Friday, May 30, 2008

Blog On Hold

Dear Readers,

I am posting this notice to let you know that I am closing this blog temporarily.

Please bear with me while I make some changes in the blog. You may notice deleted sections of previous postings, or entire postings that are now deleted.

I appreciate your readership and your patience with me while I engage in editorial work. Meanwhile, for your perusal, some pictures from previous blog postings to occupy your attention while I am not posting.

Since today is the feast day of Joan of Arc in Western Christian churches, I am thinking today of how Joan paid a price for speaking truth to power--including to the powerful rulers of churches. Joan dressed in men's clothes and heard God speak to her, though she was not ordained and was a peasant girl. The church of her day did not wish to hear what a woman wearing men's clothes might say to them, and martyred her.

In a world in which courage to speak the truth is so often demanded as we walk the path of Jesus in faithful discipleship, may we take heart from Joan's example. The pictures below are commemorations of Joan and her courage.

White Eyelet Lace: Florida UMC Annual Conference, Day Two

I knew she was trouble the minute I saw she had a bible cover with white eyelet lace on it.

Thus saith one of the people I love most in the world, whose identity I won’t reveal here for two reasons. First, she lives in a big-small city/town where everybody knows everyone else, everybody talks about everybody else (while smiling in the face of those they talk about), and everybody will punish you, all in one collective huddle locking arms against you, if you tell the truth they do not want to have spoken.

I know. I live in such a place.

Second, I want my friend to keep making these pithy observations. Too many of my friends are already leery of me because they say that 1) I never forget anything they say or do, and 2) I’m liable to report what they have said or done in something I write. Comes from growing up among many Southern ladies who never missed a beat, as they pretended to socialize with each other, eyeing the other mercilessly all the while, in order to give a cold-eyed detailed report once the lovefest had ended.

And so to the Southern state of Florida and its United Methodist Annual Conference, which is now in its second day. (Trust me, I’m going somewhere with this: white eyelet lace bible covers do have something to do with the Florida UMC Annual Conference—at least, in my mind they do.)

The Florida Conference has helpfully uploaded its workbook to the conference website. Anyone who wishes can read the workbook at

Yesterday, I read it carefully, searching for any indicator that this annual conference will follow up on the unfinished work of the recent General Conference to keep praying about, talking about, and working for the full inclusion of gay brothers and sisters in the United Methodist Church.

I was not surprised to find—not really—that the workbook has not a single mention of this topic. The words “gay,” “lesbian,” “homosexual” are entirely absent from the workbook.

This is not surprising because the 2006 essay on homosexuality and the church by Florida’s UMC bishop (a copy is on the same website) argues for eliminating terms such as “homosexual” and “gay” from the vocabulary of the church, as it deals with people who are, well, gay and lesbian. What is not spoken does not exist. There is no problem, where there is no language to identify a problem.

We can go about our business with cheerful hearts and smiling faces when we do not have to confront those we cannot see, since we do not give them even a linguistic place at our table. Without linguistic structures to frame the problem for us—the problem that the Other exists—we can talk about radical hospitality while practicing radical inhospitality.

This sometimes seems to me to be the Methodist way. The way of the churches of the radical middle, of Main Street USA. The hug-smack way. It is easy to continue doing business when our business is not disrupted by the presence of intrusive, meddlesome, demanding Others.

Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I often get the impression, when I look at the way the churches of Main Street USA do business, that doing business is pretty much what it’s all about. It’s about impression management and keeping up morale in precisely the same way that the corporate world deals with these marketing issues.

When our brand is sinking, we find a new way to market it. How about big screens in the sanctuary? Clowns for the children? A new logo would be nice, one with flames to show that we are on fire with love, having been snatched from the flames of damnation.

No gloom and doom for us. That would be a turn-off, and we want our brand to sell. We need it to do so. How else can we compete with those big megachurches that sell their own brand of coffee, have gym classes, snack bars, dating services, clubs of every kind a body could wish, all on huge sparkling “campuses” suggesting that God does, in the final analysis, really prosper those who believe in God?

The gays make things difficult because their very presence is a downer. Bring them in, and who knows who might leave in a huff (and take their money with them)? As a priest Steve knows once said in a discussion of how to deal with the gays in the Catholic seminary in which they both taught, “There’s no theological reason to keep them out. But they bring all these problems with them!”

