In an article published late last year, the Rev. Stan Copeland addressed the One Church Plan, one of the three plans being voted on by the United Methodist Church in February to address the issue of homosexuality in the church. Copeland is in support of the One Church Plan, but cites one major concern, that “any time we have a (congregational) vote it’s potentially divisive.” According to the article, “Copeland would rather the pastor and other local church leaders make that call.”
This sentiment rings horrendously detrimental for several reasons. Firstly, the deeply flawed One Church Plan is a beacon of hope, albeit an apologetic and imperfect beacon, that individual churched have the right and ability to choose the radically inclusivity and non-judgment argued for by Christ. To remove the power of individual congregations and centralize it into the pastor’s and local leadership holds a host of moral and logistical issues. It makes those LGBTQIA+ and allied members in more itinerate conferences subject to the fear that while their current Pastor may be welcoming, the person who comes next may not.
In addition to this pandering allyship, the Council of Bishops released a letter, declaring that they see “the ways in which the convening of the Special Session of General Conference creates a time and space of harm for you and members of your family. To be the focus of attention, discussion and debate is hurtful.” This letter is riddled with doublespeak, deigning to acknowledge the existence of queer people without taking any direct ownership of the fact that the Bishops are complicit in our oppression. It is the clerical equivalent of “I’m sorry you feel that way,” mincing words and hiding behind phrases like “honor our convictions” to allow themselves a congratulatory victory, that they have done so much in speaking to us in this groundbreaking way, and yet said absolutely nothing substantive in support at all.
To anyone drawing comfort in the idea of the one church plan, or preaching a rhetoric of acceptance and “love to those who see things differently,” especially my family of queer folks, I implore you to be vigilant. To call out injustice wherever we see it. To ask any queer member of the United Methodist Church to embody the false narrative of accepting abuse at the hands of our house of worship in an act of Christian passivity, is to dishonor the courage of Christ to stand among the least wanted. The love, light, and strength of the queer members of this congregation is unwaveringly strong, and no amount of platitude can undo the harm of our leaders’ complacency and deliberate abuse. It is not enough to say that we live as Christ wants us to, we must take the courageous, political, radical, loving step of actually doing it. If not, then what ever is the point?
It is no secret that our country, our church, and our world are living in frightening and divided times. On so many of these issues of injustice and oppression there are examples of United Methodists actively, openly. And without fail moving to act in the face of hatred and directly oppose aggression. We are sheltering immigrants, we are calling out racism and xenophobia, we are empowering those in need. But until we clean our own house, and affirm LGBTQIA+ people without any hesitation, then we are throwing countless stones while we worship in a cathedral of glass.