- by Anthony Fatta -
A few weeks ago, the top executives of the General Board of Church and Society (Jim Winkler) and the General Commission on United Methodist Men (Gil Hanke) made statements that welcomed the possibility of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) changing their stance of prohibiting openly gay and bisexual men and boys from being involved in their organization.
For me, the United Methodist Church’s “open table” theology, where everyone is welcome to partake in the Great Thanksgiving (read: communion), should mean that all are welcome fully in our local churches. So, hearing that two UM agencies were welcoming a change in BSA policy, made me think that perhaps we are moving that much closer to equality and a no-strings attached welcoming of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer United Methodists.
Today, I found out that the United Methodist Men executive committee had changed their mind. When I was a student at Vanderbilt Divinity School, the United Methodist students had an annual dinner with members of the Boards and Agencies of the UMC that have their offices in Nashville. This included the United Methodist Men. Actually, I sat right next to Gil Hanke during one of those dinners. It was only his second or third day as the executive of UMM!
Dear Mr. Hanke,
You probably do not remember me, but I remember meeting you. It was your second or third day on the job as the top executive of the General Commission on United Methodist Men and you attended a dinner for the General Boards and Agencies of the UMC alongside Vanderbilt Divinity School students. We sat next to each other. We shared a meal and had meaningful conversation. I went to your UMM booth and we talked more, I received some information about UMM, and you assured me that the United Methodist Men is a ministry for ALL men. As you did so, it felt like you were staring at my Reconciling Ministries Network lapel pin.
Your words were comforting to me. As someone who serves a local church that does not have an active United Methodist Men chapter (but a very active United Methodist Women chapter), your words told me that it would be fruitful to begin some UMM programming at my church. After reading your recent statement with Jim Winkler on supporting a possible change in the Boy Scouts of America policy, I was encouraged even further.
Those words rang false and empty in the last few days as you, Bishop Swanson, and the executive committee of UMM claimed that you did not support a change in BSA policy anytime in the near future because local churches need more time to think about it. To be honest, I think we have thought enough. Do we really need more time to mull over whether or not our churches should be exclusive? Do we need more time to think about how we treat children and youth who struggling with identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer in a general church that claims they are incompatible? I know I do not need any more time to know that these BSA and UMC policies are unfair and an impediment to how we present and live out the gospel of Jesus Christ. The walls have already been torn down. We know we are all of equal, sacred worth. Yet, for some reason unbeknownst to me, the UMC seems to be rebuilding these walls of exclusion and injustice in perpetuity.
Needless to say, I do not appreciate being told a lie, as I assume you do not either. I hope you write back. I think we could collaborate quite well regarding to ministry to men in particular if we can agree that the church is absolutely for all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
I think a lot of United Methodists are tired of this sort of flip flopping. As more and more LGBTQ youth commit suicide all over the world, can we United Methodists recognize that their blood is on our hands?