By Artie Van Why*
I was raised a Methodist and have been a loyal member of my current United Methodist church, but I am leaving the denomination. I am leaving because I’m gay and I’ve finally had enough of the denomination’s pretense of welcoming the gay community.
It’s time someone called the denomination on its blatant doublespeak, so I will gladly step up to the plate.
“Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.” is the denomination’s seemingly ingenuous welcoming catch phrase. However, when it comes to the gay community the denomination’s heart, mind and door is only open to us if we play by their rules.
The “rule book” for the denomination is its Book of Discipline. In the book’s section on homosexuality it says that “all persons are individuals of sacred worth” (which, I would assume, includes gay individuals). Even so, it appears a gay person’s sacred worth really isn’t worth that much.
We are welcome to sit in the pews of United Methodist churches. We just aren’t allowed to preach from their pulpits. Well, we can; but only if we don’t acknowledge or, as the Book of Discipline puts it, “self-avow” that we are “practicing” our homosexuality.
I bristle at the misuse of that word in referring to gay people. When do you ever hear anything about heterosexuals practicing their straightness?
I wish the denomination would just come out and say what they really mean. They don’t want gay people having sex.
A celibate gay person = good. An unchaste gay person = bad.
What the denomination fails to recognize is that in telling us we can’t “practice” (or be) who we are, they are telling us that we can never have romantic love in our lives; forgetting that love is more than just sex. There are the emotional, mental and spiritual intimacies two people in love develop. The memories made; the joys and sorrows shared.
I want to ask the denomination, if I were to commit my life to another man and if we were to live together for 30 years; for better or for worse, in sickness and in health and never, ever once made love would we be considered non-practicing homosexuals? Would we be okay in The United Methodist Church’s eyes? Or does the denomination’s definition of practice include the above-mentioned gifts that a loving relationship brings, which go beyond just the physical?
Are we being told that we are not allowed to love or be loved? That we don’t deserve it?
The United Methodist Church will gladly accept our tithes and offerings yet it rejects our relationships and legal marriages.
According to the Book of Discipline, the denomination “insist[s] that all persons, regardless of age, gender, marital status, or sexual orientation, are entitled to have their human and civil rights ensured.” Why, then, isn’t the United Methodist Church at the forefront of defending our civil (not religious) right of marriage equality?
The United Methodist Church can’t have it both ways. They are either for us or against us. Doesn’t the Bible say something about those being neither hot nor cold but lukewarm being spit out?
The denomination’s campaign of open hearts, open minds and open doors is deceptive and hypocritical; nothing more than a marketing ploy. Perhaps the following would be a more honest appraisal of the United Methodist Church.
Closed Hearts to the hurt inflicted on gay men and women by not affirming their relationships or their right to marriage.
Closed Minds to the very thought that God might bless and sanction loving, committed gay relationships.
Closed Doors to gay families that wish to be validated, respected and assured they are equal to “traditional” families.
The United Methodist Church says “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” I think the way the denomination treats its gay members is just as incompatible. So, I am taking my leave and will find a church that won’t mind me “practicing” my gayness.
*Van Why is the author of “That Day in September,” a moving remembrance of Sept. 11, 2011 in New York City.