They bring all these problems with them. They bring dirt with them, because being gay is being dirty. Just like the Samaritan lying bleeding by the side of the road. It was so much easier for the priest to pass the wounded man by. Remember the story? The one inside the pretty lace-covered bible? The priest was on his way to worship (to engage in salty worship, as the new Florida Methodist brand would have us say). Touching a bleeding man would make the priest ritually impure. It would interfere with his worship.

The lawyer couldn’t stop, either. After all, who knows what kind of legal tangles might ensue, if we pick up a person lying bleeding by the roadside? Better not to get involved. If he's lying there bleeding, he must have done something to deserve his lumps. Getting involved might end up implicating us—and our money.

The unexpected person is the one who notices, stops, and helps, in Jesus’s parable. Remember that the story inside the pretty bible cover was Jesus’s answer to the question, Who is my neighbor? The one who stopped was a Samaritan, a people considered racially and ritually impure by their orthodox Jewish neighbors. They had (it was alleged) intermarried with non-Jews. They worshiped on the hilltops and not in the temple.

They were not the practitioners of orthodox, right, true religion. They practiced a mixed (read: dirty) religion, not the pure religion of Judaism. And yet it was one of these—someone who was himself the Other—who deigned to stop and pick up the bleeding man, to staunch his wounds (thus contracting ritual impurity), and then to go the extra step of taking the man to a hospice to be treated. It was one who knew himself to be considered unclean who actually saw the Other we would prefer not to see, since out of sight is out of mind.

An article by Steven Skelley on the Florida UMC website today says that a workshop at the Annual Conference yesterday focused on “radical hospitality” as a mark of Wesleyan discipleship ( The article notes that participants thought about how congregations have to live discipleship collectively, if they expect to make a difference. The whole congregation has to practice radical hospitality, if it wants to live the Methodist way as a congregation.

And it has to reach out into its own community, where many people are removed from church. It has to take risks to “step out with Jesus” into the surrounding community.

I’m trying to get my head around these statements, given the total silence of this Annual Conference’s workbook about gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. Who do those talking about radical hospitality imagine the alienated Other of their community to be?

Who is more excluded than those we make invisible by denying even linguistic structures to allow these invisibilized Others to make their presence known?

Will the Wesleyan brand convince others that it is a good brand, if it will not even talk about the group most clearly and obviously excluded by its church today? It is, after all, so easy to love the sanitized Other, the good, the approved, minority.

It is so much harder to step out with Jesus and notice that bleeding man by the wayside, whose presence raises troubling questions about the validity of our worship, when we will not even touch his wounds because we must keep our hands clean for the sanctuary.

We like our bibles, we Southern folks. We like them covered.

We’ll even cover them in white eyelet lace.

When we do that, perhaps we don’t have to peek inside them to see what they really say.

It’s so much easier to look at the pretty cover.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Singing the Vatican Blues (Again): Demonization of Gays (Again)

Recently, the National Catholic Reporter (Kansas City) published an article by John Thavis entitled, “Vatican Says 2000 Document Applies to All Seminaries” ( The article comments on a 17 May Vatican “clarification” regarding a 2005 document entitled “Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations With Regard to Persons With Homosexual Tendencies in View of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders."

