We Deny God

On Friday evening, I read the Institute for Religion and Democracy’s submission to this week’s gathering of the Commission On A Way Forward. Nothing in their report surprised me. While the rest of the United Methodist Church is engaged in a process of honest dialogue and trying to find a “way forward”, their position appears to have changed little or even hardened since the previous General Conference.

They advance the idea that many of their supporters believe the Commission On A Way Forward is a liberal plot. In addition, they continue to threaten schism (with the support of the central conferences). In tone, it read like a ransom letter of a kidnapper holding an entire denomination hostage.  Honestly, they should be ashamed of themselves.

So much was left unsaid. This troubles me more than their threats, selective use of Biblical quotations, and citations from the Book of Discipline. Despite our varying interpretations of scripture, picking and choosing which sins are worse than others in 21st century Methodism, and allowing those voices to run our denominations: the IRD still seems to believe homosexuality is a choice. Biologically speaking, those who are pushing for schism do not believe men and women are born straight or gay. They began their report professing their love for their gay brothers and sisters. However, if you read through their statement, it’s clear they believe those whom they love (their gay family and friends) are choosing to remain in a sinful lifestyle. By making this choice, these persons are made ineligible from any leadership (ordained or otherwise) in the United Methodist Church.

In entertaining the possibility of a different choice, they are negating the possibility that God creates people who are straight, gay, bisexual, black, white, or simply different from each other. If we are different we must choose to conform to accepted standards of behavior that are not ordained by God but created by other sinful United Methodists pretending to act in the name of God. This is the point where the train we call church is about to derail.

I deny their cookie cutter God. Their God is dead to me. Their God makes heterosexual Methodists. Their God is the God of press releases and knee jerk “Amens”. Their God stokes fears which never existed. Their God needs fear and money to survive.

The God I worship calls everyone to ministry, to serve, and to love. The way forward must acknowledge God made a world embedded with evolutionary difference and creative diversity. When we deny this, we deny God.

Richard Bryant