Original Posting At http://www.larryhollon.com/blog/2019/05/19/on-being-complicit-with-abuse/
According to a report by United Methodist News Service about discussion of the divided views toward human rights in The United Methodist Church (euphemistically called the debate over human sexuality), one African bishop said “We need more conversation. We can always partner together especially when it comes to mission.”
The news report also said the bishops plan to lead by listening.
While people are being excluded, beaten, and killed?
The time for passive listening is over. It ended on June 24, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan when gay people said, “Enough with passive acceptance of abuse.” The message from Stonewall was that it’s time for action.
And we’ve had more than enough conversation. Now it’s merely a stalling tactic.
As for the thought that we can always partner together when it comes to mission, I’d suggest we re-think that.
I’ve spent the better part of 40 years advocating for Africa, working to provide resources to Africans to create change, telling stories of courageous, creative Africans who were battling economic deprivation, oppressive governments, and belittling stereotypes of the African continent.
I’m not an enemy, I’m a friend.
I love Africa.
But there will be no setting aside of my concern for LGBTQI+ people in Africa, nor anywhere else, to partner on mission with a church that turns a blind eye toward discrimination, persecution, exclusion and even the murder of LGBTQI+ people.
I will not contribute one dollar to a United Methodist congregation that supports exclusion, or pays apportionments to support an infrastructure that does so.
Not one nickel to UMCOR. Not a penny to the General Board of Global Ministries which I believe has significantly aided and abetted the theological and biblical malpractice that currently results in this dogmatic exclusionary theology.
While not every missionary sent by GBGM contributed to this misappropriation of scripture, far too many did. The mission movement (from Europe and the United States) carried a dogmatic Western personal piety that complemented and buttressed colonialism. And now, many African bishops partner with U.S. conservatives to discriminate against part of God’s children and claim this is Bible blessed.
It’s hypocrisy to focus on questionable interpretations of only those portions of scripture that address same sex activity—and which biblical scholars tell us may refer to rape, temple prostitution, pederasty and idolatry, and not to loving relationships between caring, committed partners—while ignoring multiple “abominations” listed in the Law of Moses in Leviticus including eating pork, rabbit, or any seafood that does not have scales. Quite simply, it’s hypocrisy.
Paul’s narratives in Romans, put in context, can reasonably be viewed in a similar vein as referring to ritual sexual encounters tied to pagan worship and idolatry and to the practice of mature men taking on pubescent boys as students and lovers.
Adam Hamilton discusses these issues in greater depth in his book, “Making Sense of the Bible.” He makes the point that biblical interpretation is, and has always been, contextual and that we have accommodated to this over centuries of study and reflection.
Hamilton offers three broad categories into which biblical passages fit: those that reflect the timeless will of God for human beings (love your neighbor as yourself); those that reflect God’s will in a particular time but not for all time (much of the ritual law of the Old Testament); and those that reflect the culture and historical circumstances in which they were written but never reflected God’s timeless will (acceptance of slavery).
But all of these have been thoroughly, meticulously examined and interpreted, and conservative coalitions bent on seeking power and control continue to reject such scholarship. And they continue to discriminate.
Returning to the matter of common mission, many U.S. annual conferences have formed partnerships with African conferences outside the missional system. Lest episcopal leaders think that partnerships beyond the administration of GBGM will go forward regardless, my advice to every giver and volunteer in every U.S. annual conference that has a partnership with a conference in Africa is to ask if their money or the fruits of their volunteer time are supporting discrimination and exclusion of LGBTQI+ people; are the partnering conferences advocating for equal rights and welcoming them into the ministry of the church, blessing their relationships and caring for them when they face ill health, discrimination and danger; are the partners nurturing their spiritual growth as God’s children?
In short, are they treating people with the same compassion that Jesus calls us to exercise in Matthew 25:35-40?
And I would ask for an annual report of program expenditures and results including an independent audit of accounts which every responsible non-governmental organization across the globe prepares for its donors.
No, the time for fruitless talking and passive listening has passed. The time for thinking we could agree on mission and keep the dollars flowing while allowing abuse to continue is over.
I continue to support important humanitarian work on the African continent (and elsewhere). I support groups that are alleviating economic deprivation, providing health care, empowering women, protecting the natural environment and endangered species. But I do it through other responsible organizations that include all people.
It saddens me daily that my church has come to this impasse. But I am heartened that the timeless will of God works its way through Creation and the Spirit blows where it is welcomed and received with hospitality. And it embraces every last soul.