I was raised in the United Methodist Church. Really raised. Church every Sunday (Sunday School and worship service) – if I feigned sickness I wasn’t allowed to leave my bed. No books, no radio. Wednesday fellowship, meals and more teachings. Youth Group, trips to the beach, sleepovers at the church, and more teachings. Youth Choir – singing praises and more teachings. Ice Cream Socials – lots of amazing homemade ice cream and more teachings.
Most of my neighbors attended our church, so gatherings blurred – were they social or were they church? Did it matter? Almost every day I was with my church community. And my memories of growing up in the United Methodist Church were ones of tolerance and social conscience raising – volunteering on building trips after natural disasters, serving in soup kitchens, helpful our fellow people. We even allowed women in the clergy! The other churches in town didn’t.
Church became less and less of my life the older I got. I finally found a church in San Francisco that I felt at home in – Glide, which happened to be Methodist, but it put people before the doctrine. Everyone, I mean *everyone*, is welcome at Glide. It doesn’t even matter if you’re Christian. Love is love is love. I loved the Sunday celebrations, full of music and praise and joy and vulnerability. Even though I’m not living there anymore, I still stream the Sunday celebrations.
I’m sure if adult me were to visit child me, I would see the prejudice and discrimination that I’m sure were there in my childhood church community, but which were invisible to child me. That prejudice and discrimination hit me full force this week.
On Tuesday, the United Methodist Church voted to reinforce its decision that gay and lesbian clergy are not welcome in the church, and the church will not recognize same-sex marriages. My first thought when I heard that this was on the conference agenda was, “Seriously? This is 2019.” My second thought was that they would probably come to some sort of watered down compromise, much like the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” doctrine of the 1990s and early 2000s. I wasn’t prepared for what was shared. The vote was 53 to 47. That’s incredible in a jaw-dropping, mind-blowing way. 53% of the representatives of the church do not want to recognize the civil rights that every person is entitled to.
I’m heartened by the churches in the 47% saying they will break away, they will form a new denomination. There’s no place for this type of institutionalized discrimination in any organization. It’s 2019. It’s time.