United Methodist Bishop, J. Michael Lowry of the Central Texas Conference, recently addressed a gathering of the United Methodist Scholars for Christian Orthodoxy Conference at Armstrong Chapel United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. He has put his address, “In a Mirror Dimly: The Future of the United Methodist Church”© on his website as a four-part posting.
Bishop Lowry seems to argue that the Methodist Church should (or at least, likely will) split over the issue of the inclusion of LGBT people. As you might guess, given that he’s speaking to people who claim to be “orthodox,” that he is, as southerners might say, “agin it.” And of course, that would mean that, while I don’t disagree a split may happen, I don’t agree with his position on the topic at hand. Given that, I’m going to respond to his article/speech taking on each of his parts in corresponding articles here.
Bishop Lowry starts Part 2 by raising the question weighing heavily on the Church as the 2016 General Conference approaches:
“What will happen at General Conference just a few weeks away? Will the delegates vote to eliminate the ‘incompatibility’ clause with regards to homosexuality and embrace marriage and ordination of those who self-identify as LGBTQ? I don’t know. Will current language about ordination and the prohibition of performing same-gender marriages be retained as a chargeable offense? I don’t know.
He expresses his main concern as, “Secondly, should the Discipline significantly change on these presenting issues, those of us who live in the United States should expect some form of denomination- splintering rebellion in the worldwide (and in parts of the U.S. as well) church.” And cites the recent experiences of the Anglican communion, the Lutherans and the Presbyterians to support his statement, and I find common ground with him there.
There remains, even here in America, an entrenched group of the old guard, calling themselves “orthodox,” who continue to shroud their bigotry under the cloak of Christianity, and their belief that an unchanging biblical interpretation is about nothing more than sexual morality. They never seem to acknowledge the Church (at least the UMC) has evolved on issues such as women as elders, slavery, divorce and re-marriage, and even many of the ancient marriage rules. They will never say they want to go back to the time before those re-evaluations, but I suspect many of them might actually be OK with that.
However, in Part 2, Lowry makes it clear that the primary concern for the orthodox is homosexuality, and keeping in the incompatibility phrase, and continuing to prevent ordination and marriage for LGBT people. He makes it a point to describe us as “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.” I’m getting so sick and tired of that. Let’s dissemble this bullshit a little. First off, LGBT people are not “self-avowed.” We are gay, made that way by God, and the only thing we “avow” is whether we will live honestly and with integrity. Then there is that whole “practicing” thing. No sir Reverend, after all these years, I don’t practice a lot; I pretty much have it down pat. What I want to ask willfully ignorant assholes like Bishop Lowry is, “are you a self-avowed practicing heterosexual?”
With the rant over, let’s get back to his article. He names 4 scenarios for those that would not concur if these horrible, horrible changes are made to the Discipline:
- Embrace the change despite any misgivings and be hopeful that proponents are correct (despite all evidence to the contrary) that such actions garner an influx of new young disciples.
- Stay in the church as a loyal minority (especially in the United States).
- Leave the United Methodist Church to form a new branch of the Wesleyan movement as a part of the universal church. In doing so, make a corollary set of decisions around whether or not to pursue legal action over property, endowments and the like.
- Simply leave (presumably to take up membership in another Christian tribe).
The rest of us have put up with their bigotry since the 1950s or so, when the “incompatible” clause was added, so I’d think they could stick around and put up with us not being incompatible for a while. But I love the statement in his last paragraph, ” We all, both those in favor and those opposed to a change, have much to fear from hasty decisions made in the passions of the moment.” Good grief, the church has been wrestling with this issue, and discussing for 20 years…hasty, really? Of course, should the Discipline change (an unlikely event given the inordinate influence being given the Central Conferences-Africa), it will be a hasty and ill-conceived change by Lowry’s measure. If things stay the same, we’ll hear from him about his relief that he can still hate gay people, uh, I mean, that the church has remained true to the Bible and tradition.