Thoughts and Comments

   

May Justice Like a River

By the Revs. Wiley B. Cooper, Carl D. Evans, John D. Evans, Kenneth W. Prill, and Thomas A. Summers, S.C. United Methodist clergy members of Openings, and Julia Prater and Michael W. Haigler, co-chairs of Openings

In light of the controversy surrounding a United Methodist bishop’s prophetically conducting a ceremony that celebrated the marriage of a same-gender couple and other similar issues about homosexuality, an ever growing interreligious group—named Openings—holds profound dismay. It is difficult for us to comprehend how the United Methodist Church can continue showing its oppressive actions toward the community of faultless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.

Three years ago, Openings was formed by LGBT persons and straight allies coming from diverse spiritual traditions. As a supportive and welcoming network in our state’s midlands, its main purpose is that of aiding in the inclusion of LGBT persons into the fuller life of our various religious denominations.

At a recent monthly meeting of our Openings network, the approximately sixty persons present voted to communicate this statement to South Carolina United Methodists:

Openings stands in solidarity with those United Methodists working to transform their denomination into one that celebrates sexual and gender diversity as a blessing that enriches all. Loving, just communities embrace everyone; they are strengthened when all people are able to live fully and express their gender and sexuality with holiness and integrity. There should be no turning back from the goal of the full participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in our faith traditions and communities.

Due to the UMC’s lingering policies that display discrimination and unfairness when it comes to homosexuality, it is heartbreaking to see this cherished Church yet remain on the sidelines as so many other sister and brother denominations officially march down the field of justice and mercy.

For instance, the highest bodies of these particular denominations have already systemically embraced sexual equality and inclusiveness: Presbyterian Church, USA; Alliance of Baptists; Evangelical Lutheran Church of America; Unitarian-Universalist; Episcopal Church, US; the United Church of Christ and others. Many members of Openings belong to these communions.

Numerous institutions (like the military, professional groups, educational systems, and municipalities) also have adopted non-discrimination policies concerning sexual orientation.

This broadened affirmation of LGBT persons growing in both our religious and social environment stands in stark contrast to the UMC. Instead, it is continuing to drive itself away from a longstanding heritage of social holiness in this regard.

In considering the spiritual journeys of LGBT persons, there is just too much at stake in allowing any exclusionary and insensitive atmosphere to intrude into their souls.

For example, an alarming statistic is that young gay teens take their lives by suicide four times more than their other peers. And a sad irony is seen when permission is given for UMC clergy to offer a service of blessing and celebration for a fleet of boats, buildings, or pet animals. But there remains yet an inhumane disciplinary restriction for clergy to provide a ceremony of blessing the committed love and companionship of two same-gender persons as a devoted couple.

We hope and pray that, as the UMC deals with its difficult struggles and decisions, those oppressive walls that play their part in shutting doors on the precious spiritual lives of LGBT persons may begin to tumble and let compassion through. The prophet Amos (5:24) echoes the same sentiment: “Let justice roll on like a river and righteousness like a never-ending stream.”

For further information about Openings, its website is www.openingssc.org.


Publication: South Carolina United Methodist Advocate; Date: January 2014; Page: 13


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