It’s been a whirlwind week, just another installment in what has so far been a whirlwind kind of life. Allow me to take a minute of your time to reiterate: DOMA has been declared unconstitutional. At last, our country is going to make good on its promise of “liberty and justice for all” for all couples and families. Things will begin to fall into place now, and the hurt of the community won’t heal in days, weeks, or months but the LGBTQ+ of America can rest assured that their marriage rights will be preserved.
With the simultaneous strike down of Proposition 8, that makes it 13 states where same sex couples can get married as of today. It’s by no means perfect- 37 is a huge number- but a precedent has been set that legally, no two people of consenting minds can be denied the legal benefits that come with marriage. I was one of many people that joyfully sang “God Bless America” when the decision was handed down, and I continue to feel very blessed to be a citizen of this great nation.
But while God is smiling on America for sure, I’m afraid God’s sheep have remained astray. I’m a small town kind of person, and I grew up in a church in a conservative town where my mom was pastor. About the same time I began coming out, The United Methodist Church adopted its hot new catchphrase: “Open minds, open hearts, open doors.” Unfortunately, this is an incredible hypocrisy and massive lie. It’s come to the point where I don’t go to church anymore because the downright exclusionary nature of it all antagonizes my spirit when it should be uplifted.
This past January, I was very fortunate to spend a month interning at a United Methodist Church in a much more accepting place. I chose to do a spiritual exploration of a Reconciling Ministry, or in layman’s terms, a church that openly accepts and affirms LGBT people. Still, as incredible as the community and experience was, even there they cannot perform same-sex wedding ceremonies for fear of the wrath of the conference. My mother is under the same danger, and as her church can’t even support each other right now, there’s not a lot of hope for them ever being part of the Reconciling Movement.
It simply blows my mind that someone can call themselves a Christian and still discriminate. People wonder why my generation is largely calling ourselves “Spiritual but not religious” but I’ll tell you why– we are embarrassed of our churches, ashamed of our leaders, and angry with the way the church overtly rejects so many people. Jesus loves us as we are and God is the guardian and guide of our lives, not a controlling being that merely gets weekend custody. It is compassion and love that should pick us up when we are on our knees, not a twisted institution that forces us there and expects us to repent in order to belong. We are not the problem.
There are going to be massive implications of this ruling across the board, and I can only hope that some of those implications include some serious overhaul within the church. When we sing “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me,” why do I get the feeling no one else actually wants to step up and begin the healing process? Opening the doors of Methodist churches everywhere isn’t something we “could” or even “should” do, it’s something we MUST accomplish in order to be true children of our loving God.
We are celebrating a victory and anticipating an upcoming struggle, but it’s nothing we can’t face if we can truly become a “United” Methodist church. Here’s hoping our denomination really starts considering its priorities, because just as Bob Dylan noted years ago, the times they are a’changin’.