More clergy in the United Methodist Church have taken a stand that involves repudiating their ordination vows and their fidelity to the denomination’s system of order. According to the newsletter of the General Board of Church and Society (which has been cheering on this schism-in-process):
Nine hundred United Methodists in New York and Connecticut announced their intention this week to make weddings available to all people, in spite of their denomination’s ban on gay marriage.
The announcement marks the kick-off of a project called “We do! Methodists Living Marriage Equality.” Besides disregarding The United Methodist Church’s official position, We do! is also reaching out to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) groups in New York and Connecticut to announce the network’s existence.
It’s not actually that many, since most of the signers can’t actually, you know, perform weddings:
The statement was signed by 164 clergy, 732 lay people and six congregations.
In all, 74 congregations within the New York Conference are represented among the signers. The New York Conference is the regional entity representing United Methodist congregations from Long Island to the Catskills and in southern Connecticut.
Nevertheless, it’s important as a sign that the slow-moving train wreck continues to gain steam. It’s helped along by people like this:
“My ordination vows require me to minister to all people in my congregation,” said the Rev. Sara Lamar-Sterling, pastor at First & Summerfield United Methodist Church in New Haven, Conn. “This is about pastoral care, about welcoming all people, but especially the marginalized and the oppressed, like Jesus did.”
You read stuff like this and you wonder, “are people like this capable of coherent thought at all?” Consider: her “ordination vows require” her to “minister to all people in my congregation.” So, if someone came to them and said they wanted to marry their sister, or their son, or their cat, would she feel obligated to do so, because she is “required to minister to all people in my congregation”? And how exactly does this square with the Jesus who is described in the New Testament (who is apparently markedly different from the one who lives in her head)? You know, the one who spoke of marriage as between a man and a woman and condemned sexual sin (Matthew 19:1-9), and who called on His followers to put away sin rather than indulge it (Mark 9:42-49)?
Lamar-Sterling and her clergy colleagues say their integrity as pastors leaves them no choice but to refuse the denomination’s mandate to discriminate against LGBT persons. Over the years, many individual United Methodist clergy have defied the denomination’s. We do! marks the first time an organized network of clergy has done so, according to its sponsors, particularly with the support of many hundreds of lay members.
Actually, if they had any integrity at all, they would go join the United Church of the Zeitgeist or the Episcopal Church, or some other denomination where marrying gays is acceptable and even celebrated. To claim that it is a matter of “integrity” to toss aside their denomination’s governing document, just because they’ve failed in repeated attempts to change it, is akin to the child who throws a tantrum and breaks a lamp because Mom won’t let him change the menu for dinner from chicken and broccoli to gum drops and ice cream.
The really bizarre thing is that these people are cutting off their nose to spite their face. The more clergy in liberal (read: dying) annual conferences continue to spit on the Book of Discipline, the more likely it is that eventually more conservative conferences are going to get fed up and tell them they can take their connectionalism and stuff it. What that will translate to is funds drying up to feed the monster that the national church (including the GBCS) has become, at which point Jim Winkler will have to get a real job. As for clergy such as Rev. Lamar-Sterling, she and her congregation, and those like them, will drift off into Unitarian Lite, and finally be cut adrift by the denomination, which because of its peculiar international structure will be more and more dominated by orthodox Methodists from overseas who will run out of patience with those who want to keep the Christian name but not the Christian substance. Personally, I’ll be looking forward to that, and hope it gets a good start with the 2012 General Conference.