It often seems to be the case that when major developments happen in the world of religion, attention turns to large houses of worship, major denominations, famous faith leaders.
Take, for instance, the ongoing dispute in the United (an ironic word now) Methodist Church over matters having to do with LGBTQ+ people. This large Mainline Protestant denomination has been tearing itself apart over this for several years, and eventually will make the split permanent.
It's true that some major UMC players, including the Rev. Adam Hamilton, founding pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in suburban Kansas City, have been active in seeking resolution of this matter. But one of the first -- if not the first -- church to stand on a redemptive principle and walk away from the UMC because it was (and is) treating LGBTQ+ people as second-class citizens was a quite small church in, of all places, Tulsa, Okla.
This RNS story describes how "before the current wave of churches disaffiliating from the United Methodist Church, there was Community of Hope in Tulsa."
The story tells how the Rev. Leslie Penrose was moved to go to seminary in the 1980s to become equipped to deal with such matters as homosexuality in the church. In 1993, Penrose "and 16 others started Community of Hope at another United Methodist church in Tulsa, an outreach from the church to 'people on the margin.' About half of the congregation was LGBTQ, she said, many living with HIV or AIDS."
Finally fed up with the way UMC rules treat LGBTQ+ people, Penrose left the denomination in 1999 and became a pastor in the United Church of Christ, which by then was welcoming gay people into leadership and membership. Soon thereafter the Community of Hope Church in Tulsa joined her as part of the UCC flock.
Penrose retired in 2007, but as the RNS story notes, she is "not surprised that the debate over LGBTQ Christians is still raging within the United Methodist Church — but she is appalled, she said. 'The church is supposed to be on the leading edge of these kinds of issues, not dragged kicking and screaming,' she said."
I used to think that same-sex marriage would never be legal across the U.S. in my lifetime. I'm glad I was wrong. I now think that I won't live to see the day when all Christian churches -- and other faith traditions as well -- welcome LGBTQ+ folks and make them eligible to participate fully in all aspects of the life of their faith community. I hope I'll be proven wrong again. But, come on, folks. Get a move on. I'm not going to last forever.
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HE ASKED WHAT?
In a U.S. Senate confirmation hearing the other day of a man nominated to be an assistant attorney general, Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana asked the nominee if he believed in God. Such questions are way out of order, violating even the Constitution. And you should know that in case you ever have a chance to vote for someone to replace Kennedy.