“What do gay people want?”
I cannot tell you how many times I have heard that question in the build-up to General Conference 2019. It is frequently followed by, “Don’t you understand that this is the best you’re going to get?”
What I and many LGBTQ people hear in this question, whether intended by the speaker or not, is: “This is all that LGBTQ people in The United Methodist Church are worth.”
Sometimes I hear, “If gay people don’t get on board, we are all going to lose.”
So, because our God does not put a cap on our value, I want to cut through all of the General Conference strategy, compromise, fear, and hopes for a minute. Of course, LGBTQ people are diverse in their hopes and wants, but within our Church, LGBTQ people have frequently voiced the same desires:
LGBTQ people want to go to church, give our gifts in service, participate in the life and ministries of the local church, be married in our church by our pastor, and follow our calls into ministry. We want to be recognized by fellow congregants as equals in God’s eyes. We want to be engaged with those in the pew beside ours in the ministries of the church.
We want an end to preaching that purports that we are going to hell. We want an end to refusals to baptize our children and refusals to acknowledge our families. We want youth leaders to stop telling our children that their parents are an abomination in God’s eyes.
We want the Church to love LGBTQ children like they’d love any other children. Love includes supporting their coming out, teaching them about the love of God, baking them cookies when they go away to college, and all the rich life that United Methodists live together.
To me it seems fundamental.
Yet, our Book of Discipline does not make the fullness of life possible for LGBTQ people in The United Methodist Church.
“Do we have to talk about it?” people ask. “Can’t you accept that less-than is the best we can do?” This is often the message sent to LGBTQ people. If that seems harsh, ask a queer, trans, or non-binary person.
With fewer than two weeks before General Conference, the most important voice you can listen to in The United Methodist Church is a queer, trans, or non-binary voice. That voice is important because, no matter what happens in St. Louis, we will be the people most impacted by the decision of our peers about the worthiness and nature of our lives – and how the Church should be structured around that valuation.
What is at stake is whether the next LGBTQ child born into a United Methodist church will be nurtured and loved or cast out. What is at stake is whether the elderly trans man can have his funeral in his church. What is at stake is whether the pews occupied by LGBTQ people in your church will be open or empty the Sunday after General Conference, and whether LGBTQ people will be standing outside our church doors without a spiritual haven to call home
Don’t ask your LGBTQ friends what they want or why they can’t be happy with anything less than full participation in the life of the church. Ask instead why the “best the denomination can do” still allows discrimination. Our charge is not to do “less harm” but to do none.