Church Council Greets Homosexual Church Leader
Mark Tooley, Institute on Religion and Democracy
Most delegates of the National Council of Churches (NCC) warmly received a speech from a leader in the predominantly homosexual Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC). The Rev. Gwynne Guidbord, the UFMCC's chief ecumenical officer, told the NCC's annual General Assembly that homosexuality is a "normal variation of human diversity."
Despite the UFMCC's repeated applications, the NCC has declined to accept the UFMCC as a member denomination. "We have been at the NCC year after year," recalled Guidbord. "It would have been easier for us to disappear." But she promised the assembled church leaders that, "We have filled the Christian church throughout history...We've come out of the closet and into the light. We will not go away."
Guidbord centered much of her speech on the recent murder of a young homosexual man in Wyoming who was strapped to a wire fence by his killers. "As Christian people, we must get Matthew Shepard off the fence. We must do that together." She claimed that 13 million Americans are "gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered." Referring to ministries that try to convert homosexuals to celibacy or heterosexuality, she pledged that the "ex-gay movement will not change us."
"We are under siege and under attack in body, mind and soul," said Guidbord, as she claimed an increasing "atmosphere of socially sanctioned violence" against homosexuals. "Denominations are being torn from within. Members are sick to death of that struggle." She thanked the NCC for its "willingness to hear us speak" and for its public condemnation of Matthew Shepard's killing.
The UFMCC is a 30-year-old denomination that now claims 45,000 members, most of whom are homosexual. "We are held together by common experience and by a lack of safety because of our sexual orientation," explained Guidbord. "Our churches are filled with wonderful worship services. We have Bible study for people often battered by the Bible."
Guidbord blamed the Christian church for fostering "homophobia," especially against homosexual children. "They have been told to hate the sin but love the sinner," she bemoaned. "They get the message that they are no good." She blamed opposition to homosexuality for forcing young people into prostitution, drugs, and alcohol abuse.
"Homosexuality will not go away," Guidbord proclaimed. "We will not disappear from the church." She described the UFMCC presence at the Assembly as a "resource" to the delegates. "We are here because Jesus Christ asked us to witness to you."
At least half of the assembled delegates gave Guidbord a standing ovation. Many delegates wore rainbow pins provided by the UFMCC as symbols of solidarity. About two- thirds of the United Methodist delegates, including two bishops and the general secretaries of four United Methodist agencies, joined the standing ovation.
At another point during the Assembly, retired United Methodist Bishop William Grove told the Assembly that his denomination was "divided over issues relating to homosexuality." He referred to "acts of civil disobedience by some of our clergy." But he noted that "we have committed ourselves to uphold the law of the church."
Although NCC President Craig Anderson, an Episcopal bishop, is joined by many other NCC leaders in favoring the UFMCC as a member denomination, the threat of withdrawal by other denominations, most notably the Eastern Orthodox, has prevented the UFMCC's acceptance.
The United Methodist Church is expected to contribute $2.2 million to the NCC in 1999, making it the largest church donor to the NCC. The NCC's over $60 million budget is supported by $10.8 million in denominational giving, $16.4 million in federal government contracts, and $27.8 million in special appeals. The remainder comes from foundation grants, literature sales and investment earnings.
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