01 May 2008

The pain in their eyes . . .

I noticed something in some eyes again today. It did not fill my soul with daffodil smiles like yesterday.

They were parents this time, not orphans. They had black veils over their faces. They wore rainbow mosaic stoles around their necks. Their ears had just heard, once again (but stronger this time), that their lesbian or gay child did not really belong in The United Methodist Church. Their eyes dropped tears.

I don't care what you believe or how your politics, theology or ideology inform your thoughts on homosexuality. How can anyone pass these eyes and not drop tears, too?

Their eyes held a pain I do not wish to see in their eyes forever.

*A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey


the reverend mommy said...

I can't.

Beautifully written.

Thank you.

John B said...

I am not unsympathetic to their pain. I have no doubt that it is very real. But if it hurts that much, why don't they transfer their membership to a denomination that agrees with them?

Ciona said...

Yes, that would certainly be much easier. But The United Methodist Church is an amazing denomination that seeks to be the body of Christ, seeks to journey toward the perfect love of Christ. The essence of the denomination is beautiful. So why should they have to find another one? I urge my friends not to leave!

Recently I heard an audio clip of Bishop Leontine T.C. Kelly who spoke of how her brother was so frustrated with the Methodist Church who, at the time, had cast African-Americans off to the Central Jurisdiction, denying them from even worshiping in the same space as whites. To paraphrase the story, her brother asked her father why they chose to stay in a church that clearly did not want them when there were other denominations (even born out of the Methodist tradition) that would allow them full membership and service. Her father said, "We're staying to try to get this church straight because they can't be the church of Jesus Christ without us."

We cannot be the church of Jesus Christ without all of God's children. And I think that The United Methodist Church wants to be the body of Christ.

John B said...

Ciona's analogy of race doesn't hold water. No where in the Bible does it say that one's ethnicity is a sin. The same can't be said for practicing homosexuality.

Ciona said...

I was not making an analogy of race, actually. I think the analogy of race and sexuality is a fallacy (although the Bible has certainly been used to put races and ethnicities in "their places"). Race, gender and sexuality are, obviously, all very different. I cannot hide that I am black or female; these are always wonderfully before me. I can choose to hide my heterosexuality, however; nobody has to know what I do or do not do sexually or physically. So, clearly, they are not analogous.

Please do not confuse my reference as an analogy of race and sexuality. I am simply saying that we cannot be true followers of Jesus Christ without all of God's creation. I'm not interested in arguing sin/no sin. I am interested in a Christ who is both holy and loving. I am interested in following that Christ. I am interested in The UMC living into that holiness and love and being a place for all children of God.

Anonymous said...

I heard a wonderfully gifted and sensitive preacher (who happens to be a bishop now) once say, "One of the funniest things in the world for passerbys to see can sometimes be the drunk who falls down on the streets, gets up with his liquor bottle in tow and then falls down again and again...."

He was very intentional with his use of the word "drunk" and I was fairly insulted as I am the adult child of a recovering alcoholic. This was very uncharacteristic of him as he is such a loving man. I was even more disturbed as the audience giggled!

Then he, in his great wisdom and timing chimed in with,"Yes, it is quite funny...UNLESS...unless that drunk is YOUR FATHER." Silence hushed the crowd because the audience with the statistics of 4 out 5 families being touched by alcoholism, felt the pain and the love.

I hate alcoholism and while it aided my recovery to discover that alcoholism is a disease, it does not help my pain when the medical community diagnoses it as a "sickness." It didn't seem like a sickness - it seemed like a sin for the sins my father committed against my family, with seemingly lasting scars healed only by the "stripes" of JESUS, have been forgiven but will never be forgotten because they still hurt at times.

Yet and truly,I love my father and it pains me even more when someone refers to him as a drunk because I see his pain. He was an emotionally and physically abused stepchild reared by a pseudo-father that loathed him. I see how he has struggled to let go that pain and truly be God's even though he does not intellectually comprehend Father John's Twelve Step program. I see good in him and even though he is far from perfect and there are still times when the sins that were perpetrated against him in his past surface in his life and he reacts harshly or unkind, I do not measure his entire life by that one incident.

Instead,I saw him working long hours to feed/clothe us and educate us though his stepfather made him quit school in the 6th grade to work in the fields. I see him in the church every time the doors open. I saw his tears and love that he tries to give my children, the love he was not whole enough to give to us and I feel for him - not because he is my father but because he is too a child of God.

I could judge him, judge him harshly, and I could find Scriptures to condone it, but I don't because God requires that I love him. So I do. I hold him accountable but I love him.

I guess that is what those mothers are doing - loving their children, whether right or wrong their actions may be. AND if we are truly going to live according to God's Word, then He says that we should love God and then ourselves and then each other just as we love ourselves. He admonishes us not to judge as we will be judged by the measure by which we judge others.

I know a lot of gay people and they aren't just dancers and actors. They are PASTORS and ministers of music from various denominations, including UM,and teachers and football players and CEO's of corporations! We, Christians, know it but we don't say anything as long as they don't. Would we dare protest the CEO of the company we worked for if we discovered he is gay? Why not? Because the church has no authority outside its walls, you say? Well, that means we could steal, lie and commit adultery at our workplace then if that is true, because God doesn't have any authority in the world - only in church! Bad theology! God does live everywhere because God lives in us and we are everywhere! Besides, the real reason, I believe, we would not protest is that we would be fired because we cannot discriminate in the workplace - just in the church!

I suspect we will never sanction the ordination of admitted gay pastors in my lifetime and I am not advocating that we do. We will, I know, continue to have gay pastors who are frutitful and productive and we will respect them and allow them to become ordained and perform all the duties thereof and we will know that they are gay but because they don't say that they are, we will overlook it! We will even have a UM church or two in our larger cities for "those gay people," but we certainly won't publicize it.

So, yes, there will continue to be weeping mothers at annual conferences and general conferences because they love the UMC and because they were born and reared in this church as was their parents and their parents' parents. They will agree with before them the Wesleyan theology and tradition in every case, perhaps, except they will have a child who wants to be a pastor and he/or she is homosexual. They will cry because the church will go to Deuteronomy in the Old Testament and Romans in the New Testament, and we will proclaim that their children are "abominations" and "reprobates." They will strongly disagree because when they look at their children, they will see gay, but the love they feel will be more visible . Their tears will continue to flow from the pain in knowing that we don't see that same love. They won't go to another Protestant denomination because they can't find one who feels differently and "nothing will separate them from the love of Christ," not even homosexuality.

Maybe if we stop judging the actions and start looking at persons through the eyes of love, we might weep with them, even if, like me, that lifestyle is not an option for you. We might hurt simply because they hurt and weep with them. Then when the crying is done, we might go to church together, sit on the pew beside one another, pray together and listen to a gospel of love that is compelling and profound. Maybe hearts will change. Who knows? Or perhaps God might truly give us an answer because the ones we have surely aren't working and I suspect gay Christians,as well as their Christian parents, with the same gifts and graces as heterosexual Christians, are here to stay!

I'm certainly glad Daddy stayed in the church. I'm even happier that I didn't leave from anger over his alcoholism. By the grace of God, we both changed and are healing. It's a journey, a work in progress, new spiritual insights each day.

Thanks, Ciona, for your loving spirit and for the opportunity to speak. I don't have the answer. Only God does. Still, it is good to share and learn from you and other Christians. Keep writing....