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mixed bag - judicial council, federal budget, ordination

I don't know quite what to blog about. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed and under-motivated.

-Beth Stroud was defrocked (again) because she is a practicing lesbian. The Judicial Council determined that because non-practicing gay and lesbians are not prohibited from ordained ministry that her defrocking was not based on her status as a lesbian woman. I disagree, of course, with the decision because I hope to see gay and lesbian people welcomed fully into the life of the church without condition. But I also disagree with the logic of the argument that a "non-practicing" gay or lesbian person can be a pastor but a "practicing" gay or lesbian person cannot. What does it mean to practice your sexual orientation? Clearly, the logic here limits our whole sexual identity to who we have sex with. I'd like to think our sexual identity is more than that. After all, as a single heterosexual woman, if I am not in a relationship and not having sex, am I "non-practicing"? My sexuality is unchanged whether or not I'm actually having sex. So we've reduced sexuality to sexual activity. To me, that's very dualistic, very mind-body, flesh vs. spirit, in a way that seems contrary to the gospel message.

-Even more disturbing is the decision that the pastor who refused to let a gay man join his congregation was within his rights as a pastor to refuse him membership. I find it frightening, really, for the church and it's future. Where is the line drawn? If we as clergy can decide who can and can't join the church based on what we perceive to be their sins and what we perceive to be their repentance or lack thereof for particular sins - what sins should be bad enough to prohibit membership? What if we say we repent of certain sins, but don't really mean it? What if? I just feel like this is setting a terrible precedent enabling us to exclude anyone - not just from ordination, now, but from membership, based on who they are.

-On a more positive note, today I handed in my ordination paperwork. It felt good to turn over the big box full of copies for board members. Interviews are in February. Til then, time to relax.

-Also, previously I had posted about visiting Capitol Hill and talking about proposed food stamp cuts to pay for hurricane relief. Well, earlier in the week, the Senate Agriculture Committee proposed that no cuts be made for the 2006 fiscal year in the food stamps program. The proposed cuts had originally put 300,000 families at risk for losing food stamp eligibility. The other cuts I've heard proposed are still troublesome to me - student aid, money used to pursue child support payments, etc., but this at least is an area of relief.

A question for you all - where do you find hope? When you are bombarded with news that says that the issues that are close to your heart are far from where you want them to be, where do you continue to draw strength from, how do you continue to stay motivated? I find it difficult sometimes. Being in community with others who have a shared vision is renewing. Finding comfort in the Word of God in unexpected ways is another source. What about you? What keeps you on the path, keeps you full of hope?


Anonymous said…
Elizabeth, thanks for your comments. And you are right on with your questioning about the weired "practicing and non-practicing" duality prevalent in the decision. Saddens me for Beth, for her church, and for the church universal.
John said…
Congrats on your ordination paperwork. Oh, how I envy you!
Anonymous said…
Hey Beth, thanks for the thoughts. I guess I have to disagree a bit on your "practice/non-practicing" statement. I guess I see our identity as children of God as something so much deeper than our sexual desires. I'm a unique child of God, and my sexual preference has nothing to do with "who" I am. It's simply how I express the sexual aspect of my nature. Along with that, I have a choice as to how I express myself sexually, but that's not who I am.

The thing that makes me sad in all this is how much emphasis our society places on sex. It's to the point where we're defining our identity by how we like to "do it", and frankly, that's not how God created us.
Anonymous said…
I really liked your comments on sexuality here. It made me think.

I'd got bombarded over at stf about women in ministry and attached to it was a question about homosexuality.

I made the mistake of linking sexuality to only the sexual act - and I am really grateful for your comments here because it's made me stop and think again.

I am really tired of people making a religion out of 1 Tim 2 and the passages OT mostly about homosexuality. There is so much more to the Gospel - the Good News - that that!!!

I don't have all the answers - actually I have really few of them - but I really really don't like the idea of restricting membership to a set of people who meet - or who I as a the pastor think meet - my standards. It's dangerous practice and I want none of it.

As for pastors being held up to a higher standard. I think we do do that and perhaps it's good to do so. Afterall we don't really want to have a leader who is having an affair, molesting children, beating their spouse or embezzling funds (to name a few sins) do we? That said I do wish there was a real place and space for honesty about who we are, and what we as leaders struggle with.

one very confused woman of God here as you can see. thanks for space to muse at least :)
Andy B. said…
Hope is in the next generation. It IS there, I know. (Notice how I have to talk myself into believing that?)
I am 34. Clergy my age and younger are so much more open and inclusive, even when we disagree. If it had been 20- and 30-year olds at General Conference last time, we would have changed the language to the, "Christians do not agree..." phrase that was proposed. There is hope for the future - we have to cling to it!
Stay on Target,
Andy B.
DogBlogger said…
If it had been 20- and 30-year olds at General Conference last time, we would have changed the language to the, "Christians do not agree..." phrase that was proposed.

Andy, I suppose you have some idea of how hard it is for most lay people in our age bracket to take 2 weeks off work to attend General Conference. As an alternate, I only managed 3 days, myself. You pretty much have to work on a church staff or for a board or agency to get that kind of time off and still have a sane life (and enough vacation time for a non-church-related weekend getaway or two in the following year) upon your return. But first, you have to find young laity who are actually interested enough to even consider doing such a thing.

