At the most recent Council of Bishops meeting, pro-homosexuality activists within the United Methodist Church passed out flyers that promised to “Disrupt” and “Divest [from]} the UMC, and even promised to refuse to pray for the church. Amy DeLong, a lesbian UMC minister who was convicted in a 2011 church trial for performing a same-sex marriage, passed out the flyer along with her friend and fellow activist Julie Todd.
The flyer bears the logo and website information of a group called Love Prevails, which appears to simply consist of DeLong (whose employment appears limited to professional protesting) and a small number of her friends. “Having experienced the liberating truth imparted by the Spirit,” it reads, “we can no longer sit in silent acquiescence before the unjust laws of The United Methodist Church… [W]e hereby declare that until and through General Conference 2016, we will engage in a three-dimensional strategy to abolish the policies of discrimination against LGBT people. We will: Disclose(t), Divest, and Disrupt.”
The flyer goes on to outline what exactly they mean by the each of the three dimensions.
- Disclose(t): “Some of us have been secretly conducting same-gender unions and weddings. These actions will continue, but our silence is over. We will no longer self-censor.”
- Divest: “We will divest our prayer, presence, gifts, service and witness from all structures within the church that support the status quo. We will widely publicize our actions and rationale.”
- Disrupt: “The time for polite persuasion has passed. To ensure discrimination no longer flows uninterrupted, we will protest and disrupt local, nation, and global events… If it is clear that the United Methodist Church is going to continue enshrining discrimination in the Book of Discipline, we will disrupt the 2016 General Conference in Portland, OR.”
Despite the radicalism of the ‘manifesto,’ it is perfectly in line with previous, equally radical LGBT activism within the UMC. The “Disclose(t)” call to perform same-sex marriages seems perfectly in line with the “biblical [dis]obedience” movement within the denomination led in part by retired bishop Melvin Talbert. Perhaps the only remarkable part is that the activists openly admit that they never bothered obeying the Book of Discipline to begin with.
Meanwhile, the “Disrupt” portion is exactly what Amy DeLong did during the 2012 General Conference. At Tampa, DeLong illegally took to the floor of the General Conference, shutting down all debate unless representatives of the Council of Bishops gave into her demands. Later, she threatened to shut down the floor again if it even considered a petition that was backed by pro-life Methodists. DeLong’s actions at the time represented the height of hypocrisy; only she deserved to be heard and speak as long as she wanted, not those she disagreed with. As this latest manifesto makes clear, she and her supporters have no interest in “polite persuasion” or dialogue with the vast majority of Christians – only coercive, threat-backed demands for others to surrender and submit to her apparent infallibility. But despite DeLong’s questionable actions and obvious radicalism, liberal United Methodist organizations such as Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) and the Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA) have held her up as a shining example of the kind of excellent pastors the UMC is losing with its ban on partnered LGBT ministers.
But the “Divest” part is genuinely disturbing in that it calls for divesting from prayers for the UMC. The other items they list (gifts, service, etc.) are theirs to give to whichever church they see fit. But the Bible makes clear that everyone, and that means everyone, deserves our prayer. “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people…” Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:1. Paul also writes in verse 8 that prayers are to be made “lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling.” There are many disagreements among Christians, but prayer and worship ought to be something that brings us all together.
If there is a bright side to this new front of radical activism, it is that it illustrates the desperation and despair of those who want to radically alter the vision and stance of the United Methodist Church. After eleven successive General Conferences upholding the language declaring the practice of homosexuality incompatible with the faith (and with conservative vote margins growing in recent years), increasingly activists are pulling away the church (“Divesting,” if you will) or resorting to inappropriate measures that will alienate friend and foe alike (“Disrupting). With every over-the-top liberal activist who beclowns themselves, the case for changing UMC doctrine to conform with secular social attitudes weakens.