As a mere child of five or six years, I first sang the words, “The Church’s one foundation, / Is Jesus Christ, her Lord; / She is his new creation by water and the word.” My voice was timid, my heart quaked in fear. I wasn’t sure I was allowed to sing that song – it was a grown-up song and didn’t belong to little children. But once I discovered I had voice, I stopped worrying about asking permission to sing. “From heaven he came and sought her / To be his holy bride; / With his own blood he bought her, / And for her life he died.”
United Methodists have been singing “The Church’s One Foundation” since before we became United. My heart quakes in fear. Shall we remain united? Upon what is our unity grounded? How dark are the days ahead?
Since 1972 United Methodists have formally and informally been debating the “rightness” and “wrongness” of persons who are GLBTQ. I cannot help but see this issue from two sides. Persons, in and of themselves, are neither right nor wrong. We are creations of God. Our behaviors can be judged for their merits, but not the fact that we are. We are children of God. Creation is about being, not what we do.
Likewise, our sexuality is not premiere in our relationship to God or to The Church. If a person asks to be a member of the church, or ordained, because they are GLBTQ, heterosexual, or even asexual, the request is a non-sequitur. The Church is not defined by sexuality. The Church is defined by Jesus Christ.
For some of us, the movie Sophie’s Choice (1982) is the best illustration. When forced by a Nazi soldier to choose between her little daughter and her young son, Sophie (Meryl Streep) wails in anguish, “Please don’t make me choose! I can’t choose! I can’t choose!” Because of her inability to choose one child over the other, both go to the gas chamber while Sophie is sentenced to life remembering.
Many of us were not born into Methodism. I am United Methodist by choice – a decision I shall never regret. Today my heart moans in anguish, “Please do not make us choose!” We have brothers and sisters on each side of this chasm. Can we not rise above our reactionary state and find a creative way for our Beloved to remain alive? To think in “either, or” terms is to choose death. No outcome, save destruction of the other, will satiate those who are oppositional. To succumb to threats and taunting is no life at all.
Yet she on earth hath union / With God the Three in One, / And mystic sweet communion / With those whose rest is won. / O happy ones and holy! / Lord, give us grace that we / Like them, the meek and lowly, / On high may dwell with thee.