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Pro-homosexuality UM Reconciling Church Program Leader Mixes Sour Grapes And Hate Rhetoric In GC2000 Response

From: U.M. Cornet <umcornet@hotmail.com>
To: UMCalledOut@egroups.com <UMCalledOut@egroups.com>
Date: Friday, June 09, 2000 4:45 PM
Subject: [CALLED OUT] Letter from Marilyn Alexander (RCP)



Dear Reconciling Congregation Program Communit-E:

I’ve been reluctant to begin writing about my General Conference experience as I knew that once I started, I would be going for a while. (Lucky for you I will only share a few snapshots here.) This lag time has given me opportunity to catch up on my sleep, my personal life, news headlines and bad television. It’s also given my unconscious time to let the tea leaves of General Conference steep in the boiling hot water of my emotions. Now, I’m ready to lift the lid and taste the brew.

General Conference was a fast ride on the wild side, a pioneer wagon train mired in the mud of Spring rains, a scenic driving tour, and a horror flick all mixed together. It held opposing experiences of great awe, profound sadness, tremendous courage, pure rage and riotous laughter. But the overwhelming sense that I had was that of uncovering a very broken and lost church—one encrusted with thick layers of denial. It was like opening an old, rusted door, peering into a dank smelly room full of dust and cobwebs and skeletons of the dead. Then I watched as the overwhelming majority of delegates refused to see, smell or hear the truth. If nothing else, we now have a better sense of who these people are.

The scales fell from our eyes and we came face to face with our enemies. Enemies who took the form of a grandmother from Arkansas, the father of a woman with whom I once shared a junior high carpool, a mother of one of my college friends, men and women with whom I worked in my seminary career and so many, many others. I will never forget standing on the floor of General Conference on the second Thursday morning, looking into the eyes of these known people who then revealed themselves as my enemies. (I was taken by Rev. James Lawson’s sermon at the RCP Worship Service on Sunday afternoon when he preached that we must know our enemies in order to love our enemies.)

I truly felt that I had my physical self on the line. If delegates were going to do us spiritual violence, they would have to see us first. It took everything I had to remain there, with my heart and soul open. When I finally made it off the floor and into the hallway, I could not control my sobbing. Joe Agne, another who had just come off the floor, and I held each other and all-out cried. Then I made my way to the balcony and ran into the pastor who did my father’s funeral almost ten years ago. We too embraced and wept (and "wept" is the only word for it) for this broken church. I will never forget that deep sorrow.

In many ways, the United Methodist Church had a "Coming Out" that day. We gave face to the "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" and our allies. And we saw in return an array of people—those willing to speak eloquently on behalf of justice and those set on spewing hatred and discrimination. Our enemies "came out." I watched as Rev. Robert Hayes, chair of the Faith and Order Committee, gave the majority report with vehement force. This from a man who had been described to me as being kind and fair, "never heard a bad word about him." He may be a kind and fair man, but that morning he helped sow injustice and malice against his GLBT sisters and brothers. I pray for the GLBT persons and their families in his church, for surely they have experienced violence through this action. God help our broken church.

That day, I saw the enormity of the church’s denial that its discriminatory policies do great harm to GLBT persons in and out of the church. During a press conference after the emotional and heart-wrenching morning session, I was astounded by the words of Bishops Morgan, Carter and Rader. When asked where the church would go from here, they replied in basically the same way, "Well, we’ll continue to show hospitality." If the vote to maintain the lie that homosexual practice is incompatible with Christian teaching is showing hospitality, I don’t want to see the church on a bad day. When asked whether or not they expected a schism, Carter said, "No, because a schism is really only a failure to love." Does he really think that the church succeeded in loving God’s GLBT children that day? One of the three had on one of our torn-cloth stoles signifying solidarity. I wanted to ask for it back, to demand that the denial be drastically stripped away, to symbolize the church’s blatant inhospitality. If our supporters cannot see it, then where does that leave us? When will we get past the idea that this injustice is about an issue instead of about people? I grieve for our broken church.

When I was a child, I would play a church game with my grandfather. You know the one, the interlocked fingers with the index finger steeple, "Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors and see all the people." We have busted open the church and we now see the people, ALL the people. It is no longer a secret or a hunch that the United Methodist Church is against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people. It is undoubtedly clear. Our eyes have been opened and we cannot help but see a broken church.

I stood in the balcony and held watch over "my people" on the floor (don’t mess with mama bear). When they were led away by the police, Kathryn Johnson and I ran after them. The sense of connectedness to them kept our feet moving even when our heads knew that we were running in vain. The strong sense of our solidarity will forever be a treasure to me. As we worked through the afternoon with lawyers and media, not once did we doubt we would have them out on bail that evening. We immediately had everything we needed: legal counsel, media assistance (our media team went to jail), money. It was amazing. I strongly felt God’s loving care. As we greeted the jailed ones upon their release, it was such a jubilant celebration that we were asked to move away from the building that houses the Cleveland Police Headquarters. What a community of courageous and loving people. Our joy could not be contained. We had lost terribly on the votes. We had looked evil in the eye. Yet, we were not broken or overcome. God had brought us safely through.

I take a bit of solace in the fact that we marked a moment that will forever be a reference point in history. I am convinced that the church will have to return to this day, repent of its sin and seek forgiveness. For, surely, the seeds of oppression and evil were sown ever deeper by 66.6% of the General Conference delegates in Cleveland. Their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren (and ours) will live with this poisoned legacy for decades to come. Some of our longtime leaders and activists will pass on before that day arrives. The rest of us will be continuously asked to choose how we will participate in its coming. This is not an easy choice or one to take lightly. We must pray, reflect, share and grieve. We must cry our tears, feel the shock. We must embrace our rage, ride its high pitch and look for ways to channel it. We are a powerful people faced with pressing choices. We fight against injustice, not just for our own sake but for the many who will come after us—the ones that will be present on that future day of repentance and reconciliation.

There are no quick fixes or easy answers to what comes next. We are fervently at work on action plans for the months and year ahead for the Reconciling Congregation Program—where we must expand, change and move. We are listening to your input, ideas and visions and will communicate as we grow this plan together. We will use the RCP Flashnet to pass on information on specific actions going on around the country. No matter what, we must continue to be a community of welcome, solidarity, strength and courage in this present hostile climate. The Spirit is with us, will sustain us and lead us.

With love,

Marilyn Alexander
Interim Executive Director
Reconciling Congregation Program

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