will give us a glimpse of that and the doors will begin to open for all but until then- and perhaps for some, only until then- I pray and wait!
- Justice: Forging through Fire, Following the Footsteps - July 6, 2016
- I was ill and you took away my healthcare: a sermon on Advent, HIV/AIDS, and Peace - December 7, 2015
- Closed doors of an “open doors” church - August 28, 2015