One of the things I constantly hear, and have heard for years: “Why is The United Methodist Church so focused on human sexuality? We have so many other important concerns that we should be focused on.” There are so many more issues, but as long as one group is deliberately targeted for exclusion, the struggle for inclusion of LGBTQ people must take center stage.
I can only imagine that some of the Jewish Christians in Peter’s camp of the early Church had conversations like:
“Why is Paul always going on about the Gentiles? Don’t get me wrong, we’re not saying we dislike the Gentiles. They are people of sacred worth. It Is really about their behavior. All we’re saying is that they need to follow the Law like we do, they need to keep Kosher customs, and their men should be circumcised. But no, Paul seems to think the Gentiles should have some sort of special status, saying they’re exempt from circumcision and the Law of Moses. I wonder if Paul is secretly a Gentile and not a Jew. Or, maybe he wants to be a Gentile. I wish he’d just shut up about the Gentiles. We have so many other important issues to focus on.”
But, of course, for Paul, the core of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was that God is impartial and that in Christ Jesus there are now no distinctions between Jew and Gentile, Slave and Free, Male and Female, so he had to go on about the Gentiles until their full inclusion in the Church was complete. For Paul, it wasn’t just a matter of inclusiveness, though that was very important; it was a matter of how we understand God.
That is where we are in The United Methodist Church, and that is why the full inclusion of LGBTQ people is a central issue and should remain so.