“God has already settled this matter” in favor of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered (LGBT) behavior, Reverend Matthew Barryman surprisingly judged at an October 17 event in Washington, DC’s Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church (MMUMC). This fundraiser for Franklyn Schaefer, a United Methodist Church (UMC) minister currently facing discipline for LGBT advocacy, displayed radical doctrines that can only destroy the UMC or any other Christian body.
Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN), a pro-LGBT UMC group led by Executive Director Barryman, helped host “Catching Fire: A Concert for Inclusion and Equality” for about 300 spectators. Ticket sales supported Schaefer in his upcoming Memphis, Tennessee, October 22-25 trial before UMC’s highest tribunal, the Judicial Council, where Shafaer faces defrocking for having administered his son Tim’s same-sex “marriage.” Schaefer signed copies of his recent autobiography at a separate pre-concert paid reception serving wine, somewhat unusual for a church noted on its historical panels for having promoted Prohibition.
Although “dragged forth kicking and screaming” on LGBT agendas, the UMC needed to heed a “prophetic voice,” MMUMC Reverend Charles Parker stated in his concert welcome remarks, and continue Methodist involvement in “powerful movements for social change.” “More and more United Methodist congregations are faithfully practicing Biblical Obedience,” similarly proclaimed the event brochure, “declaring love is the law as they fully welcome” LGBT and “queer folks.” A “mission of Biblical obedience in the South” also appeared in Barryman’s concert address, referencing RMN’s “Southern Initiative,” described in the brochure, for “inclusion in areas that need it the most.” With the “human rights advocate” Schaefer, Barryman added, the concert manifested a “living sign of God’s…arc of justice” for LGBT individuals in a “world…about to turn.”
“I will not back down,” Schaefer himself stated in his address, even though he is “not that positive” about his trial outcome. “Spiritual abuse…harming beloved children of God” resulted for individuals like his son from UMC condemnation of homosexuality, giving him a “world of hurt” in thoughts of damnation and suicide. The entire issue made Schaefer “so frustrated, especially about the IRD” or Institute on Religion and Democracy, yet in the Body of Christ “somebody has to be the ass,” an acquaintance had suggested. “I don’t see this as an act of courage,” says Schaefer assessing his defiance of UMC doctrine in contrast to his son’s “coming out.”
Numerous African-American- and South African-themed melodies sung by mostly white choir members for a similar audience recalled past civil rights struggles, emphasizing the concert’s justice focus. The Rock Creek Singers chamber ensemble from the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC (GMCW), for example, presented “I Know I’ve Been Changed,” “Freedom is Coming,” and “Make Them Hear You” from the musical Ragtime. U2’s solo homage to Martin Luther King and the modern pop hit “Brave” about “coming out” rounded out GWMC’s repertoire. Other Methodist choirs sang “Njalo,” “Ain’t Got Time to Die,” “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen,” “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” “Steal Away,” “Scandalize My Name,” “My God is a Rock in a Weary Land,” and “He Never Failed Me.”
Among the literature distributed at the reception, an RMN handout elaborated the “full expression of Christ’s inclusive love,” including “Integrating Sexuality with Spirituality” among RMN “Guiding Principles.” Members of the RMN affiliate MOSAIC—Methodist Students (Young People) for an All Inclusive Church also therein “affirm all sexual orientations and gender identities as gifts of God.” “God’s image, male and female,” in humanity somehow likewise makes people “who are transgender, gender variant, and otherwise transcend binary gender expectations” a “divine gift” of “gender diversity” for RMN’s Transgender Extension Ministry. A “church that is anti-racist, anti-classist, anti-heterosexist, and anti-colonialist,” meanwhile, described the goal of the RMN affiliate United Methodists of Color for a Fully Inclusive Church.
The Baltimore-Washington Area Reconciling United Methodists (B-WARM) brochure advocated “extravagant hospitality” for all. This included Jason & DeMarco, a male “Christian singing duo and partners raising twin boys” pictured with B-WARM leaders after they hosted the pair for a 2013 concert in a North Bethesda, Maryland, UMC church. “[T]hese rising pop stars,” the pair’s website proclaims, “are gay, spiritual, and in a long-term committed relationship” as “they integrate their sexuality and spirituality.” While a Houston Chronicle story calls the pair “contemporary Christian and pop artists,” however, a Washington Blade interviewer finds they have “spiritual overtones” in their “work but aren’t really gospel singers.”