The 2005 “Instruction” announced that seminaries could not admit gay candidates for ordination. At the time of the 2005 “Instruction,” attention was focused largely on seminaries in the U.S., due to the clerical abuse crisis, whose ramifications began to be more and more evident from 2002 forward, as the Boston cases broke open stories of such abuse hidden by bishops throughout the nation.
One of the responses of the Vatican to the abuse crisis was to call for scrutiny of seminaries, on the (astonishing and totally unsubstantiated) ground that, starting with seminary formation, clerical life in the U.S. was now dominated by a “lavender Mafia” that had caused the abuse crisis.
Never mind that many abuse cases involved abuse of girls by priests, or that the cases about which we began to learn in 2002 had occurred largely before the “lavender Mafia” is alleged to have “taken over” the priesthood—indeed, they occurred in a time in which the Catholic church made it almost impossible for priests or seminarians to identify their sexual orientation as gay, in a time in which the sexual lives of seminarians and priests were rigidly regulated.
The 17 May “clarification” of the “Instruction” states that the prohibition of gay candidates from seminaries applies to all seminaries everywhere.
When the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education issued its “Instruction” in 2005 not long after the election of Cardinal Ratzinger to the papacy as Benedict XVI, there was an uproar in the media. Press coverage of the Vatican document was largely negative, and focused predominantly on the claim that the Vatican (and the U.S. bishops) were scapegoating gay priests to avoid owning responsibility for their own abuse of pastoral authority for years, as predatory priests were shunted from parish to parish without any attempt to inform parishioners, and as victims who came forward with stories of their abuse were re-victimized by being blamed for speaking out.
Now that the Vatican has renewed this conversation with its recent “clarification,” I think it is appropriate to revisit the commentary generated by the 2005 “Instruction.” Fortunately, at the time the “Instruction” was issued, I kept a file of various editorials, articles, and press statements reflecting on the “Instruction.”
I sometimes suspect that those in authority in both church and society who wish us to overlook their abuse of authority, and to scapegoat marginalized groups as a diversionary tactic, count on us to have short memories. They count on us to forget what has happened even recently, what has been published even recently, in our soundbite culture.
As a contribution to the conversation the Vatican is now re-opening with its “clarification” of its 2005 “Instruction,” I am offering the following excerpts from articles, editorials, and press statements that appeared in the wake of the 2005 statement. The arrangement is chronological, and all quotations are direct quotes from the piece abstracted:
Ann Hagan Webb, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) Press Statement (2 Dec. 2005):
“The sexual abuse crimes of Catholic priests were perpetrated by adult, supposedly celibate men against minor children and vulnerable adults. Sexual orientation was a non issue. All adults know and have known for generations that minors are off limits sexually. For priests, everyone is supposed to be off limits.”
Kathleen M. Dwyer, SNAP Press Statement (2 Dec. 2005):
“The hierarchy of Catholicism knows our culture well and is skillful in manipulating prejudices and fears. It uses them not only to exonerate themselves and preserve their power but to support their agenda in the secular community as well. Since 2002 when their own documents revealed the horror the hierarchy had both supported and perpetrated, they denied, rationalized and/or minimized what they did by blaming other people, places and things for what they are responsible for. We've all heard their claims – ‘it was the Sixties’ or ‘It's just Catholic bashing again’ or ‘It's the homosexuals’.”
“Rather than role modeling a moral, supportive and loving way to address sexual abuse, the hierarchy, from the Pope on down, continues to cover up and blame others in order to protect themselves, their power and their money. But now, they are more focused and have settled on blaming Gays for all the abuse, even though countless studies indicate that most child molesters are heterosexual and/or are characterized as fixated -- being attracted to children, not to men or women.”
David Yount, “Vatican’s New Directives Are Flawed,” (Scripps Howard, 3 Dec. 2005):
“Worse, the directives fail to confront the church's real problem, which has bankrupted dioceses and cost many millions of dollars paid to victims of child abuse by clergy.
That problem is pedophilia, which must not be confused with homosexuality. Pedophiles are sexual predators, attracted to boys, girls or both. A pedophile can be straight, gay or bisexual.”
“The Vatican’s Real Scandal,” (Los Angeles Times editorial, 4 Dec. 2005):
“The guidelines allude only briefly to the sexual abuse scandal as the ‘present situation’ that made the new policy an ‘urgent’ matter. A more urgent issue for the Catholic hierarchy to consider is this: The public astonishment and outrage at the scandal was directed not only at the molestations — there are pedophiles in all walks of life — but even more at church leaders who protected the molesters and stonewalled their victims.”
Eileen McNamara, “What About Girl Victims?” (Boston Globe, 4 Dec. 2005):
“Where is the long-awaited Vatican policy that would protect women and girls from priests who cannot control their ‘heterosexual tendencies?’
Where is the plan to evaluate every heterosexual seminarian to ‘'assure that the candidate does not have sexual disorders that are incompatible with priesthood?’
Where is the National Conference of Bishops' Un-Holy Activities Committee to ensure that no man is ordained a Roman Catholic priest who has not ‘'clearly overcome’ anything more than a 'transitory’ sexual interest in the opposite sex?
Where, in short, are the witch hunters for the girls' team?”
Mark D. Jordan, “New Gay-Priest Ban Raises Another Level of Problems for the Church to Solve” (Newsday, 4 Dec. 2005):
“Affirming gay men in the priesthood would open a door on a roomful of disconcerting questions about how church hierarchy has functioned in the past. Male homosexuality may be denounced as the epitome of sexual self-indulgence, but the deeper anxiety it provokes has to do with church power.”
“But the illusion - or the spin - conceals more. The ‘abuse scandal’ was not in the end about a few pedophiles having gotten into the priesthood. The scandal was that their bishops or religious superiors protected them after they had abused children. Victims and their families were silenced one way or another; congregations were deceived; perpetrators were reassigned. The cause of the scandal was not in seminaries or seminarians. It was in the church hierarchy and its insistence on authoritarian secrecy.”
Brenda Power, “Pope’s Instruction Is Perversion of Truth,” (Sunday Times [London], 4 Dec. 2005):
