Should young children be indoctrinated in LGBTQ ideology in United Methodist Vacation Bible Schools and Sunday schools?
The answer is a resounding “YES” if the LBGTQ “reconciling” movement in my denomination gets its way.
This was the focus of a workshop at last Saturday’s “Winter Warming” retreat for activist supporters of the extraordinarily well-funded Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN).
RMN is the main unofficial caucus group devoted to promoting the LGBTQ liberationist cause. It boasts of having over 32,000 “Reconciling United Methodists,” but a spokeswoman at this event admitted that they count anyone who receives their emails or newsletters (some of whom, like me, do not support their agenda).
While “Winter Warming” was only a local event of RMN’s Chicago-area chapter, it featured some nationally prominent liberal UMC figures. The keynote preacher was Bishop Minerva Carcaño of Los Angeles. She was introduced by Chicago Bishop Sally Dyck, and gave a shout-out to retired bishop Sharon Rader, who was apparently also present. Bishop Carcaño claimed, without elaborating, that the 15 bishops, including Rader, who publicly challenged the UMC’s orthodox policies on sexuality at the 1996 General Conference, later “suffered a great deal.”
In addition to the three bishops, the closing worship featured the Rev. Tracy Smith-Malone, an endorsed candidate for bishop, sitting prominently up front. There was also a time of “commissioning” her and other Northern Illinois General Conference delegates there to advance the RMN agenda. (As an elected delegate from another conference, I declined to participate.)
A “Forum on General Conference” was led by Chett Pritchett, national leader of the Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA), and Bridget Cabrera, one of several staffers of the Chicago-based RMN present. They plugged their usual petitions to delete the UMC’s official teaching that homosexual practice is sinful and to remove church policies prohibiting same-sex “sin blessing” ceremonies, the ordination of “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals,” and the use of denominational funds “to promote the acceptance of homosexuality.” They also touted like-minded proposals from the liberal-hijacked Connectional Table and formerly evangelical celebrity pastor Adam Hamilton.
The first break-out workshop I attended was entitled “Make Your VBS LGBTQ+ Friendly.” But the two women from the Chicago Children’s Museum leading it explained that the workshop’s intent was to help make all early-childhood programs in church and elsewhere LGBTQ+ affirming.
One of their big points was the moral imperative they saw to “drop the gender binary” from avoiding such language as “boys and girls” to having “all-gender restrooms” (they apparently didn’t see how this could possibly go wrong with immature, vulnerable little kids), lest one child feel undue pressure to conform to the gender binary.
The workshop also shared examples of recommended children’s books for church libraries, from cutesy stories of adorable preschoolers raised by same-sex couples portrayed as no less equipped for perfect parenting than any mother-father couple to a particularly disturbing children’s book about how a little boy found joy and wholeness when his parents finally let him dress and identify as a girl (rather than take him to counseling to address his struggles to accept the biological reality of his God-given sex).
But perhaps nothing was as striking as seeing an adorable eight-year-old girl, brought to “Winter Warming” by her dad, speak up in this workshop to dutifully recite what she had understood of the transgenderist ideology into which she was being indoctrinated.
The other workshop I attended was led by RMN staffer M Barclay (formerly Mary Ann Kaiser), about whose ultimately failed publicity-stunt attempt at ordination I have written. She shared about her own more recent experiences as a transgendered individual who has “physically transitioned in some ways,” now self-identifying as not conforming to gender binaries and using the pronoun “they” rather than “she.” She also gave a broader overview of some of the often confusing aspects of transgenderism, including how part of transgenderist ideology is that people did not change genders but rather they were never truly the gender they were assigned at birth—except for folk in the narrow sub-category of “gender-fluid.”
Throughout Barclay’s talk, it became clear that when she said someone “was really” a particular gender (despite confusion that may be caused by them having the anatomy, dress, and/or chromosomes of the other gender), the one criterion that trumped all others was however the person self-identified. She was ultimately dismissive of concerns about “bathroom non-discrimination” policies for transgendered people worsening the already-existent problem of male predators seeking access to women’s locker rooms, in contrast to this perspective from a rape survivor.
(I realize that transgenderist ideology would protest my use of female pronouns for Ms. Barclay. It is not my intention to insult or hurt anyone’s feelings. But when someone is facing what needs to be named as a severe delusion of not recognizing his or her own God-given sex – long recognized by psychiatrists as a mental disorder – true compassion involves helping people come back to reality, rather than “humoring them” by saying anything to encourage or enable their very self-destructive confusion.)
Those of us who are committed to historic Christian orthodoxy and biblical standards for sexual self-control need to understand how many people are drawn to events like “Winter Warming,” as participants or leaders, to seek refuge after lifelong struggles with bullying, exclusion, rejection, depression, and internal confusion over their unchosen same-sex attractions or gender identity disorder – or else to seek guidance for how to understand and be there for loved ones who may self-identify with the LGBTQ+ community.
I will note that folk in the first workshop were very gracious to me when I politely expressed my bewilderment at the confusing array of gender-pronoun options offered in the online registration for this event. I selected boring old he/him/his, rather than she/her/hers, but other choices included xe/xem/xyrs or ze/hir/hirs.
The attendees got to hear a lot of shallow but nice-sounding talk about love and acceptance. They got to sing vapid verses about inclusion “for everyone born.” Bishop Carcaño’s sermon characteristically presented the question facing the church on sexual morality as a simple binary between compassionately loving people or not. At one point, Carcaño somewhat oddly linked the latter with the attitude of a German United Methodist man who she portrayed as being so hard-hearted as to want refugees in his country to obey the same laws obeyed by native Germans.
It is essential to monitor and resist the harmful agendas groups like RMN seek to impose on the church.
But it is also just as urgent for our churches to host and support “compassion without compromise” ministries like Transforming Congregations and the Restored Hope Network – which are needed now more than ever. There are serious ministry challenges related to people preciously created in God’s image experiencing same-sex attraction and/or gender identity disorder, with some even deciding to mutilate their own God-given bodies. Children being reared by same-sex couples (and children reared by unmarried cohabiting opposite-sex couples) are in no less need of our churches’ Sunday schools, vacation Bible schools, congregation-based preschools, or other children’s ministries than any other kids in our communities.
And we cannot afford to let such events that harmfully serve to worsen people’s confusion to be the only ones offering guidance.
(UPDATE: Rev. Will Green, one of the event organizers, responds in the comments below. Among other things, he corrects my initial eyeball-estimate of the number of attendees, which was originally included in this article.)