The Jason & DeMarco website also advertises Jason [Warner’s] new book, The Journey of Same-Sex Surrogacy. “Surrogacy is a gift that allows couples and individuals…an opportunity to become parents,” the website announces. The two men learned “they could each…have a biological child” as a “fraternal twin to the other through a surrogate mother using in vitro fertilization” and now raise two three-year old sons.
The Houston Chronicle explained that each biological father has legally adopted the other boy. “They’re so both our children,” not “one’s his and one’s mine,” Jason argued, without assessing whether the boys would ultimately reciprocate these feelings towards the two men. Yet the boys experienced “huge separation anxiety” after their first birthday when the parents traveled, DeMarco noted. He did not mention whether any “separation anxiety” will appear once the boys realize that they will be each, thanks to the decisions of their biological parents, a “motherless child.”
Those doubting such lifestyles received reproof from a pink handout reprinting the 2013 Washington Post article “On Homosexuality, Many Christians Get the Bible Wrong,” by UMC pastor and When Christians Get it Wrong author Adam Hamilton. Hamilton recalled how both pro- and anti-slavery Christians grounded their views during the Civil War in various Bible verses. An “increasing number of Christians, not only progressives, but also conservatives, will read the Bible’s passages regarding homosexuality as all Christians today read the Bible’s passages on slavery,” Hamilton predicted. “And the sermons preached from America’s pulpits decrying the rights of homosexuals today will sound to future generations much like the pro-slavery sermons.”
Aid in promoting Hamilton’s views in church came from Building an Inclusive Church: A Welcoming Toolkit 2.0 by the George Soros-funded National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. The Toolkit” envisioned a “small group of congregants who wish to facilitate a Welcoming Process in their local congregation” with “Graceful Engagement,” a “holy conversation,” not “divisive rhetoric or actions.” “The first step” involves “five to ten people” in a “Core Team” who “map out the power structures – both formal and informal – within your congregation” for influencing by “One-to-One Visits.” The “ad hoc” Core Team seeks an “officially recognized committee of the congregation” going beyond a “fringe group” with a “process of study and discernment.”
With “framing,” a “Welcoming Process…resonates with your congregation’s core values and faith, using language and images that call on the best in the church’s life.” “Scripture is full of texts that speak a word of promise to LGBT people,” the Toolkit erroneously asserted, in contrast to “eight ‘clobber passages’…most often cited to condemn same-gender-loving people.” The “Welcoming Process is not a mission of mercy,” though, but a “pursuit of justice,” a “distinction in intent that is crucial.”
Nonetheless, “Laggards or ‘The Traditional’” in the five groups of Everett Rogers’ cited Diffusion of Innovations “are not going to change. Period.” Laggards “is an unfortunate term, but…accurate.” While “Laggards can be resilient…do not give them more energy than they deserve.”
The “[e]arly…history of many Welcoming Church Programs,” the Toolkit admonished, “only referred to gay and lesbian people…not…those who are bisexual or transgender.” Yet a “broad spectrum of sexual orientations and gender identities” excludes “binary categories (either/or, gay/straight, male/female).” “Our society’s very rigid categories…simply do not serve any of us.”
By contrast, LGBT agendas seemed less convincing during casual conservation at the book signing reception. One lesbian mentioned her “coming out” at age 31 breaking up a family with one daughter, now in college. Another woman, asked about MMUMC attendance, noted how it had dropped to two Sunday services, although she quickly added that many churches today struggle with membership. A nave plaque memorializing Vice President Charles Warren Fairbanks, meanwhile, reminded that MMUMC once counted dignitaries like presidents Ulysses S. Grant and William McKinley as congregants.
However understandable Schaefer’s sympathies for his son, acquiescence in LGBT agendas will leave little of the UMC for Schaefer or anyone else. Ubiquitous comparisons to the civil rights movement often rejected by African-Americans notwithstanding, “Catching Fire” showed that the LGBT movement does not restore God’s moral natural law in a fallen world, but merely sows a destructive gender and sexual anarchy. No amount of pleasantries, meanwhile, can conceal the self-righteous, often subversive anger and aggressiveness of LGBT advocates, as individuals compared by Hamilton to slavery defenders all across America increasingly attest. While some LGBT advocates have already sneered about burning down a “damned,” recalcitrant UMC, their views can only burn out the moral and theological core of any church, leaving behind a ruined shell abandoned by Christian believers.