“But it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that this new Vatican instruction is aimed at scapegoating homosexuals within the Catholic church for all the scandals. If only we’d done this years ago, runs the text between the lines of the controversial istruzione, we’d never have had all that bother.”
"In a nutshell, the Vatican believes that homosexuality is a perversion that is treatable, reversible and, given the then Cardinal Ratzinger’s description of it as an 'intrinsic moral evil', freely and willfully chosen by licentious degenerates. And if in future such immoral and disordered types might hang themselves, or have their heads kicked in by drunken but otherwise upstanding heterosexual members of the community, it will be a challenge for the Catholic church to work up a convincing head of indignant steam."
Kane Webb, “Return of the Enforcer,” (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 4 Dec. 2005):
“This policy also sends a strong message to homosexuals who aren’t interested in the priesthood but who are Catholic, maybe devout. The message is simple and brutally clear, if indirect: These church doors are closing on your kind.
Regardless of your innate (homo)sexuality and your ability and desire to control it, you are, if not un-save-able, then unworthy of serving as a spiritual father in the Catholic Church.”
Kenneth Zamit Tabona, “Panic Prevention and No Cure” (Times of Malta, 4 Dec. 2005):
“We have, during the last 30 odd years, witnessed the Church's veil of mystique and inviolability being torn away and no echelon of its hierarchy has been left unscathed. It has cost the Church millions of dollars but even worse it has opened a can of worms that has wreaked untold damage to its reputation. Despite this, the Catholic Church still refuses to countenance the reintroduction of a married priesthood and, while praying for vocations that dwindle annually, has put yet more deterrents in the path of any young man who may be remotely interested in priestly life. I will not cite examples from Church history as I will definitely be accused of raking up mud and my space is perforce limited, so anyone interested can do so by using one's ever so useful and efficient internet to read all about it and judge for oneself.
Meanwhile, the Church, true to form, has decided to clamp down on the homosexual world - I say world because statistically it is one in five - and make it their scapegoat.”
Andrew Sullivan, “The Vatican’s New Stereotype” (Time, 4 Dec. 2005):
“There is a simple principle here. The message of Jesus was always to ignore the stereotype, the label, the identity--in order to observe the soul beneath, how a person actually behaves. One of his most famous parables was that of the Good Samaritan, a man who belonged to a group despised by mainstream society. But it was the despised man who did good, while all the superficially respected people walked on by. Jesus consorted with all of society's undesirables--with tax collectors, collaborators with an occupying power, former prostitutes, lepers. His message was that God's grace knows no boundaries of stigma, that with God's help, we can all live by the same standards and receive the grace that comes from his love.
The new Pope has now turned that teaching on its head. He has identified a group of people and said, regardless of how they behave or what they do, they are beneath serving God.”
James Carroll, “The Basilica of Denial” (Boston Globe, 5 Dec. 2005):
“Last week’s Vatican ‘instruction’ restricting admission to the priesthood to heterosexuals was an exploitation of prejudice about homosexuality aimed at drawing attention away from the real crisis facing the Catholic Church.
If any one group ‘caused’ the priest sex-abuse scandal, it was not gays, but rather the bishops themselves, who now scapegoat gays.”
“What the scandal reveals is the moral bankruptcy of the entire Catholic clerical culture, but in order to deal with that, basic questions about celibacy, women's ordination, the role of the laity, and repressive authority would have to be asked. Obviously, those are questions the Vatican is desperate to deflect, and that is the purpose of this new ruling.”
Keith Swain, “Sex and the Church” (Denver Post, 6 Dec. 2005):
“As a therapist, there's no one I have more respect for than a client who understands a problem, deals with it and takes responsibility.
Sadly, it seems the Catholic Church doesn't have the same strength of character. In a weak attempt to address the problem of child sexual abuse by the clergy, the Vatican last week issued a dictum. Was it a call to action against sexual abuse of children?
No. The church has decided to blame someone else for its problem, namely gay men. The truth is the Catholic Church does not have a problem with gay men. It has a problem with sex - in particular, with pedophilia and chastity.”
Gerard J. Ahrens, “Don’t Forget Female Victims of Clerical Sexual Abuse” (Cincinnati Inquirer, 7 Dec. 2005):
“At the recent national convention of Voice of the Faithful, I was privileged to hear the witness of Barbara Blaine. A woman of incredible courage, she is a founding member the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests who, at the age of 12, was sexually abused by a priest.
In our own Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area, there are women of comparable courage who have survived such an incomprehensible physical, psychological and spiritual assault. What does homosexuality in any way have to do with their suffering, the silent suffering of other women who have not come forward, or the potential suffering of possible future female victims?
The answer, of course, is nothing. Nothing. Which is, for the most part, what the hierarchical church has done for women historically, and apparently is continuing to do.”
Tim Louis Macaluso, “The Vatican Jumps from Sex Scandals to Sex Documents” (City Action [Rochester, NY], 7 Dec. 2005):
“In targeting gays, the Vatican deflects attention away from the real problems, says Thibodeau. The bigger issue for him has been the way the Vatican responded to criminal acts within its ranks.
‘But equally important, and for my mind, more so,’ says Thibodeau, was ‘the criminal behavior of a handful of bishops who covered up and enabled this transgression. We would never allow a superintendent of a school district to just move a teacher into another school after doing this, but that is essentially what happened.’”
Ami Eden, “The Clothed Demonization of Gays” (Forward, 9 Dec. 2005):
“Both Anatrella and the Congregation for Catholic Education included calls for tolerance, respect and sensitivity. But such calls cannot paper over the fact that the Vatican has effectively jettisoned its hate-the-sin-but-not-the-sinner approach. Through their recent pronouncements, the Vatican and Anatrella demonized gays, painting them as a force that threatens to undermine the church and destabilize society.”
And my own words: Preach it, brother. Preach it, sister. In season, out of season, speaking truth to power even when power tries to bash us into submissive silence over and over again. Somebody somewhere is listening. And God never stops listening.