This system is NOT designed to give voice to young people (sure, yeah, they created a new division for us in 2004, but the people I've talked to who work there have no budget to spend furthering those ministries!). We have to wait until we're old, I guess.
it does seem to be all about sex. i tried to sort through this slope awhile back as to why we don't have a theologic or even academic quest by the church to find wisdom in this mess. all we have is factions that act like our political party system. and if i remember correctly, Christ wasn't too fond of political parties.

jonathon has quoted haurwas as saying that we can't even touch the sex topic right now, but we have to figure out our own brokeness with marriage before we can get to sex & sexual orientation. i guess leave it to haurwas to make it even more complicated.. or is that simpler?
John said…
To answer your question, Beth -- I find that quiet time with the Word is renewing.
Andy B. said…
Dear Dog,
I'll meet you there in my walker!
- Andy B.
Anonymous said…

I have been so busy this week with work and with Halloween, I just haven't even been on the computer much. Besides, I didn't really want to jump in the fray of comment on the whole Beth Stroud/Pastorgate trial outcomes.

I have been trying to read through Rev. John Wesley's journal the past year. I stop every so often and read other stuff, and I started back tonight after taking a few weeks off.

How ironic, tonight I came to this entry dated Sunday, May 29th, 1764. - The ground being wet with heavy rain, I preached in the House both morning and evening. I soon found what spirit the people were of. No jar, no contention is here; but all are peaceably and lovingly striving together for the hope of the Gospel. And what can hurt the Methodists, so called, but the Methodists? Only let them not fight one another, let not brother lift up sword against brother, and "no weapon formed against them shall prosper." emphasis mine.

I should say how prophetic by John Wesley. He is so right.

You asked, ...where do you find hope? When you are bombarded with news that says that the issues that are close to your heart are far from where you want them to be, where do you continue to draw strength from, how do you continue to stay motivated?

I know it may seem boring and cliche to say, but like the old hymn says, my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness. That is all I can stand on. It is all any of us can stand on. I know that Christ will return. John Wesley said it best, we MUST stive together for the hope of the Gospel. As United Methodists we repeat it each Sunday in the Apostle's Creed. The world will be made right and Christ shall rule on earth. The Bible says so. It is all the hope that I have and all I need. We shall be reconciled to God. Brothers and Sisters of Christ. I know in a modern world it seems corny, but it isn't. All of this stuff between liberals and conservatives will be nothing on that day. We will truly be a united, holy, catholic church, the eternal bride of Christ. That is were my hope resides. I read the Bible, the Bible says that all the things (politics, the social moral order, the dying and infighting church, the environment, war, famine, disease etc., etc.) will all get worse, not better. I am not happy about it, and I don't wish things to get worse, but when I recognize it in the news, I see the return of Christ coming soon. In fact, as a Christian, I believe there is no more exciting time in the history of the world and the Church to be alive than right now! Yes, Christ may tarry another 2000 years, but we have the exact same hope today that the Apostolic Church had 1900 years ago. Christ is coming to make things right on Earth as it is in Heaven. That is where my hope comes from.
methodist monk said…
Congrats on turning in your paperwork. Mine is due in December. Interviews in April. Still journeying with my answers.

Jason D. Moore said…
I tend to disagree with the idea that young people would be more inclusive and accepting or that the "disagree" language would've been inserted.

2004 was my second time as a GC delegate (I was 23 at the time, 19 in 2000) and I was also invited to take part in a discussion on homosexuality the fall prior to GC with other youth and young adult delegates. From my participation in those discussions and my observations at the conference, I found that young people are just as divided as everyone else. And equally unwilling to budge on both sides.
Greg Hazelrig said…
I would like to comment on three things here. (1) Congrats on finishing you ordination paperwork. God and BOM willing I will be ordained next June. I have three more questions and a bible study to outline and then my multiple copies will be sent in. I can't wait to be able to sit back and relax a little as well.

(2)On the Stroud case, I have to respectfully disagree. I don't know where homosexuality comes from, not having those tendencies. But if it's not something chosen as a lifestyle, then a person that is a homosexual can at least choose whether or not to have sexual relationships just as a single person can choose celibacy and a married person chooses not to have an affair. So I guess what I'm trying to say (and possibly not too clearly) is that in my opinion the actual sexual act is the sin and not merely being a person who is a homosexual.

(3) And if I disagree on the Stroud issue with you, I can see it as good news that I agree with you on the other pastor's case. This case will make us more congregational in nature and allow some pastors to judge who should be allowed in the church. I read another blog somewhere earlier today or yesterday that made the comment about churches that have KKK members in them. Is this ok as long as they are not homosexual?

Well, sorry so long for my first post on your site. God bless.
Andy B. said…
I concur that young people are "just as divided" and equally strong in our perspectives. That being said, I think younger people are more comfortable with that disagreement than previous generations. As one church member told me recently, "Just wait until all us old guys get out of your way, then y'all can change the world."
I don't know how grounded in reality that is, but Beth was asking about a source of hope, and that is mine.
Solid Rock,
Andy B.
Beth Quick said…
Jamison - thanks for your comments. I think, maybe, we are saying the same thing in opposite ways, if that's possible. Sexuality doesn't make us who we are but it also isn't "tacked on," I guess is what I would mean. It isn't something that is turned on and off, at least from my perspective, or that only applies to how we actually do or don't have sex.
Keith - thanks for the very on-target Wesley quote.
Jason D. Moore said…

During the dialogue sessions I attended I found the opposite to be the case - at least with those present, which may or may not be totally representative. Rather than being comfortable with the differences of opinions, most people on both sides were mainly tired of using up so much time and energy on this debate when the focus should be on what the church is really all about.

I would say that my hope does come in knowing that change for the better is possible. That we are constantly evolving into who God would have us to be. That our understanding of God will never be complete, but faith can sustain us.

I pray not that one side "wins" or "loses" but rather we will truly see each other as God does and that we will be able to let go of our our biases and hold on to the great mystery of the divine. It's never quite what we expect, but there is always a loving and grace-filled future that leads on to wholeness.
Scott said…
The new division on young people doesn't have any money??? Really??? They sure hired a lot of staff.....

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