“We are Christ’s own, forever, through our union in baptism”

February 4, 2016

 

No ecclesiastical decision can separate us from the love of Christ

By: Robert Schotter
February 1, 2016
#ItsTime
rmnetwork.org

 

It has been a difficult couple of weeks for LGBTQIA Christians.

 

The actions of the Anglican Primates, in relation to the prophetic stance of the Episcopal Church in regard to the full inclusion of LGBTQIA persons in the life of the church, and horrific, anti-gay rhetoric surrounding the looming General Conference of The United Methodist Church have been, to put it mildly, disheartening.

 

At the moment, I am so disheartened that I have to ask myself if I have been overly romantic and naïve in believing that my partner Dean and I have any place in the wider church.

 

I was raised in the Salvation Army and have strong ties to Pentecostalism. My partner Dean was born into the Methodist Church and also has strong ties to Pentecostalism. We both, in our own ways, spent a good number of years in an experienced diaspora, shut out by a church that had rejected and spiritually abused us.

 

In our former Christian experiences, Dean was subjected to ex-gay therapies. As an 18 year old boy, I was subjected to forcible deliverances (exorcisms), leading to a suicide attempt, and was, for a brief time, expelled from my family because it was discovered that I am gay. The Christian communities that had nurtured us abused us and ultimately discarded us.

 

Yet, God’s love is ever constant. Even in the midst of despair.


About eleven years ago, Dean, who is out in regard to his HIV status, was dying from complications due to AIDS. As life support was being disconnected, Dean had a vision of Jesus, who told Dean that it was his choice to return. Dean was never supposed to walk again, but in another one of God’s great acts (a story for another time) he did.

 

We met about a year later. It was a Sunday afternoon after church. I stopped into a bar in Manhattan to have a beer. Dean was there, but we did not, as yet, know each other. I pulled out my Bible to look up a passage used in the morning sermon. The stranger, who neither Dean nor I had ever met or have seen since, noticed I was reading scripture and introduced Dean and I. We spent the afternoon speaking of our love for Jesus. Since, we have been trying to figure out where best to serve him together.

 

Dean and I eventually moved from New York to Pennsylvania. Through the ministry of a Metropolitan Community Church in Allentown, we rediscovered Christian community. I was able to heal enough to fulfill a lifelong dream of attending seminary (the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church), while Dean developed a theatre company showcasing the work of LGBTQIA artists.

 

Yet, there felt like a part, something, was missing.

 

While I have, in regard to theological method, been greatly influenced by Anglican theologies, my approach to the Christian walk is, at its heart, culturally experiential. I seem to be a big old “reasonable enthusiast.” Re-connecting with The United Methodist Church became something Dean and I felt drawn to a little over a year ago. We found a rather “high church” United Methodist church that I was instantly drawn to but, to be honest, Dean and I have not allowed ourselves the vulnerability of connection. We could easily fall in love with our local church, but are terrified of having our hearts broken by the very likely “jilting” of General Conference.

 

This past week, I was on vacation. I decided to spend a good deal of time connecting with Methodists on-line. I encountered a number of lovely people. I also encountered persons who characterized me, and the larger community as heretical, synonymous with pedophiles, and, generally, great sinners in the hands of an angry God. Those communicating these messages inverted the place of the abuser with the abused, and were more than willing to sacrifice mercy for the sake of the institution. I was particularly confused and bewildered in learning about a proposal to General Conference which would, in essence, punitively silence the moderate and progressive voices of the clergy.


I was devastated. I did not realize until this week how much my MCC and Episcopalian friends have sheltered me.

 

Now, I remember the taste of spiritual abuse. This week, I have been forced to wonder if there is indeed a place for Dean and me in United Methodism. There certainly does not appear to be, in regard to lay ministry, but, even more centrally, there does not appear to be room for us within the fullness of the community of the baptized.

 

I do not have to wait until May. The United Methodist Church has already broken my heart.

 

The Episcopal Church gave me one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. They introduced me to the sacraments. Wesley gave me the gift of understanding that the sacramental life is to be lived into…

Today I have had to repeatedly whisper this prayer, this mantra:
“We are Christ’s own, forever, through our union in baptism.”


“We are Christ’s own, forever, through our union in baptism.”

 

No ecclesiastical decision, no plan of institutional preservation, willing to sacrifice God’s own on the altar of expediency, can ever alter this fact. We belong to Christ Jesus and nothing, not even the actions of General Conference, can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ.

 

Dean and I love what we, perhaps mistakenly, believed the United Methodist might be, combining the best of our past with the brightness of the future. We love this possibility of United Methodism, but after this week, I am not so sure they love us. I need to pray.

 

I do not know where to go from here, but I know whom to go to –
And so I must pray again,

“We are Christ’s own, forever, through our union in baptism.”

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