Florida on My Mind: Reflections on the United Methodist Annual Conference

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

All That You Profess at the Lord's Table

In a world where there is so much to be done, where do we focus our energies?

I’ve always been drawn to religious expressions that stress our obligation (and invitation) to love where we are. The far-away needs beckon. That’s undeniable. And we’d dehumanize ourselves if we turned our backs on them and became willfully blind to them.

But the ones on which we can have the most effect are right here, in our own back yards, on our streets, in the cities in which we live. And it seems futile (to me, at least) to say that we can love those at a distance while shunning those beside us—those who kneel with us at the Lord’s table on Sunday.

I think I’m inclined to this spirituality of loving here and now, in small ways in our small lives, for a variety of reasons. Long ago, I read and re-read C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, and was captivated by his piety of loving the difficult neighbor within our own household—the querulous voice demanding toast a shade darker each morning.

There’s something via media in that piety, something that eschews the Baroque excess of mystical flames and lambent ecstasy in which one dissolves into the divine. There’s a hard-headed earthiness about via media piety which insists on our finding the divine in the most mundane aspects of our daily lives.

At its best, this piety elevates everything to the sacramental level—or, rather, it recognizes the sacramentality of everything in our daily existence. Breaking bread at our supper tables is not isolated from breaking bread at the table of the Lord. All bread is the bread of the Lord. At our family tables, we celebrate communion just as sacramentally as we do in church.

