- by Rev. Andy Oliver -
On February 19, Bishop Swanson, Secretary Gil Hanke, and the board members of the United Methodist Men issued a statement which boiled down to three main points:
- Whereas we received lots of angry and hateful phone calls and letters from conservatives following our first two statements in favor of the inclusion of Scouts who identify as gay
- Whereas we value retention and expansion above every other value
- Therefore, the United Methodist Men are calling on the Boy Scouts of America not to change their ban on gay scouts and scout leaders because we need more time.
I am a member of the United Methodist Men. They helped pay my way through seminary and I witnessed the power of men’s ministry at many of the churches I served. That is why I am deeply saddened after reading this statement over their lack of courage to be United Methodist.
You see, even if you agree passionately with United Methodist doctrine and polity, there is nothing in our Book of Discipline that would support young men being excluded from a church sponsored troop based on their sexual orientation.
The Discipline talks about all people being of sacred worth, and calls on United Methodists to be in ministry with all people. My United Methodist Church professes an open table and believes that God and God’s prevenient grace is in and with all people, even before we are aware of her presence. John Wesley believed that fellowship, study, building relationships, and conversation with others could be a means of grace where we are transformed into something new. Jesus showed us what love looked like as he again and again embraced the marginalized.
That is our theology.
It is not our theology to make decisions based on people’s threats of taking their money and leaving… that is the theology of capitalism.
It is not our theology to base our polity on what will attract the most people and retain them… that is the theology of consumerism.
It is not our theology to hinder the access of children and youth… that was the theology of confused disciples who mistakenly believed they were gatekeepers, deciding who could and couldn’t come to Jesus.
The United Methodist Men say we just need more time to preserve retention and expansion of scouting programs in The UMC.
A quick history lesson:
- When Israel was in Egypt’s land, Pharaoh said we need more time… he valued retention and expansion of his empire
- When the Methodist Church was split over slavery, the South said we need more time… they valued retention and expansion of their churches
- When Lincoln was considering The Emancipation Proclamation, white slave owners said we need more time… they valued retention and expansion of their plantations
- When women were fighting for their right to vote in this country, white men said we needed more time… they valued retention and expansion of their power
- When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was sitting in a jail cell in Birmingham following civil disobedience concerning unjust and immoral laws in the Jim Crow South, white pastors (including two Methodist bishops) said we need more time… they valued retention and expansion of the way things have always been
- When the Methodist Church was considering racial integration of our churches, church leaders said we need more time… they valued retention and expansion of their offering plates
- When women were fighting for the ability to live out their Baptisms and faithfully answer their call to ordained ministry, white males said we need more time… they valued retention and expansion of their authority
The chorus of the privileged majority gets sung again and again, “we need more time,” and the latest group to join the refrain is the United Methodist Men. More time means more boys subject to bullying and exclusion. More time means higher rates of suicides among gay adolescents.
But perhaps the most crucial reason we don’t have “more time” is because we need to stand up and be United Methodist Men. We are not a church that has any more time for injustice.
. . .
To read the United Methodist Men's full statement from Feb 19, 2013, click here.
Rev. Andy Oliver is an elder from The Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church serving as RMN's Communications and Technology Coordinator. Andy has two children: Liam, 4 and Evan, 1. Andy received his B.S. in Public Relations from The University of Florida and his M.Div. from Duke Divinity School. His other passions include immigrant and farmworker rights, and The University of Florida and Duke athletics. Connect with him on social media at www.andyoliver.me.