I’ve just spent the past three months packing, unpacking, and moving from one apt. to another in the same city. I spent three weeks just cleaning out the closets. AT&T U-Verse left me without an Internet connection or home phone service for a month while they made excuses in transferring services. I was dependent upon my iPhone for everything, including making payments since I had misplaced my checkbook in the move. Fortunately I ended up with only one late payment fee. The new apt. is smaller, cheaper, more accessible, bright and fresh, and better built. I tried Craigslist without any luck so I gave away lots of stuff, but even so the new place is very crowded. I was in the old apt. for 12 years so it was time for a move, and I downsized to prepare for the next decade as I age out. I haven’t even done my income tax return yet so the move has totally absorbed most of my time.
The 4th season of Dowton Abbey was short and disappointing. All the story lines seemed to limp along in limbo. The first episode of Selfridge was a set piece for a whole series of controversies. I haven’t read anything because I also was involved in an 8-week course on mindful-based stress reduction (MBSR) at Duke Integrative Medicine that involved 2 ½-hr classes each week plus reading assignments and five audio CD’s. It was helpful in dealing with some of the stresses associated with the move.
Like most of the East Coast we have had a late spring although we missed most of the snows, and it has been unusually cold. The frequent swings in the weather flared up my arthritis so it has been a struggle to continue my daily morning exercises that keep me somewhat flexible. I’m finding it increasing difficult to walk or stand for an extended period of time.
Justin Lee with the Gay Christian Network hosted their annual conference in Chicago this year and is on tour in Los Angeles now so he hasn’t been in Raleigh much in recent months. I track the topic on Google Alerts, but the only real news has been the first gay marriages in England and Wales. Much of the gay chatter on Twitter is negative news, and I say just ignore the biggots and don’t give them free publicity. In the US, the battle has moved to the states, and the ban is being over-turned in several. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) continues to languish in Congress after 15 years of debate, and the President has not yet made an Executive Order except to ban discrimination by federal contractors.
Sunday, Feb 9th, Rachel Zoll posted an article on the Associated Press a very good historical summary of the issue of gay marriage and the controversy within the United Methodist Church. She noted that while other mainline Protestant denominations slowly have been moving to accept gays into the clergy as well as offer rites to same sex couples, the Methodist Church for 40 years has continued to be divided on this issue.
She quoted from the Book of Discipline and its restrictions on gays and outlined some of the recent trials of pastors who have not observed those restrictions. She draws the battle lines between the Reconciling Ministries Network, The Good News, and the Wesleyan Covenant Network with their opposing views on the issue.
She gave a good and brief explanation of how the Methodist General Conference works as the legislative body of the denomination but skipped over the details of how the Judicial Council and the local bishops decide who and when to prosecute for violations of the restrictions. In fact, the church trials are highly arbitrary and depend on many factors. The divisiveness is not just between the delegates to the General Conference but also among the Council of Bishops and among the clergy, 1,100 of whom signed on to a resolution to support gay marriage. Many retired bishops and clergy have supported removing the restrictions as a matter of “biblical conscience”, and also because of the fact that they’re no longer subject to the church politics and trying to keep their jobs.
In addition to loss of credentials for clergy who are found guilty in church trials (which prevents them from serving as elders but does not prevent them from serving as local staff), they also lose their retirement and insurance benefits that many worked for years to receive. So it is a very severe penalty and not just a slap on the wrist.
Rev. Frank Schaefer was “ex-communicated” at his trial last year and has since preached as a guest pastor at Foundry UMC in Washington, DC, and at the UCC Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, TX. His trial and subsequent appearances have received national publicity. A much earlier trial of Rev. Jimmy Creech resulted in the publication last year of his book: Adams’Gift: A Memoir of a Pastor’s Calling to Defy the Church’s Persecution of Lesbians and Gays that not only challenges the church’s position on the issue but also on the highly arbitrary and inconsistent manner in which it is applied to both clergy and lay people. He toured around the nation in 2013 promoting the book and speaking in many pulpits.
Some are calling for an open split in the denomination similar to what occurred prior to the Civil War over the issue of slavery. The denomination was not re-united until 1939, and in 1969 joined with the United Brethren to become the United Methodist Church. The next General Conference will be held in 2016 and probably will again consider this issue.
Most people think of the new year as the time for resolutions to do things differently. They start diet plans, promise to form new and healthier habits, and generally live a more conscientious lifestyle. I’m doing things a little differently this year. First, after 12 years I’m moving to a new apartment. So I’m cleaning out the closets, selling or giving away tons of stuff, and re-orienting myself as well as my furniture. Since I am retired, I expect to have only a slight change in my daily routine, but I am hopeful of a fresh start with putting a little more energy into my life.
When I published my memoir last spring I was focused on looking back at my life, especially the many regrets for some of the choices that I had made. I, in a way, re-lived my life vicariously and analyzed the steps along the way. I think that introspection served me at the time, but now it’s time to move on and focus on today and its challenges. My primary issues at this time are health challenges as I age, and I’ve spent three years going from doctor to doctor without much success. So I guess that I’m just going to have to learn to live with these challenges and quit wasting so much time hoping for a cure.