Indeed, if we fail to celebrate communion at home—to live in unity with those around us, to mend broken fences in our relationships—we make a mockery of the communion we celebrate in the sacral space of church. In a famous sermon on Communion, John Wesley says,

For all that you profess at the Lord's table, you must both profess and keep, or you cannot be saved. For you profess nothing there but this,-- that you will diligently keep his commandments. And cannot you keep up to this profession? Then you cannot enter into life.

This is why—this sacramental perspective linking the everyday to the sacred action, which forms my own piety in deep ways—I find those experiences of sharing the bread of the Lord with fellow Christians who then refuse to acknowledge any connectedness to me as a human being so exceedingly painful. These experiences drive me from church.

How can one believe in the sacrament at all, and belie what communion means every day except Sunday? I don’t get it. It is my very belief in the sacredness of partaking of the Lord's bread that makes it impossible, now, for me to kneel with others who profess the same belief, but whose behavior towards me as a gay Christian seems to appeal to the lowest-common-denominator ethic, an ethic of because I can: I exclude and demean you, and continue to kneel at the Lord's table, because I can. No law of church or society forbids me such savagery.

I’m sure that in my own way, I am among those who have profaned the Lord’s table in this way, kneeling with a friend on Sunday, only to stick the knife in his back on Monday. If I did so, though, I’d hope that my heart would burn within me with shame, so that I’d find it impossible to live with myself until I had mended what I had broken. That would be, for me, a precondition to kneeling ever again at the table of the Lord.

I know that I am the querulous voice demanding toast a shade darker each morning. Ask Steve and my family, and you’d no doubt get an earful. Oh wad some gift the giftie gie us . . . .

The homely piety of the everyday that frames the via media’s approach to living the religious life: it requires that our love not only begin at home. It requires that we learn to love ourselves, to bear with our crotchitness, our stunted imaginations and shriveled hearts. No one is harder to live with, in the end, than oneself.

I’m drawn to the piety of the via media as well, because of Julian of Norwich’s homely images of God. If Julian’s mysticism is correct, we do not find God anywhere, if we fail to look for God right in our own homes, in our daily lives, in the lives of those around us.

Love, then, the practical love demanded of us as believers, is not heroic at all—not in the sense that God calls us to leave everything behind, sail the seas, and minister to the needy masses across the globe. And love is utterly heroic—in the sense that God calls us to love those closest to us, on a daily, grinding basis in which we continue to seek divine significance where we are least prone to see it.

Not that some of us aren’t called to mend the wounds of those around the earth from us (and to be open to the possibility that those to whom we feel called to minister may end up ministering to us; those to whom we feel called to bring the gospel may bring the good news to us, from their own religious traditions). But the love that extends outwards—to the ends of the earth—doesn’t mean anything, unless it begins here and now, in our own midst.

There simply is no sermon more persuasive than the life lived. The Christian churches can convince no one that God’s love encompasses every living creature in the world, that God desires the healing of the whole world, as long as the churches themselves do not exemplify the love they proclaim.

And the only way to exemplify this love is to love the Other in our midst, the one we travel the globe to find, only to discover that she is right beside us in the pew, the inexplicable outsider whose face is so similar to our own, but who is so different from us that we feel tempted to shun him for the way in which his difference troubles the placid surface of our lives.

Until we can invite that Other to our own table—and mean it, in that we refrain from all acts of violence against that Other when the sacred meal has given way to the meal of daily bread—all our preaching to the unwashed masses around the world will be mere dryasdust braying that means nothing.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

