Monday, July 10, 2006

Dissention In The Ranks.

The fight for gay rights and the church-sponsored persecution of homosexuals has already met with conflict in the Episcopalian and Presbyterian Churches, but full-scale persecution of gays and lesbians appeared to still be going strong, that is until Pastor Woody Hingle tried to make an official declaration at the Louisiana United Methodist Church Annual Conference. You can read the full story here. Apparently Pastor Hingle overestimated his fellow United Methodists when he tried to pass a new anti-gay affirmation: "local church membership in the United Methodist Church is open to all persons and requires repentance of sin, which includes racism, heterosexual sexual relations outside the marriage bond, and the practice of homosexuality." He seemed to believe that this was a nice all-inclusive maneuver, but was surprised when his fellow UM's overwhelmingly rejected the proposal. But let's take a little bit closer look at this and see what is really going on. "Open to All Persons" That seems perfectly reasonable. "Repentance of Sin, which includes racism" also seems fine and even praiseworthy, especially considering Louisiana has had problems with racism toward members of the African-American community. "Heterosexual relations outside the Marriage Bond" we're starting to get a little out there now - certainly the church has vainly attempted to get this one going for centuries, but don't hold your breath. And finally "The Practice of Homosexuality" NOW we're seeing the real deal. But wait you say, he had this whole list of prohibitions, why do we think this was actually an anti-gay message. Well first off, it is not really loving or being open to all persons if you have a laundry list of things that are unacceptable, but I think the true meaning can be found in what Pastor Hingle was most upset about when his measure was defeated. He didn't get upset about the idea that his fellow Methodists turned down his proposal because they WANTED to be racist. Nor does he go with the obviously because they didn't want to give up their beloved premarital sex )and who would, frankly) No his first reaction was: "Hingle believes the petition failed because United Methodist delegates were uneasy about declaring that homosexuality is "incompatible with Christian teaching."* So that's really it isn't it? He was pissed because his anti-gay proposal got shot down, especially since he worked so hard to couch it in this larger platform where open discrimination against gays was only a part of it. However by his own admission, Pastor Hingle decided to make this proposal after a pastor was suspended by the UMC for denying membership to an unrepentant homosexual. (That pastor was later reinstated). If we want more proof that this proposal was just a cleverly disguised hate message, look no further than how Pastor Hingle then equates homosexuality with some other "lifestyle" choices. "What other sins then don't have to be repented of for membership?" the pastor asks. "You know, if someone's...unrepentant about having a lifestyle of lying or thievery or whatever -- where are you going to draw that line?"* So being a homosexual is akin to having a lifestyle of lying or thievery. Wow. Don't sugar coat it Woody, tell us how you really feel! I guess in his mind persecution and discrimination and intolerance are not sins at all and truly the work of good Christian Disciples of Christ. Pastor Hingle goes on to say that his larger concern is that his fellow parishioners believe that their own "reasoning and experience" trump scripture and church authority. And we find ourselves once again back to that staggering commentary on the dangers of organized religion. He is actually saying that people who have the audacity to think for themselves are wrong and going against the church. So my condolences to Pastor Hingle for his loss and kudos to the UMC membership for voting this down, even if it is as I suspect more about the other elements of the proposal than any pro-gay solidarity. And I leave you with this. If homosexuality is so powerfully wrong in the eyes of God, so much so that it seems to be the greatest focus of almost every church and almost every church-related group, why wasn't it mentioned in the Ten Commandments? If God saw fit to making sure to specify that you shouldn't be coveting your neighbors slaves and/or farm animals - wouldn't you think he might have remembered to mention something about homosexuality. *Courtesy of Jim Brown, AgapePress.

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