Living the Connection: Jesus excluded no one from the circle
by Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, Resident Bishop of the Phoenix area of the United Methodist Church
A couple of weeks ago I received an early morning email of concern from an ecumenical leader. He directed me to a YouTube site in which three of our United Methodist clergy persons were making statements against the local diocese of the Roman Catholic Church. They were part of a group that was taking on the Catholics for having made a public declaration against women in ministry and persons of a homosexual orientation. While I wish they had consulted me before doing this, I understood their concerns. Our churches, Catholic and Methodist, all too often come down on the side of condemnation and rejection of others rather than on the side of grace and Christian love.
Then I was privileged to go to a United Methodist church to help celebrate its one hundredth anniversary. It was a church I had served as pastor many years ago. I rejoiced in the vitality of their ministry. It was wonderful to reconnect with persons I loved but had not seen in many years. In the middle of reminiscing with them someone sadly said to me, “We lost Bobby.” I did not know what she meant. Had he died? No he had not died, but the previous year he had quit coming to church. “What happened?” I asked. They looked at each other and finally said, “On the last Sunday he was here our pastor preached a condemning sermon against homosexuals. It was a harsh sermon. We haven’t seen Bobby since then.” Bobby had been a faithful member of that church for almost 60 years.
More recently I was at a church meeting. The agenda was one that demonstrated the full commitment of those around the table to be loving and compassionate towards those who are most vulnerable among us — those in prison, women and children living in poverty, and those affected by violence. It was one of those meetings that makes all the hard work of ministry worthwhile. But then it all came tumbling down. During a meal break one of the persons at the meeting began to describe the experience of receiving hospitality on a trip he had taken and made reference to being the recipient of hospitality from a beautiful young woman. The group began to good naturedly rib him about his experience with the young woman, to which he responded, “Well, I certainly didn’t want it to be some Homo!”
I have been giving much thought to these occurrences remembering many others like them. The lens through which I see them today is, however, much more critical. The lens is that of the teen suicides of a number of young persons who suffered harassment, bullying, and a gross invasion of privacy because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It is clear that the bullying and harassment led them to their deaths. Five of these teen suicides have received much national publicity, but studies that our very own denomination has reported on show that teen suicides in this country are up, and that this is especially true for gay, lesbian, and bisexual teenagers.
As the mother of a teenager, but also as one who knows that God calls us to care for all children, I am deeply concerned. As a bishop of the church I am forced to again look at the statements of the church and consider whether what we say has contributed to this deadly situation. What must our young people hear when we say that homosexuality “is incompatible with Christian teaching (2008 Book of Discipline of The UMC, Paragraph 161H)”? Does this contribute to some of our young people treating their homosexual peers as less than themselves? Do these young people believe they have permission even from the church to mistreat those who are of a different sexual orientation? What violence do we promote in our churches and in society when we devalue our homosexual brothers and sisters?
I pray that we will all consider this situation and seek every way to rectify any wrong that we may be contributing to. Love and compassion in the spirit of Jesus who excluded no one from the circle of God’s grace must be how we live as persons of Christian faith. I pray that one day our exclusion of persons of homosexual orientation will end in The United Methodist Church. I earnestly hope that our exclusion of our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender brothers and sisters will one day be seen as the wrong that it is. While we work and wait for that day, let us not sin against those whom God loves.
-Peace, Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño
This entry was posted on the Desert Southwest Conference website on Wednesday, November 03, 2010 at 11:56 AM. See the column in context by clicking HERE.