– Coming soon to a church near you? (Photo credit: Midwestgenderqueer, tumblr.com)
By John Lomperis (@JohnLomperis)
The more media savvy, strategically minded among activists promoting acceptance of homosexuality in church as well as society tend to eagerly stress that they are not promoting any truly dramatic, fundamental challenge to mainstream moral values or traditional sexual boundaries, while pursuing deliberate campaigns to ridicule and discredit those who suggest otherwise.
Thus I was struck by the bold radicalism of three recent little developments in the pro-homosexuality movement within my own denomination, the United Methodist Church.
Late last month, the Desert-Southwest Conference, which encompasses Arizona and Southern Nevada, publicly declared that churches and facilities within the conference have an “open bathrooms” policies.
In order to offer “safe places for all regardless of gender identity,” the resolution, authored by the conference’s “Welcoming and Reconciling Committee,” “make[s] the public statement … that transgendered people may use the bathroom of their choosing in our churches and affiliated buildings.”
There are some people who suffer from gender identity disorder (desiring to identify as the opposite sex of one’s physical sex), which has long been recognized as a mental disorder. Obviously, such individuals created in God’s image deserve the church’s love and compassion, and their condition presents challenging issues to navigate. But lumping gender identity disorder together with the gay-rights cause or actually encouraging people to self-destructively identify with the opposite sex from the one God created them to be, as the resolution does, is not a helpful approach for seeking the long-term best of people with such a condition.
Such an “open bathrooms” policy is ripe for abuse by a few perfectly heterosexual, non-gender-identity-disordered, perverted individuals who now seem to have an invitation in Desert Southwest UMC congregations to go into the opposite sex’s bathroom. If anyone questions them, they simply need to claim (perhaps with a sarcastic smirk) that they identify with that sex, at least that day. The resolution suggests no safeguards or concerns for such abuses.
The immediate effect of the resolution will probably be limited, given the rather small size of the transgendered population, the Desert-Southwest Conference’s lack of clear authority to force individual congregations to adopt such an “open bathrooms” policy, and the rather small number of people and congregations left in that dying liberal conference.
But just in case you ever find yourself in a multi-person bathroom of a United Methodist church in Arizona or Southern Nevada and see someone of the opposite sex unapologetically barge in, don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Continuing the gender-bending theme, last week, the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN), the main unofficial UMC caucus group promoting acceptance of homosexual practice, celebrated “International Drag Day,” in honor of that staple of gay culture, drag queens (gay men who dress, often provocatively, as women for entertainment-intended performances). In order to entice people to come to RMN’s upcoming activist convocation, the group sent out an email announcing that a risqué drag queen will be among those providing entertainment there. Apparently in RMN’s view, this is the type of “entertainment” that is appropriate for a church-related event.
And speaking of drag queens, they were an inspiration behind a recent marriage-demoting RMN blog post. Kurt Karandy, II, a young gay activist and who serves as a director of the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), specifically draws his inspiration from “the drag queens of Stonewall,” in reference to those who started the not-so-non-violent 1969 Stonewall Riot in New York City credited with sparking the modern gay-rights movement.
The RMN blogger shares that he is “extremely anxious about marriage equality.”
On the one hand, he supports the push by fellow gay activists for redefining marriage in church and society to encompass same-sex couples because of how this advances societal acceptance of homosexuality and provides concrete new legal and financial benefits to homosexual couples.
On the other hand, his refreshingly honest concerns are worth sharing at some length:
“Is the culmination of years of struggle under oppression only to have marriages that look just like our heterosexual counterparts?
“Is the apex of gay liberation to simply put your wedding announcement in the newspaper?
“Is the sum total of agitation in The United Methodist Church really just to reproduce the same rituals of opposite-sex families?
“I think the drag queens of Stonewall would tell us no.
“The Stonewall riot and the gay liberation movements that followed told the world that not only did LGBT people exist, but that we are different. We are queer.
“I am concerned that framing the movement for LGBT rights around themes of social recognition and church acceptance as exemplified in the centrality of ‘marriage equality’ that we have forgotten the queerness of the LGBT people.
“To be queer and to embrace the queerness of LGBT people does not stand in opposition to same-sex marriage, but it does challenge the idea of marriage as a universally accepted social norm. There are many ways to be queer, many different expressions of queerness.
“Elevating same-sex marriage to be of paramount concern to LGBT movements suggest that there is only one way to be queer, or at least one way that is more respectable than the rest. Until all expressions of queerness are honored and celebrated in contemporary LGBT movements —including the freedom to choose not to marry—all will not truly be welcome in our churches.”
The RMN blog’s rather broadly worded, open-ended embrace of “all expressions of queerness” – beyond just lifelong, entirely monogamous, committed relationships mimicking marriage –logically includes the varieties of sexual promiscuity and non-monogamous relationships (with very looser understandings of fidelity and commitment) accepted within the gay community, as noted in this must-read Gospel Coalition piece. According to RMN’s blog, “ALL expressions of queerness” (emphasis added) must be “honored and celebrated.”
In light of the introduction of open bathrooms, celebration of off-color performances, and the suggestion that marriage is no “more respectable than the rest” of sexual pairing possibilities, it may be tempting to conclude that the leaders of pro-homosexuality activism within the United Methodist Church (and other mainline denominations) have now taken some new, radical turn for the weird in their core goals and values.
But this is not really a huge break from the past. An article in the Summer 1998 issue of the Open Hands magazine jointly produced by RMN (then called the Reconciling Congregations Program) and gay caucuses in other mainline denominations, claimed divine endorsement of spouse-swapping clubs and non-marital relationships involving concurrent multiple sexual partners. I saw an RMN chapter promoting the issue with that article as recently as 2009. At the 2012 General Conference, sexually liberal activists rallied behind a petition which would have replaced our church’s clear teaching that sex is only for “the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage” with a rather vague statement effectively embracing an “anything goes” standard, leaving no clear, firm, explicit moral boundaries for sexual behavior aside from broad disapproval of sexual exploitation. Anecdotally, I know of “straight allies” within the “Reconciling” movement whose activism for church endorsement of homosexual practice appears to be related to their own secret heterosexual sin. Several of the more bizarre and exotic extremes of pro-homosexuality activists within United Methodism and other churches have been extensively documented by IRD.
Perhaps the biggest change may be that as American secular culture veers in an increasingly sexually liberal direction, liberal church activists whose values and worldview are fundamentally secular may feel more freedom to openly admit the more radical parts of their agenda.