Un-united in the Southeast
“What is this all about?” asked the two young women standing by the prayer fence at the Common Witness tabernacle. They were schoolteachers at a conference, one from Georgia and one from Alabama. I explained that I was at the United Methodist General Conference and that these flags represented prayers from all over the country. We read the words on a few of them and I described the work of many of us who seek full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in our church. I mentioned that we have church policies that discriminate against GBLT people.
They nodded their heads. One said, “That’s why I don’t go to church anymore.” Then she smiled. “My parents still attend our United Methodist church. They are in a class studying gay and lesbian inclusion. But most of their church is against it.”
“I don’t attend church either,” said her friend. “So many in the church I grew up in are harsh and hateful to people. I’d never step in the door again.”
I asked, “Is that a United Methodist Church, too?” She nodded. And I pondered this truth: young people are staying away from judgmental churches. Even in the South.
Delegates form the Southeast Jurisdiction had claimed numerous times during General Conference that their local churches were thriving and full of young people. They used this as one of their arguments about retaining restrictive language on human sexuality, particularly the “incompatibility clause.”
I know that church going is still culturally poplar in the south AND these two young women confirm that not all southern young people agree with those who call for retaining language that discriminates against gay and lesbian people. I am saddened that UMC spokespersons are making categorical statements that are not true. AND I have hope that these two young women know now to look for a home church that is a United Methodist Reconciling Congregation. Or they might discover More Light Presbyterians, Open and Affirming UCCs, Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, and other LGBT-affirming congregations.