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Churchless

A lot of people have left the church. I’ve entertained the idea many times myself. But I never really thought the church would leave me.

Today, the United Methodist Church, in which I was baptized, grew up, ordained, and for many years served as one of its clergy, voted to essentially split over the “issue” of homosexuality.

A lot of details remain to be clarified. But the ultimate destiny is now clear. The United Methodist Church will collectively stick it’s head in the sand and declare that homosexuals have no place in their club. Those of us who envision a church defined by more than it’s narrow understanding of human sexuality and who wish for the church to welcome everyone, regardless of anything, will be left to create a new church born from the broken remains.

Among reasons for churches to split, this must rank among the most petty.

This is the message the United Methodist Church has for gay and lesbian people: you are not acceptable. You do not belong. You are not welcome. Think about that. That’s the good news from the UMC. What future is there in that? Do conservatives honestly think that they will march gleefully into righteousness by excluding and condemning a marginalized group in our society that has only recently started to find their place in our culture? Is that the basis of our church? It is so critical that we express this cruel and exclusionary position, rooted in homophobia, that our church can split in half.

The plan that has passed is called the Traditional Plan. How appropriate. What church thinks it’s future lies in clinging to tradition?

Sadly, this move will do little to address the underlying problems facing the UMC. Those who think clarifying the church’s position on homosexuality will lead to a new era of growth are not only out of touch with reality, they also don’t understand the fundamental problems of the UMC. Like our structure. Like the itinerancy. Like our property laden congregations. Like the lack of viability of many of our churches. Like the guaranteed appointment. This is not a plan to address any of the problems facing the church. This is a plan to satisfy a self-righteous agenda attempting to preserve some self-perceived holiness in a misguided attempt to enforce sexual norms that literally have nothing to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I am saddened by this news. But like all bad news, there is also some hope. Perhaps this moment will empower the emergence of a new kind of church, that will address the long-standing issues facing the UMC and at the same time offer some good news for all of God’s people.

In the meantime, I feel churhcless.