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I’m losing my faith in unicorns… #UMC #NoSuchLaw

All the news about Bishop Karen Oliveto and the United Methodist Judicial Council yesterday surfaced some internet trolls, no surprise there. I was shocked however by the amount of Scripture proof-texting I encountered challenging women in leadership.

Example: “Read I Tim. 2:12 and Eph. 5:22–33.”

For those of you who aren’t members of The United Methodist Church, women have had full clergy rights since 1956 – Nineteen Fifty-Freakin’ Six! Some were ordained even before that time and Methodist women were causing all sorts of Holy ruckus much earlier than that.

The church’s position on full inclusion of LGBTQI folks troubles me though I’ve long been hesitant to paint everyone opposed as homophobic. That said, the persistence of sexism, its alignment with those opposing change, and the general ugliness of the “conversation,” particularly by those who have submitted to the yoke of Elder, makes me wonder.

Is the thoughtful, generous, conservative a unicorn, a fantasy I’ve allowed to stay for too long in my considerations? I’d like to believe that they exist but on days like these I find myself like doubting Thomas, in need of a little proof.

  • Where are the conservative blogs earnestly wrestling with the tension between their beliefs about human sexuality and the gifts Bishop Oliveto has evidenced? If they exist, I’d love to see them.
  • Where is the clear renunciation of sexism particularly against women who have experienced God’s call? How is it that 60 years later we still find “proud United Methodists” believing that this is okay? Why are organizations like COSROW maligned as unnecessary in some circles despite the statistical evidence of lingering bias?
  • Finally, where is the conservative outreach to the LGBTQI community that is Christ-like in its approach? I can appreciate that some can’t “endorse a lifestyle” but in what ways are you sharing God’s love with a community that has experienced prolonged discrimination? Where exactly in Scripture does Jesus respond to pain with more judgment?

Everyone loves unicorns. Okay, maybe I just believe that because my three children are girls. But even if we love them, at some point we have to accept that they don’t exist.

It is very true that the loud and angry voices on the internet are rarely an accurate reflection of any population. I know how I feel when a Tweet formed in pain or immaturity shows up as indicative of all liberals. Still, I long for more voices from the conservative world who are regularly respectful, earnest in their engagement of these important conversations, and eager to police the hateful rhetoric that bubbles up. I didn’t see that yesterday, perhaps I just missed it.

I will keep looking for unicorns for a while because I despise the bubbles we all find ourselves in. I believe in diversity of thought because it is a fantastic way to test beliefs and to grow beyond the biases we inherit from the cultures we grow up in. And as someone who spent formative years in the conservative world, I know that evangelicals have gifts to offer the Church. But I also understand how others, who aren’t white, straight and male, can no longer humor a possibility when it causes them much pain.

I need to see some more proof that this fantasy is worth clinging to, maybe even a glimpse of a horn running by will do. I fear that without their existence, and partnership in navigating change, in sixty years we’ll still have people questioning women in leadership and most certainly the full participation of LGBTQI folks in the life of the church.

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About the Author

Patrick Scriven

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I'm a husband who married well, a father of three amazing girls, and a seminary educated lay person working professionally in the church.