November 02, 2005

Methodists Reject Lesbian Minister

In a widely reported story, the highest court of the United Methodist Church recently defrocked an openly lesbian minister. At the same time, they reinstated a minister suspended for banning a gay man from his congregation.

I find both of these rulings misguided, but there is one important point to make in support of them. I think it is critical that religious denominations be consistent in the administration of the beliefs they have stated as a corporate body. Therefore, if their policies state that lesbians are not allowed to become ministers, they have the right to enforce it. After all, there are denominations that won't allow women, regardless of sexual orientation, to be ordained or serve in other leadeship roles.

Similarly, if their rules allow pastors discretion over the congreations, something that seems very dangerous to me, then the governing body must uphold decisions made under those rules.

I join many christians, both straight and gay, in condemning those rules, as is my right. Members of denominations with rules that restrict (or potentially prevent) the level of participation have three choices; sit and do nothing, leave the denomination, or stay and fight for change within the system.

I know many christians chose the first option, often because they were raised in a certain church and don't feel comfortable either pushing for a fundamental change in the church's beliefs or leaving altogether. I don't have data to back this up, but I strongly suspect this is a critical factor in allowing such conservative policies to stay in place in many large denominations.

I chose the second option myself. I was raised Southern Baptist and converted to Catholocism, but now happily worship at an independent, GLBT-affirming congregation. At Believers' Covenant Fellowship, we are committed to reaching out to the GLBT community and let them know that God's love and salvation is available to them, regardless of what they have been taught over the years.

The defrocked minister, Irene Elizabeth Stroud, has chosen the third option and will stay with her congregation in Philadelphia as a lay pastor. She told the New York Times, "I, like many people, will stay and fight. I think these decisions are another step in a journey, and one day the church will receive gay and lesbian people into ministry."

My prayers and those of my church are with you, Ms. Stroud, and those like you.

1 comment:

  1. Nice, clear, straight-forward (no pun intended) of the options and why different people take different routes. Thanks!