Monday, June 19, 2006

GLBT Issues Continue to Divide the Church

The debate is deepening and sides are digging in concerning the morality of homosexual practices and the place of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered (GLBT) persons in the life of the church.

According to a Reuters report, the newly elected leader of the Episcopal Church, Rev. Jefferts Schori, told CNN that she doesn't believe homosexuality is wrong: "I believe that God creates us with different gifts. Each one of us comes into this world with a different collection of things that challenge us and things that give us joy and allow us to bless the world around us," she said.

Looks to me like the Episcopal church and the worldwide Anglican community is heading for a split.

Meanwhile in my denomination, the United Church of Christ, an entire conference has withdrawn due to General Synod 25's endorsement of same-sex marriage last summer.

The Puerto Rico Conference, consisting of 68 congregations and a membership of 6,000, voted itself out of the United Church of Christ on June 10th. UCC President John Thomas in a statement said Puerto Rico's withdrawal is "is deeply painful and profoundly disappointing."

Indeed it is. James Hutchins, moderator of (an outstanding website that serves a loving critic and watchdog to the UCC) observed that:

Puerto Rico has been a focal point for the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries for some time. Whether the UCC was opposing the Navy's use of Vieques as target practice or the defense of Puerto Rican FALN terrorists, the UCC was serious in it's commitment to justice issues that were significant to Puerto Rico and to the conference. Even the boilerplate footnote on UCC press releases distinguished Puerto Rico from its mainland brethren. For many in the UCC, Puerto Rico defined our social witness of opposing colonial power and abuse and we dutifully defended David against Goliath. No one can question the UCC's commitment to Puerto Rico. But, in the end, it wasn't enough. At the end of the day, theological division about "Marriage Equality" trumped the commitment of our denomination to Puerto Rico. With this history of commitment, if the entire Puerto Rico Conference can leave the UCC, any church can leave the UCC.

Hutchins believes the path to a peaceful co-existence on this very divisive issue lies with everyone in the UCC--beginning with the national leadership--respecting our polity that holds the local church ultimately responsible for deciding this and all moral issues. In other words, the national setting of the UCC should quit speaking and advocating on behalf of everyone and instead be quiet.

Meanwhile, in a recent speech to UCC delegates at the Wisconsin Conference annual meeting President Thomas said, "A church in conflict that stands for something is better than a happy and comfortable church that stands for nothing."

True. But only if you're standing on the right side.

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