“Incompatible” Is Gone

And now, we exhale.
At least, I do.

Now, except for a few more tiny “jots,” the harm is fully gone.

The Original Sin of the United Methodist Discipline regarding human sexuality, the word “Incompatible,” is gone.
Everywhere from our polity and law, now.

Our Sign at Kessler Park UMC, which now applies to ALL UM churches.

The margin was 76%, and included an amendment that came from an African delegate, which beautifully shows the respect the New United Methodist Church has for our global connection, and all of our differences. And! That amendment eviscerates the Far Right claim that there will be no place for diverse views in the new UMC.

What a moment of grace and history.
Congratulations to Shandon Klein and the entire committee.

Here is a Dallas Morning News story with a short quote from both me, and Shandon Klein…our North Texas representative who chaired the committee and made the presentation on the floor of General Conference.

And I am immediately thinking of my Mentor, Dr. Bill McElvaney.

Decades ago now, when I first came to Northaven, Bill was telling me about his history with the Civl Rights Movement of the 1960s; specifically about being the only White Preacher in the Dallas portion of MLK’s “Poor People’s March.”

Bill and I, at an anti-war march years ago.

At the time, we were knee-deep in the struggle for LGBTQ rights in the United Methodist Church, and so I asked him:
“Bill, where did you get the courage to do everything you did back then?”

And he reminded me of something that set the table for this “debate” on LGBTQ issues ever since.

“Eric,” he said, “you have to remember that I always had the Discipline on my side. Our polity, our United Methodist Church Social Principles, backed me up. And that is what makes this struggle for gay and lesbian people so much harder.”

I had not thought of it until he said it, but I immediately understood the point. United Methodist social teaching implored people to reject racism even as Bill was undertaking those marches. Every time somebody complained about Civil Rights, in the early 1970s, Bill could point to our social polity as his protection.

That didn’t mean that it wasn’t hard. That didn’t mean that United Methodists were living up to their values (They weren’t, ala, “Letter From The Birmingham Jail”).

But it did mean that every time he spoke out, he did so with the full backing of our doctrine and polity.

I raise this point for folks to understand: Anyone who’s been a part of this struggle for LGBTQ rights in the UMC did so without the “backstop” of our church social policy and law.
(Excepting Article 4. We always had Article 4)

We stood —generations of LGBTQ persons and their allies stood— naked against a doctrine we were being told was “sound”….when we knew it was not.

Everything in our reading of scripture, reason, experience, and history, told us these church-laws must change.

But consider this:

Every protest…
Every sermon…
Every Bible study…
Every appointment of every Queer person…
Every Same Sex Marriage…
Every committee organizing…
Every petition…
Every coffee or lunch where we shared every painful story…

NONE of that happened with the backing of “church law” behind us; with that kind of “cover.”

That always made it a factor of difficulty harder as a “case” to make, over all these years, and it makes the social witness all that more courageous and powerful.

All these things were done came from a “Biblical Obedience” to Jesus, and to the true of meaning of our UM Constitution, that “All really does mean all.

For decades we United Methodists lied to ourselves with slogans.
We didn’t think we were lying. I happen to believe many people sincerely believed the lies in their heart.

We said, “All Means All.”
We said, “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.”

But the polity, Bill McEvaney pointed out years ago, was never fully with us.

Now it is.
Now….it finally is.

And I will exhale.
And, today, I have wept deeply and openly because of the trauma of the past…because of all those lost…because of my own memories of feeling despondent and hopeless at times.
I’ll be writing a lot in the next few weeks to divest myself from this ptsd of the PAST.

But the joy for the FUTURE?

It’s palpable.
It’s freakin’ beautiful.

We finally have the “Big Tent” church we always said we wanted.

No, we have become “ultra liberal.”
I’ll continue to suggest we’ve moved from “Center-Right” to “Center-Left,” and that’s really all that’s happened here.

But that vision of everyone moving foward together, that is, everyone who can truly say and mean “All Means All,” that vision is our future.

I’m ready for the still hard work of changing hearts and minds.

As Bill McElvaney could have told us decades ago, even when a polity is behind you (as with Civil Rights) it doesn’t mean “hearts and minds will change.” (This has certainly become newly apparent to us again on issues of racism in recent years, has it not?)

But my own life teaches me that hearts and minds can change, and being a Church of love, grace, repentence and holy space was always what we were supposed to be.

So now comes the hard slog of living into our “big tent church.”

Now comes a time, even for me, of looking back and apologizing for any harm we have participated in to get here. For me, now will come a time of processing some of our past trauma.

But now, finally, with our polity we really DO mean “All Means All.”

And I’m ready for what comes next.
How about you?

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