Fleeing from a denomination that thought me an abomination, I started attending a Reconciling congregation about four years ago. Not long after, I learned about the infamous anti- gay passages in the Book of Disciple—“the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching”, “self avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve,” “ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted.” Fearful that The United Methodist Church was not much different from my former one, I was assured that work was being done to change all this at the General Conference to be held in 2012.

I followed the proceedings of that Conference with avid interest, only to find my fear rekindled by the degrading anti-gay comments of some speakers and by the lack of movement toward positive change.

I hunkered down in with my small local congregation that loved and supported me.

Then I learned of church trials for ministers who were gay and of others who had performed wedding services for gay parishioners. My heart sank. How much of the hurtfulness of the denomination could I withstand?

A few days ago, I read a report by Heather Hahn on The UMC website entitled “General Conferences Planned for Asia, Africa.” The Commission on General Conference had just announced that the quadrennial event would be held in the Philippines in 2024 and in Zimbabwe in 2028. And, if facilities in the Philippines did not meet the needs of the conference, Zimbabwe would be the substitute host for 2024. My jaw dropped. Zimbabwe? Did the commission not know how unsafe it would be for LGBT delegates to go to such an anti-gay country? I read further and learned that concerns were raised at the meeting. Auden Westad of Norway, for example, noted that Zimbabwe is listed as one of the 10 most dangerous places for those who are LGBT. However, the vote to choose Zimbabwe was unanimous.

Does The United Methodist Church really value the safety of those who are LGBT so little? How is it possible? Perhaps those on the Commission reasoned that in nine or 13 years the social climate of Zimbabwe will be different. I am sure it will be, but will it be better for those who are LGBT or worse? We know what the situation is today and to make the decision to hold a General Conference in Zimbabwe at this point sends a direct message to LGBT congregants, their supporters, and the public at large that The United Methodist Church itself is an unsafe place.

Where do I, bruised yet again, go from here?

Lucinda Hughes

Lucinda Hughes is a retired librarian and educator. She "came out of the closet" very late in life--at 57. She and her wife, Peggy, co-founded PFLAG Florence Oregon and have spoken to numerous groups about LGBT issues including bullying and what the Bible really says about homosexuality. They are currently active members of the Florence United Methodist Church, a Reconciling Congregation.
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