In the morning I had the opportunity to speak to a couple of African delegates about their perceptions regarding the human sexuality issue. They too a conservative stance, and clearly could not understand the distance they observed between the first missionaries who taught them about Christianity and the current American church. One man said, “These people who first taught us about Jesus–what happened to them?” It is clear that we are dealing with two very different worldviews. This has clear implications for United Methodism if they wish to increasingly become a global church.
Those who wish to change the wording of the current discipline can be clearly identified through pins, colorful scarves, or badges that feature the pictures of family members who are part of the LGBT community. Some of the conversations I had directly with these Methodist people and some that I overheard clearly reveal the passion and the depth of conviction which these persons possess concerning this issue. Activist groups were present throughout the day. A group was keeping a 24 hour drum vigil to draw attention to the issue throughout the night. Their demonstration was peaceful.
Toward the end of the night I also witnessed some doomsday preachers near the protesters, holding a sign that said, “Homosexuality is a sin.” One man warned the protesters that they would “be held to an account.” I was invited by this same man to dedicate my life to Christ and live for him. When I declined the opportunity to take a tract from him, he told me he was “up for challenge.” He wanted me to take him on and engage him, perhaps to win me to Christ. I love Jesus. This man impressed me as hostile. I politely declined the invitation to engage in a verbal sparing match. I didn’t have the energy.
One of my final interactions was with an older woman who clearly advocated for a change in the discipline. She went so far to say, “What is there to talk about?” She stated that “the right decision is obvious, and they should just get it over with.” I responded that clearly it wasn’t that easy.
Overall today drained me of energy. My time spent with the subcommittee on Human Sexuality resulted in an immense amount of tension being carried in my body for the next several hours–I can still feel the emotion that was present in that room in the muscles of my back. My mind wasn’t only involved, but my whole being. I agonized with those persons on either side of this issue. It is clear that no easy answers are present, and to me it is unclear if there is a generative way forward from which both sides could approve of and experience mutual benefit. In fact, I see the chasm as nearly impossible to bridge.
I have been glad to be present and hang around today. Continue in prayer for the UMC.