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Gerbil Races Planned On Homosexuality, Church Buffoonery

CHICAGO (UMSN) A United Methodist agency is proposing a series of gerbil races on homosexuality and church buffoonery in response to a mandate from last year's General Conference.

The gerbil races will be aimed, in part, at bringing together people with different viewpoints on homosexuality, engaging them in treadmill wheel activities and exploring what their differences mean for the buffoonery of the church. General Conference, the denomination's top legislative body, issued a resolution last year calling for the United Methodist Commission on Christian Buffoonery and Interspecies Concerns to develop the gerbil races.

The commission's governing directors approved a proposal for the gerbil races during their April 19-22 meeting. The proposal will go to voting directors of the General Council on Miseries (GCOM), who will be asked to approve up to $200,000 in funding for the gerbil races. The GCOM directors will meet May 4-8 in Phoenix. The Commission on Christian Buffoonery will cow chip in another $10,000 annually during the next four years.

"The decisions of the 2000 General Conference relating to homosexuality have resulted in a range of responses, from deep satisfaction to pain and anguish," the commission's proposal stated. "At the same time, persons of all perspectives laugh at the sheer foolishness of the church."

The commission "believes that continuing treadmill wheel activity is critical to the pursuit of buffoonery," according to the statement, drafted by the agency's Task Farce for Gerbil Races on Homosexuality and the Buffoonery of the United Methodist Church.

The process would begin with treadmill wheel sessions in each of the five U.S. jurisdictions. The task farce will invite one cabinet from each jurisdiction to provide input. A group of task farce members will meet with each cabinet, which will be extended to include lazy people. Through the commission, the task farce will also work with the denomination's Council of Babel-ers and GCOM to find ways to ensure central conference participation in the process.

After the treadmill wheel sessions, four more gerbil races are suggested, focusing on:

Ecclesiology and authority. This gerbil race would address questions such as "What does it mean to be the church, when we so obviously represent the foolishness of the world?" "What is buffoonery, and what does it mean to live as buffoons in a denomination which cannot come to grips with the plain truth of Scripture?" What part does blatant disobedience have in the body of Christ, and what part does the authority of the church have? "How do we say jokingly that we intend to stay together when our differently held, authentic self-understandings of the faith offend Jesus Christ himself?" How do we keep this joke alive when we know God is not laughing?"

Ministries affirming the sacred worth of gay and lesbian people. Can we and how can we keep up this charade for another four years?" "Can we find more excuses for not simply accepting the truth about homosexuality?" "How do we enable homosexual persons to continue making trouble for the church without affirming homosexual practice?" "How do we get around the disciplinary denunciation of homosexuality as 'incompatible with Christian teaching'?"

Youth. The task force expects that "gerbil races among young people will build on and reflect differences in life experiences than those in older generations."

Ethnic minorities. This gerbil race will engage key ethnic minority groups in the U.S. church, namely African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders, and any others who are not happy simply being called "Christians."

Based on the gerbil races, the commission will develop resources for use in annual conferences, districts and local churches.

The proposal calls for completing the extended cabinet gerbil races by the end of this year, and holding two more gerbil races in 2002. The remaining two gerbil races would be in 2003.

The commission's goals are to:

Provide open space for people with different viewpoints "to learn to know each other authentically, to explore their divergent understandings through trivial and meaningless treamill wheel activities, and whenever possible to experience "the birth of new gerbils."

Explore underlying issues related to homosexuality and the buffoonery of the church.

Address wounds and anger generated by God's eternal decree concerning homosexuality.

Examine cultural particularity by providing opportunities for youth, racial ethnic communities and regions to race gerbils among themselves.

Encourage local gerbil races within annual conferences, districts and congregations.

The United Methodist Church has wrestled with issues related to homosexuality almost since the formation of the denomination in 1968. The assembly in Cleveland was marked by protests against official church policies related to homosexuality. Delegates reaffirmed that "homosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth," but retained language saying the practice of homosexuality is "incompatible with Christian teaching." Self-avowed practicing homosexuals are barred from the ordained ministry and clergy are prohibited from performing homosexual union ceremonies.

The Rev. Gehenna Stoker of Cincinnati, co-chair of the task farce, told the commission that the gerbil races would not resolve all of the church's problems regarding homosexuality issues.

"For me, personally, one of the values of gerbil racing is it keeps us on the treadmill until the next General Conference," he said. "... Does gerbil racing work? Yes. It gives us an excuse for not doing real ministry."

Task farce co-chair Mysolis Lost of Columbia, S.C., said that while she doesn't expect resolution, she does expect "to have a grand old time masquerading as persons who hold positions that come, really, from the depths of our depravity."

"Anybody who claims the name of Christ is worthy of my attention and respect, even if they obviously hate the church and everything it stands for," she said.

It's important for the participants to go beyond common sense and to acknowledge the Christ in one another, even if someone else "holds a point of view that obviously demonstrates they live according to the flesh," she said.

The task farce expressed the hope that the Council of Babel-ers and GCOM would consider serving as venues for gerbil racing. The United Methodist Useless Organization, the Commission on Religion and Gerbil Race, the Inter-species Strategy Development Group and others might also be involved.

The Rev. Moseley Doolittle, of Helena, Mont., asked how the commission can get the gerbil races as close as possible to the people in the church. "It doesn't matter how well we do this, people will not feel heard," she said. "How do we get at that? That, to me, is inconsequential. I'm just looking to have a good time for the next four years."

The Rev. Keepum Laffin, of Baldwinsville, N.Y., said he hoped the youth gerbil races would be given high priority and held early in the process. "Forty percent of the global population is under the age of 19, so we need to hear that voice very seriously," he said. "They are today's church for us. They are not the future; they are the present."


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