The following is a repost of a very powerful piece John Lomperis published earlier this week over at Juicy Ecumenism, The Institute of Religion & Democracy’s blog. John is IRD’s United Methodist Director and he details, from recent and painful personal experience, how gender activists currently splitting his Church are certainly not the open-minded, welcoming people they make themselves out to be.
He explains the gender activists’ intention is absolute re-education in LGBT ideology and they tolerate no disagreement whatsoever, as kind and winsome as that disagreement might be. They demand zero-sum control of church teaching on subservice sexuality and what it means to be human. John is warning other denominations not to fall for the gender propogandists’ disingenuous claims of love, openness and dialogue. Their goal is total control and take-over. He is seeing it play out right in his own church.
United Methodist LGBTQ Re-Education
As our denomination splits, propagandists for the increasingly liberal post-separation UMC (psUMC) have lately been claiming that the psUMC will still have “a place” for non-liberals. But what sort of place will that be? We received a preview at last month’s session of the North Central Jurisdiction (NCJ), at which I was a voting delegate. Affirming LGBTQ liberationist ideology was now treated as an essential issue for the United Methodist Church.
At the request of the “Covenant to Build BeLoved Community” adopted by last year’s NCJ special session, the NCJ leadership subjected all delegates present “to engage in conversation to understand the impact of homophobia, transphobia and heterosexism within United Methodist Churches.”
This United Methodist “LGBTQ Exercise” was surprisingly lengthy—lasting over two hours—and featured a mix of liturgy, one-sided presentations, and small-group discussions (it can be viewed beginning at the 47:37 mark of the official Friday video.)
Throughout the re-education session, there were several consistent themes: the United Methodist Church’s bans on gay weddings and non-celibate gay clergy are indisputably wrong and harmful, people are obviously not truly loving or compassionate if they support these moral standards, the presence of more conservative perspectives in the UMC is a big problem, and this cause is a top priority for the new United Methodism.
This LGBTQ exercise, organized by the area’s United Methodist bishops and Mission Council, treated no other perspective as worthy of respect.
Imagine being put in a large room where you are expected to follow those sitting around you in reciting prescribed words with which theological traditionalists may be theologically uncomfortable, applauding statements unfairly attacking values of biblical Christian faith, and accepting LGBTQ “pride” pins everyone is given to wear.
This NCJ “LGBTQ+ Exercise” is very unlikely to be the last time when those remaining United Methodist are subjected to such experiences.
This lengthy time of heavy-handedly pushing queer liberationist ideology on delegates was scheduled to come immediately before the vote on the “Queer Delegates” resolution affirming such ideology. This led to several microphone speeches from gay activist delegates. A clergywoman shared that she lived with her female partner and had performed a gay wedding. A younger clergyman took using “they” instead of “he” or “she” pronouns to a new level by declaring, “I use all pronouns.”
One stage presentation featured the Rev. Mary Ann Moman of Indiana sharing about performing a gay wedding 30 years ago.
Another featured partnered lesbian pastor Angie Cox. Cox complained about the West Ohio board of ordained ministry refusing to violate church rules by approving her ordination candidacy. Stop to consider the lack of integrity when a denomination’s leaders continue appointing Cox as a pastor, in open violation of these leaders’ promises to uphold the UMC Discipline’s ban on appointing openly partnered gay clergy, and then invite her to speak at an apportionment-funded venue to publicly decry the alleged evil of lower-level United Methodist leaders who dare to still follow the rules.
Perhaps the most radical speaker was Kiri Anne Ryan Bereznai. Bereznai is apparently genetically and biologically male but now dresses and presents as a self-described “non-binary trans woman.”
When I use the pronouns of “he” and “him” for any biological male, regardless of whether or not this person suffers from what psychiatrists had long recognized as “gender identity disorder,” I do not want to be insulting or disrespectful. I simply want to accurately describe the reality of how God created them. But from the beginning of Bereznai’s speech, it was clear that in the new UMC, it is unacceptable and “transphobic” to use anything other than Bereznai’s preferred pronouns of “they/them” or “she/her.” Such policing of language amounts to using shaming tactics to try to control what people are allowed to believe and say about reality, before even beginning a conversation about transgenderism.
Bereznai declared, “If you want us to feel safe in church, it is up to you all as allies to stand up to our abusers and push for the changes that will rid faith communities of the social, legal, and political stigmas that withhold liberation from queer people.”
The implications of this statement are rather remarkable. Without clear limits, this official NCJ speaker broadly characterized church folk who are not affirming of homosexual practice or transgender ideology as “our abusers,” who you must fight against if you want to be a true “ally.” You must fight to rid local congregations of (social) cultures or (legal) policies disapproving of same-sex weddings or not fully affirming secular transgenderist ideology. Otherwise, you are guilty of making people feel unsafe, and may therefore be somehow endangering them, and taking the side of abuse. Such irresponsible rhetoric serves to intimidate against asking questions.
So there was no room for critical thinking about the assumptions behind Bereznai asking why the church should have higher standards than secular society or claiming that churches who don’t embrace secular LGBTQ+ liberationist ideology don’t love people “as Christ loves them.”
Bereznai even declared, “I support and applaud” LGBTQ people who choose to leave the church as the best path for themselves. But for his part, Bereznai called for the UMC to “repent” and seek forgiveness from LGBTQ+ activists for the denomination having not embraced secular LGBTQ+ liberationist ideology earlier.
