The amount of energy, organization, time, and money spent to keep persons who are LGBTQIA+ from full participation in the life and ministry of the United Methodist Church is shockingly high. This is the price of the idolatry of exclusion.
We United Methodists often refer to our General Conference as GC, but I think the GC may more appropriately stand for golden calf – the golden calf of exclusion. The ultimate price of this idolatry is the loss of our heart and soul and the loss of many lives of our LGBTQIA+ siblings. Many of us in the United Methodist Church have turned our backs on the work of social holiness for a Beloved Community to embrace an unholy and idolatrous project of discrimination, exclusion, and spiritual abuse of our LGBTQIA+ siblings.
For my whole adult life, I have witnessed individuals and groups in the United Methodist Church worship the golden calf of exclusion in various forms, often co-opting words that should bind us together in community for their project of exclusion – “Good News,” the “Confessing Movement,” the “Institute for Religion and Democracy,” and now the “Wesleyan Covenant Association.” Some persons have spent their whole lives and even made their livelihood on this idolatrous project of exclusion.
These same persons and organizations are scrambling in the last few weeks before General Conference 2019 to decorate the golden calf of exclusion just right so as to attract the requisite majority of delegates to worship at its hooves. The are trotting out the golden calves of the Traditionalist Plan and the Modified Traditional Plan, and they are adorning both with amendments so that more may bow before them.
Witnessing the power that their golden calves of exclusion seem to have over so many in our denomination, another golden calf of sorts has been created around the idolatry of institutional survival – the One Church Plan. It is in many ways a less pernicious idolatry insofar as fewer of our LGBTQIA+ siblings will find themselves trampled under its hooves. It is a golden calf created with the intent to do less harm. It is the pragmatic golden calf of many moderates and progressives in the denomination, and if it comes down to our being forced to choose between this less harmful beast and the extremely harmful golden calf of full exclusion, we may need to work with the One Church Plan golden calf, but let us not for one instant pretend that it is not a golden calf and that it does not continue to do harm. Let us not for one second believe that the One Church Plan golden calf is anything close to approximating the Beloved Community in which all are treated fully as persons of sacred worth.
The Simple Plan, the plan removing all discriminatory language and practices in relation to our LGBTQIA+ siblings, is the only plan being put forth at General Conference that comes anywhere near the Beloved Community vision. I am enough of a realist to know that the Simple Plan will not pass at GC 2019, but I am enough of an idealist to continue working for the Beloved Community that it represents. At GC 2019, the United Methodist Church will get nowhere near the promised land to which the Simple Plan points, but may our eyes continue to see the glory that is coming.