While my colleague, Alex Griswold, ably reported on the convocation of the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) “ChurchQuake” convocation held over Labor Day weekend, large parts of the gathering apparently had plenty of goings-on about which organizers did not want IRD (and by extension, the general UMC public) to know.
But thanks to social-media use by some participants, who unlike Alex were not barred from the any part of the program, some of the more secretive parts of the unofficial gay Methodist caucus’s annual rally have come to light.
Especially of note is a recent blog post by the Rev. Becca Clark of Vermont. Clark distinguished herself as a delegate at the last UMC General Conference with her passionate defenses of unrestricted abortion, leadership in an illegally disruptive protest by pro-sex-outside-of-marriage activists (for which protesters have not reimbursed the six-figure cost they imposed on our denomination), and after arguing in her sub-committee that it is categorically wrong to use male or “hierarchical” words for God, pridefully declaring “I don’t have a king!” For what it’s worth, her blog post also features a picture of her with other leaders of an MFSA/RMN-related social media project at the RMN convocation (which one of her co-leaders recently made very clear was a “conversation” rather limited in its openness to participation from respectful, informed non-liberal United Methodist voices).
Here are her own words about a secret RMN workshop defending “polyamory” (i.e., the practice of having concurrent multiple sexual partners):
But the workshop was a little on the 101 level for me and I got distracted looking at Twitter, where people were posting from the “queer sexual ethics” workshop. Some tweets intrigued me, some made me uncomfortable, and some were things with which I strongly disagreed, the latter two often about poly. I’m kind of all about monogamy, and I know that my approach to polyamory sounds just like the approach to homosexuality I fight against: “It’s just not what I think marriage/relationships/etc are.” So, I engaged in workshop polyamory, and decided it was time to spend time with the queer sexual ethics workshop because it was pushing the edges of my comfort. So that’s what I did. And I’m not going to go seek out poly relationships for myself any time soon (or ever, I imagine), but I learned a lot about new perspectives to me and I think I can be a better ally because of it. I love anything that encourages me to stretch myself.
Elsewhere, she sent a tweet indicating that one of the secret workshop leaders, Jamie Michaels, framed “polyamory” and “kink” as among the non-traditional sexual orientations/identities that the church should celebrate.
A couple of other insider tweets from the gathering are worth highlighting.
Rachel Birkhahn-Rommelfanger, the self-described “radical” secretary of the RMN board of directors who was recently selected to represent the UMC’s North Central Jurisdiction on the powerful Connectional Table, bragged that RMN’s student outreach program, in which she has long been involved, is so cutting-edge that it “talks about polyamory.”
An RMN activist named Kari Collins tweeted from the conference (perhaps quoting one of the secret workshop speakers) that “[i]t is important that sex workers [i.e., prostitutes] have the chance to practice justice and mercy in their own work” and that “we have (closeted) sex workers in our movement.”
This would seem to confirm the worst suspicions about one of the secret workshops, on “Queer Sexual Ethics,” which was advertised as “broaden[ing] discussions of same-sex love to include sexual lifestyles that had been marginalised through a concentration on things like marriage rights” and accepting “a variety of alternate sexual styles.” The leader, Theodore Jennings of the United Church of Christ’s Chicago Theological Seminary, is probably most notorious for asserting that Jesus Christ was homosexually active.
It is striking to see folk in the RMN crowd (at least among themselves) pushing the logic of their movement’s rejection of biblical sexual boundaries to the extreme of embracing promiscuity and even prostitution.
But this does challenge the naiveté of fooling ourselves into thinking that church embrace of the LGBT activist agenda involves no more than same-sex couples celebrating “holy union” services, remaining strictly celibate beforehand, and staying monogamously committed for life thereafter.