Herewith an exclusive special offer - Full Membership of the Methodist Church of South Africa - if you are straight, perfect and sinless - and 2nd Class Membership if you happen to be gay and desperate enough to put up with our hypocritical bullshit to enter the House of God (cough, cough) - but that's just because we can't actually ban you (on account of that annoying Constitution), so we'll just let you in and annoy you, exclude you while seeming to include everybody, keep you at a distance and shame you into eventually going away when you get sick of bashing your head on that well-placed glass ceiling. Welcome to the Methodist Church of South Africa, where we take the Christ out of Christianity.
Last night I posted an article on the dismissal of Ecclesia de Lange, a Methodist minister, for daring to marry her partner. It seems that her being lesbian and a minister was not really an issue here, but the fact that she chose to formalize her relationship with her partner over what the church still views generally as "living in sin", is. Such things force me to question the morality of the Church, the hypocrisy of Christians - and the precise definition of "living in sin".
Instead of grabbing this opportunity to make a real difference and to embrace our community, the leadership of the MCSA instead have just by this act alone, alienated every single GLBTI person in the country and effectively undone and sabotaged all the community building done by activists and inclusive ministers over the past few decades.
Seeing this inequity I can't blame anyone for not going to these houses of hypocrisy anymore. As an activist myself I can tell you stories of trying to help an inclusive Methodist church in my city trying to reach out to GLBTI people - and not finding more than a handful willing to take the risk of going to church openly. I can't tell you how much frustration and anger I hold back in writing articles and press releases on this topic - and yes, even this one. Some have told me that we don't need them - that we have God - and that God is not in a church - but everywhere. You're right, we don't need them - but we cannot let them get away with it.
They must acknowledge our equality and dignity before the law, or it is invalid.
Awareness is key - and if the leaders see that the chickens are restless and giving them stick, they will soon be shaken into doing the right thing. Bad press will have an effect - as will their congregants withholding funds. Money talks, especially in a "non-profit" business such as the church. Churches everywhere run on the B.O.S principle - Bums On Seats.
"The opportunity for reconciliation was within our grasp, hands were being stretched out, tentatively but hopeful. And then the hand was slapped away, the back was turned and the door slammed firmly shut. The all too familiar pain of rejection..."
It is time they felt that pain, these leaders. It is time THEY felt OUR pain.
At this stage I want to say that the wrong people do feel with us - the ministers, congregants and pastoral staff at many Methodist churches countrywide do feel this sleight with us. Even this morning I received a phone call from a minister to express his shock and disappointment at this verdict. But this is exactly where I would be wrong - because feeling someone else's pain is never wrong - and neither are those who feel it, the wrong people to do so. This does not lessen the crimes of those who refuse to be moved by the suffering and torment of those they exclude, persecute and oppress, but it lights the way for their removal. It highlights their obsolescence.
The ministers who do feel, those who have Christ as their conscience, and not some rigid man-made laws - will some day be the leaders of the very same Church those who oppress us now treat as their own personal kingdom. Things are changing - the world has changed around them and soon this change will catch up to them and sweep through their halls of power and throw open the doors they frantically try to seal up. Their barricades will fall, their walls shall crumble and their hearts and minds will be freed. If leaders cannot tell right from wrong, then it is time they were shown their hearts. If people stop following leaders, then what are they other than seat warmers? If leaders fail us as leaders, then it is up to us to show them the way.
Show them the way.