A few days ago, a strange instrument of polity we United Methodists created to resolve – hopefully once and for all – the question of the denomination’s acceptance of gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex marriages met and failed. Without going into all the details, suffice it to say that the special session of the General Conference “resolved” the issue by emphatically endorsing existing language of the Book of Discipline that forbids the ordination of gay clergy and prohibits any ordained member of the clergy from officiating marriages for same-sex couples.
This all started in 1972 with the insertion of language into the Discipline of a statement meant to support the rights of gay members in the church and in society. However, conservatives at that General Conference succeeded in capping it off with following additional clause: “…although we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.”
To the contrary, it is this exclusionary provision that is more likely incompatible with Christian teaching in the estimation of most 21st century United Methodists in America. Most of us see it as wrong to pretend that God’s love and the grace of Jesus Christ is somehow less available to people who express their love and commitment to each other in relationships that do not conform to 19th and 20th century ideas of acceptability.