If the new United Methodism church really believes that being theologically traditionalist is a sin that requires repentance, how does it make any sense for it to indefinitely offer a “not of one mind” big tent of tolerantly welcoming traditional faith among its pastors and congregations?
As an answer, Bereznai drew applause by declaring that fully affirming secular LGBTQ+ liberationist ideology is an urgent matter of justice, and “It is not possible for the church to not be of one mind on a matter of justice.”
As Bereznai urged LGBTQ activists to “keep fighting” to change the church, pointedly denying that this was “a distraction” from the church’s main mission, I observed no clear limits or restraints to what was essentially a call to holy war. Indeed, Bereznai declared that “to merely press on, never committing to revolution is not enough.” To encourage others to “keep fighting” for this revolution in the UMC, he baptized “the rage inspired by justice delayed” as “holy.”
Such rhetoric naturally encourages all sorts of rage-filled, any-means-necessary, anti-Golden-Rule behavior in pursuing liberal goals of “justice.” And it redirects attention that should be given to screening whether or not bitter, angry LGBTQ activists should really be elevated to United Methodist leadership, with all the power and potential for hurting the vulnerable that this brings.
Delegates enthusiastically responded with a standing ovation to Bereznai’s concluding plea: “Let’s queer up this kingdom!”
The several small-group discussion times were not much better. The prompts on the display screen that were supposed to guide these times included such leading questions as “How does doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God factor into your LGBTQ+ allyship?” and “How have the privileges of heterosexism affected your life?”
To be fair, I was not literally run out of town in my small group, in which I was ideologically outnumbered by about nine to one, after I respectfully spoke up for a traditionalist theological perspective. I suppose the event met the Harvey Standard of tolerance, in that it did not invalidate Louisiana Bishop Cynthia Harvey’s assuring a reporter, among other things, that “the United Methodist Church does not require ministers to preach in drag.”
Throughout the over two hours of the LGBTQ Exercise, I observed little to no evidence that the assembled United Methodist speakers and leaders had ever really carefully examined a clear, positive vision of a biblical sexual ethic that went much deeper than simply listing specific prohibitions on behavior. It can by no means be assumed that anyone in American culture today, even churchgoers, will necessarily have even once directly heard such teaching. Permissive sexual ethics are the default values in our society, as they will be in the psUMC. For at least many United Methodist leaders, this appears to be less a matter of biblical values being tried and found wanting than of biblical values never being seriously understood in the first place.
There is no denying that there is real pain that merits compassion for those who, through no conscious choice of their own, find themselves attracted to the same sex or feel alienated from their own bodies. Yes, a training manual of the “Love Your Neighbor Coalition” of liberal United Methodist caucus once instructed activists lobbying General Conference delegates, “Tap into emotion: Stories should pull at the heartstrings of the listener.” Yes, this selectively designed LGBTQ Exercise followed the common United Methodist pattern of talking sanctimoniously about the need to listen to the stories of “sexual minorities” while systematically excluding the stories of formerly transgendered individuals who have “de-transitioned,” same-sex-attracted Christians who are committed to theological orthodoxy and personal celibacy, or even (gasp!) those who have indeed experienced dramatic declines of unwanted previous same-sex attractions. Yes, this background invites healthy skepticism about how much such exercises tell the full story.
But beneath it all, there is still real pain. Could United Methodists of diverse perspectives at least come together to agree on the inherent dignity of all people created in God’s image, respectfully explore about how to be more compassionate in theologically traditionalist as well as other ministry settings, or even work together to challenge repressive policies in some parts of the world that really do mistreat self-identified members of the LGBTQ community?
At this United Methodist LGBTQ exercise, there appeared to be no room for any of that. The boundaries were limited from the beginning with the insistence from the stage on using debatable definitions of “heterosexism,” “homophobia,” and “transphobia” which all good United Methodists must forcefully oppose, without qualification or hesitation.
As another delegate observed, “Although the time was worthwhile, and I applaud the courage of those sharing their stories, I arrived at this simple conclusion: The given definitions of homophobia and heterosexism leave absolutely no room for those holding a traditionalist interpretation of Scripture. You can be the most loving, welcoming, non-judgmental, caring congregation to all people, but if you hold a traditionalist interpretation of Scripture resulting in the current stance on marriage and human sexuality of our denomination, then you are deemed to be homophobic and heterosexist.”
Throughout the LGBTQ Exercise, presenters showed no hint of having the humility to consider the possibility that maybe, just maybe, they are the ones with a wrong position on sexual morality, rather than Scripture and the overwhelming majority of all Christians who have ever lived.
In the United Methodist Church today, we now see how top denominational officials can and do openly doubt or spread doubts about the resurrection or sinlessness of Jesus Christ, or even the fundamental question of who Jesus is. But in denominational leadership, there is rapidly becoming no room for expressing any opinion contrary to undoubting, unquestioning, blind faith in the dogmas of secular LGBTQ liberationist ideology.
On a personal note, my family and I were first drawn into United Methodism out of a more rigidly conservative congregation whose demands for “blind faith” grated on our intellectually curious sensibilities. Now it is the UMC that I see demanding unquestioning “blind faith”—in certain secular liberal ideologies. Those running the denomination are increasingly, openly resorting to tactics of shaming, emotional blackmail, and at least implicitly threatened exclusion of the insufficiently “woke” to shut down critical thinking and silence dissent.
This is no longer the welcoming, open-minded United Methodist Church I joined as a teenager.