Lives Are At Stake
It is therefore expected of all who continue therein that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation,
First: By doing no harm, by avoiding evil of every kind, especially that which is most generally practiced, . . . – United Methodist Book of Discipline, Paragraph 104, p.76
At my previous blog, I used to write all the time that being a part of the Body of Christ is the most important thing in the world; that our work, our voices, our spreading the Good News and making disciples is the most necessary thing in the world; that lives are at stake because of who we are and what we do. I was told I was exaggerating, that I was being hyperbolic, that lives don’t depend on what we do or what we say or how we love or how we live.
In much the same way, recent discussions about the place of sexual minorities within the denomination have been derailed by everything from whether or not we argue correctly to whether or not protest groups can speak their minds on the floor of General Conference. All the talk about schism; all the red herrings and side bars and attempts to avoid discussing the one thing that is necessary has even led me far from the point. “Sexual minorities” is a handy term I use, but it’s real people, real lives. Men, women, youth, children who look to the Church of Jesus Christ called United Methodist for love and care and are told that their lives are incompatible with Christian teaching; they have Bible verses hurled at them, calling their love an abomination, unnatural, and that they are going to hell, to spend eternity separated from the God who created them as they are – gay – because God created them that way. Sometimes, the price we pay for our ignorance, our bigotry, and our hatred is far too high.
Since I take seriously the connectedness of our denomination, I am as responsible for the hatred and rejection this young man faced as are any who are a part of the United Methodist Church. I have not worked hard enough, I have not pushed hard enough, I have not yelled loudly enough to change who we are. For my failures, and those of the rest of us who have not been able to erase the hateful language from our Book of Discipline and prevent people like this young man’s youth leader from taking a position of authority in our churches, a young man who loved the church, who served others, who was a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ transforming the world; that young man is dead. What’s even worse is I am sure there are more out there of whom we shall never hear or know, young men and women whose lives have been destroyed by the hatred and bigotry that we wear in our Book of Discipline, and express far too much in our ministries, and the people who carry out those ministries.
For the sake of William Benjamin Wood, and all the other gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer and others who struggle with their sexuality and do not find sanctuary in our sanctuaries; who do not hear the Good News of God’s love for them, but rejection and condemnation for how they love; whose lives are counted as less and whose love is condemned as a sin and an abomination; for all of them, let us work to get rid, once and for all, of any statement that our church sees people who love differently than we do . Let us pledge, in memory of Ben Wood and all those whose lives have been impacted by what we do and what we say as a people, to perform acts of contrition, to ask forgiveness of those who we’ve hurt; forgiveness from the families whose members are lost in one way or another because the United Methodist Church turned its back on them.
Being a Christian, a part of the Body of Christ, is the most important thing in the world. We do what we do because lives – real human lives – are at stake. Sometimes, our failures as the Body of Christ incur the ultimate cost. Which is why we must always remember that love – not doctrine, not reason, not Biblical interpretation, not orthodoxy – is our commandment. Ben Wood is dead because someone bearing the name “Christian” did not love him, and provoked others to cast him aside. This, I would insist is the abomination.