By Jayson Dobney
The other night I had dinner with a close friend who is in the ordination process. She is preparing for a meeting with her Board of Ordained Ministry and shared with me her struggles with taking the vows necessary to become ordained. Her struggle, as I have heard from others in the ordination track, is how she can take these vows, while at the same time remaining authentic to her own faith and her role to seek justice for all of God's people.
As I sat with her and talked about her call, cried with her about the injustice of the United Methodist Church, and talked with her about the various interpretations of the language of the vows, I freely admit that it was hard for me to completely understand the struggle. I have not been called to ordained ministry and I do not understand why a person would try and justify their own understanding of clearly written words.
Much less difficult, I transferred my own membership to a new congregation in the City where I now live. I saw those vows as being to the local church and in a way, I saw my choice as a gay man to join a UM church as an act of Civil Disobedience. In a way, I was standing with other GLBT people who had been denied membership in local UM churches.
As we talked about what it meant to stay in the United Methodist church and take different paths, it reminded me of the story in the Gospels where Jesus is confronted with the question about whether his followers should pay taxes to the Roman government. Implicit in the question, is that by paying taxes, they were participating in the unjust actions of the institution of the state. His response was to Give to Caesar what was Ceasar's and to give to God what was God's.
As a gay man, I see the United Methodist church as another unjust institution. These vows that we are compelled to take to be a member or to become ordained are the price we must pay to be a part of this system. It is the tax. We give to the United Methodist Church that which is of the United Methodist Church - empty, hollow words. At the same time, we give to God our hearts and our lives, including our work that requires us to work within the unjust sytem of the United Methodist church so that someday we will have justice for All People.