“F**got!”- the big boys yelled across the school yard. You try to avoid eye contact, mindful that you’re about to burst into tears. You get home and run up to your room to hide your bruises and drown your broken heart with loud music – shutting out your parents, who might not call you names, but have judged you as abnormal for being gay because they were taught by their pastors that the Bible condemns homosexuality as an abomination. Day in, day out, this cycle repeats itself. At 17, you’re dead. Suicide.
How many times, in so many lives, does this story ring true? Too many to even imagine.
Bullying. We all agree that bullying, for whatever reason, is wrong. Our church implores us not to reject our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer friends and family. We promise as clergy to be in ministry with all people. We believe that all persons are of sacred worth. We respect the civil rights of all persons regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. All this sound really positive. Really good.
Except that this comes from just one side of our mouth as a denomination.
We cannot officiate the marriage of two loving and committed same-gex persons – and not within our sanctuaries. We are depriving them, not just of pastoral care, but denying the moral legitimacy of the family they are forming. We consider the “practice of homosexuality incompatible with Christian teaching,” thereby condemning a person because of their sexual orientation. We have closed our doors to LGBTQ persons called by God to ordained ministry, rooted in the arrogant assumption that God will never call an LGBTQ person to ordained ministry – ever.
I was once a bully.
I was a student counselor in my United Methodist high school in the Philippines when I told a classmate that he will go to hell for being gay. I waged spiritual violence against him. I harmed him emotionally. I stayed away from all persons I considered lesbian or gay. I was homophobic and a bully for a reason: to conceal my own gay identity. I thought that if I sounded hateful enough, others will think I’m straight. Why did I exhibit this self-hatred and projected this onto another gay man? Why?
Because my church taught me that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”
“Self-avowed and practicing homosexuals” cannot be ordained. Our pastors cannot bless their marriages. Our church doors are shut to celebrate their love. These teachings harmed me and caused me to harm another person. I have since repented of this sin and journeyed out of the closet where the church kept me hidden. I pray no one would have to go through this kind of experience. Grace and love cannot be diluted with hate and trans/homophobia. They don’t go together.
There is absolutely no difference between the trans/homophobia and hate exhibited by school yard bullies, and that of any institution that considers LGBTQ persons as lesser human beings. One might be more overt in its language and actions than the other, but the intent is the same: to harm people for who they are. As long as The United Methodist Church continues to allow laws that discriminate against LGBTQ persons and their families to stand and enforce them, we are no different from any bully scaring everyone away. Our hands are stained with the blood of those who have been bullied, killed, or committed suicide on account of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
We have caused people to lose their employment and health care – real life and death issues for LGBTQ persons.
I was baptized in this church and I will not be bullied by my church. I will be in ministry with all people and bless the marriages of all people who truly love each other. I will affirm LGBTQ persons and walk with those who seek to fulfill their call to ordained ministry. I will resist to be diminished as a lesser being and marked “other” by sharing my own faith story to those who will listen. I will join those who seek to uphold Biblical Obedience and rid the Book of Discipline of language that encourages bullying and harming my LGBTQ community.
Enough is enough. Stop the harm!