Following up on some of those happenings at the United Methodists' General Conference, I sent a letter to the Wesleyan Christian Advocate, our local Methodist newspaper (yes, there are such things). I'm a little surprised that it was published given the mostly conservative nature of our neck of the Methodist woods, so we'll see if it stirs up some responses in the next issue. I've reprinted the letter below, as the paper has a subscription-only website, but if you happen to be a subscriber and would like to see it in its official publication, just click here and scroll down the page.
Bishop Davis' math questioned
ATLANTA - Commenting on the General Conference's decision to uphold its stance against homosexuality and the declaration that the practice of homosexuality is "incompatible with Christian teachings", Bishop Lindsey Davis said, "I think the church is right. I think we are very much in sync with historic Christianity and very much in sync with 99.9 percent of Christians in the world".
By asserting that 99.9% of Christians would agree with the Discipline's current language on homosexuality, Bishop Davis thus assumes that only 1 in 1,000 Christians disagree with this exclusionary theological position. I for one believe that more than 1 in 1,000 Christians support the full inclusion of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. I believe that more than 1 in 1,000 United Methodists support this.
If one considers the delegates to General Conference to be representative of United Methodism, then one would have to concede that 45% of United Methodists support this. I even believe that more than 1 in 1,000 North Georgia United Methodists support this. Last year as a candidate for delegate to General Conference I received almost 20% of the votes cast on the first ballot, in spite of having proclaimed my belief that God's "radical love and inclusion should extend fully to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, just as they are.” If only 1 in 1,000 (or in this case, about 900) lay delegates supported full inclusion, where did my votes come from?
Despite the pain that many today feel in my church, in other churches throughout North Georgia, and in churches throughout Methodism, we will continue to bear witness to the continuing, renewing, and refreshing movement of the Holy Spirit in our midst. As God says through the prophet Isaiah, "Behold, I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert."
It was not that long ago that the UMC used Scripture (and the misguided interpretations thereof) to justify the denial of full ordination rights to women and the segregation of African-Americans into separate churches and church structures. I know that one day we will look back on this current exclusion with the same regret and shame that we now feel for our prior errors. I only hope and pray that this day will come sooner rather than later.