So much emphasis in the LGBTI world is placed on the benefits of coming out that not much is written about the need of coming inside oneself to really get to know who you are and your values rather than simply reflecting on the conditions society may have imposed upon you. I’m no longer afraid of being discovered or what people might think, especially at church. I have no family left, and most of my friends are gay. My straight friends don’t care so the “gay” issue and especially the drive for sex are less important than they used to be. After 27 years, it is highly unlikely that I ever will have another partner nor even really much prospect for romance, and I have to face that fact and quit day-dreaming. I have a stable social life with friends and a busy schedule so I have much for which to be grateful. I’ve always been too reluctant to be thankful and more inclined to wish for things I didn’t have. I think I’m finally more content now.
I don’t have any plans this year for writing another book or working as hard at promoting the two books I have. That was exhausting both financially and emotionally with few results. I probably will continue with social media because I value the opportunities to keep in contact with old friends and with the world beyond the murder and mayhem of the mass media.
I’m hoping finally to simplify my life and enjoy each day and become more mindful of my blessings.
The Triangle Gay Men’s Chorus had a limp little skit as part of their recent Christmas concert about a queen who is left alone on Christmas Day and looks back on all of the relationships that didn’t work out. The tag line apparently was that it didn’t matter because he was Jewish anyway. I never got the point of the story or how it tied in with the Christian carols they sang. I guess it was supposed to be funny, but it fell flat.
But it fit the stereotype of what most people think gay life is like —a series of sexual adventures that end in emptiness and loneliness in a bar grousing about the holidays. But that cliché ignores the many happy couples, and the numbers keep growing. Gays and lesbians are having families now, and not just children from former straight marriages. The heart of the issue is the definition of what constitutes a family, and is it limited only to blood relatives. But I drift from the point of how gays spend their holidays, including Christmas.
The most significant misconception is that all LGBT people are anti-religion and live totally outside of the church or any established religion. The term Gay Christians is considered an oxymoron. It’s true that many gays have been rejected by the church and have left in disgust. But there are many organizations and individual congregations or synagogues that are welcoming and accepting of the LGBT community. Just check out the HRC web site of affiliated religious groups: http://www.hrc.org/resources/category/religion-faith
A list of affirming denominations and local congregations can be found at:
American Society has changed to where the ways in which you celebrate Christmas are more related to your ethnic, religious, and cultural background rather than whether you are gay or straight. Even Christians around the world don’t celebrate Christmas in the same way. I discovered that the church was very late in adopting Christmas as a holiday. I was enlightened recently by a little book by Ace Collins
Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas that revealed the origins of the traditions, customs, and myths surrounding Christmas:
And finally I would close with a link to Chris Glaser’s blog:
The recent news about the Methodist pastor who lost his credentials for defying the Book of Discipline by marrying his gay son is not only a sad commentary about the rigidity of the United Methodist Church polity, but it is another story in a long saga of discrimination and hypocrisy by church officials. They haven’t followed a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy; they have said it is acceptable to lie and ignore your conscience but not to tell the truth. It seems a strange irony that the new Pope appears to be assuming a more charitable and rationale approach to this ecclesiastical controversy, while the leaders of this Protestant denomination continue to insist on compliance with the letter of the law. Didn’t Jesus free us from the Pharisees?
It seems to me to be more an issue of church politics than addressing a moral dilemma. Jesus didn’t say anything about homosexuality even though he condemned divorce, which is acceptable in the United Methodist Church. Those who choose to proof text a few verses of scripture to support their position of hatred and discrimination risk penalty themselves for not loving the poor and the needy as the Bible tells us to do. “Love the sinner, but hate the sin” is a cop-out in that it presupposes that what God has created is sinful. It really doesn’t matter whether homosexuality is a question of choice or not. Our response to homosexuals in the church is an issue of evangelism in that Jesus commanded that we love one another without conditions and that we bring the good news of salvation to the entire world— not just to some who meet our criteria.
Our government is coming to see homosexuals as having the same civil rights as others and that discrimination against a persecuted minority is wrong. During the Inquisition the church killed people in the name of preserving dogma. Today we are again seeing a human power play to persecute those who might challenge their episcopal authority. It is not merely a difference in how to interpret the Bible. The church went through that regarding slavery. Today we face the question of fulfilling the promise of making this earth more like the Kingdom of God and thereby following the commandment of Jesus to make fellowship with him available to all—not just to some. The Jewish Christians had to struggle with including the Gentiles; we are struggling with the issue of sexual orientation and gender identity. Those psychological terms were not a part of the 1st Century vocabulary.
The real tragedy is this: we are responsible for those who have been lost to Christ because of the church’s condemnation and unwillingness to include them in the good news and mercy of Jesus. We may not have directly killed those who chose to take their own lives because they could not reconcile their core inner selves with the judgment of some church officials, but we certainly bear some responsibility. Let God be the judge—not me.