UMC University Senate: Historic New Appointment

Exciting news from a United Methodist University in Florida. Readers of this blog will be aware of an historically black Methodist university in Florida, Bethune-Cookman University, because I have posted a number of times about its prophetic founder Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, one of the premier African-American women leaders of the 20th century.
In a 20 May press release on its website, Bethune-Cookman University announces that its current president, Trudie Kibbe Reed, has just been elected to the prestigious United Methodist University Senate ( As the press release indicates, the University Senate plays an important role by overseeing all United Methodist institutions of higher learning, assuring that they “meet the criteria to be institutions affiliated with the United Methodist Church.”
The press release notes Dr. Reed’s distinguished background within the governing structures of the United Methodist Church, adding that “her election to the University Senate marks Dr. Reed’s return to the UMC . . . .” According to the press release, Dr. Reed has served as the General Secretariat (“comparable to CEO”) of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women in the United Methodist Church.
The statement concludes by noting, “This is a prestigious honor for both Dr. Reed and Bethune-Cookman University.” Indeed. As the caption beneath Dr. Reed’s picture on her welcome page on the Bethune-Cookman website proclaims, “It is not enough to talk about the accomplishments of Mary McLeod Bethune. We have a responsibility to take that legacy and make a difference.”
And, as a posting of mine on this blog on 17 May entitled “Democracy: Ongoing Battle, Shifting Faces,” notes, Dr. Reed’s website welcome statement stresses the “rich legacy” Dr. Bethune has bequeathed to her university—in particular, her stress on “democratizing society through civic engagement and academic excellence.” As my posting on the ongoing battle for democracy indicates, throughout Dr. Bethune’s writings, there runs a constant insistence that the American democratic experiment is ongoing: we can never stop struggling to bring everyone to the table—especially those shoved away in our own time and place by structures of marginalization.
As my postings on Dr. Bethune have maintained, I can think of few places more appropriate for exploring the ravages of sexism, racism, and homophobia—all social ills the United Methodist Church professes to address—than Bethune-Cookman University. The university transmits a noble heritage: Dr. Bethune’s appeal to her followers to keep analyzing each new cultural context at each new point of history, to identify who is shoved from the table here and now. This appeal reflects a concern entirely appropriate for a United Methodist institution, because of the strong commitment of the United Methodist Church to social justice: this is Dr. Bethune’s concern to bring to the table of participatory democracy those excluded here and now, at each moment of history, in each unique cultural context.
Mary McLeod Bethune’s commitment to ongoing democratization of American society could not be more appropriate for a United Methodist institution of higher learning, given the UMC’s commitment to social and economic justice, equality for all, a place at the table for all, as well as its commitment to fight discrimination and violence in all their manifestations, including racism, sexism, and homophobia. As I have noted previously, it is even more appropriate that a United Methodist university in Florida undertake the mission of educating people to identify and eliminate manifold forms of discrimination and social violence, given the state’s recent history, in which brutal attacks on LGBT citizens occur with disturbing regularity, and in which the homeless are being assaulted regularly by teens around the state.
For these reasons, I am delighted at the election of Dr. Trudie Kibbe Reed to the United Methodist University Senate. Surely this election signals a strong commitment on the part of the United Methodist Church—particularly in its Southeastern Jurisdiction, whose bishops put Dr. Reed’s name into the hat for this position—to involve the church in more intentional educational initiatives against racism, sexism, and homophobia.
As I have noted, the University Senate of the United Methodist Church exists to assure that United Methodist institutions of higher learning meet the criteria of all institutions affiliated with the United Methodist Church. These criteria include the important, much-cherished Social Principles of the United Methodist Church.
The University Senate’s foundational document “Marks of a United Methodist Church-Related Academic Institution” states, “A Church-related institution recognizes the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church and seeks to create a community of scholarship and learning which facilitates social justice” (
A community of scholarship and learning which facilitates social justice: a noble task! This “mark” of a United Methodist institution requires that United Methodist colleges, universities, and seminaries embody the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church in their own institutional life. In this way, the Social Principles are transmitted first to the university community itself, shaping a community of scholars bound together by a commitment to social justice, and then to the surrounding community. The community of scholars committed to the shared goal of social justice becomes a premier teaching tool for how the United Methodist Church models social justice for the world in its own institutional life.
Among key United Methodist Social Principles that the University Senate must assure that all its institutions embody, model, and practice in their own institutional life are the following:
Primary for us is the gospel understanding that all persons are important—because they are human beings created by God and loved through and by Jesus Christ and not because they have merited significance (§161, Book of Discipline).
We insist that all persons, regardless of age, gender, marital status, or sexual orientation, are entitled to have their human and civil rights ensured (ibid.).
Homosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth. All persons need the ministry and guidance of the church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self . . . . We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons (ibid.).
We reject the use of violence by either party during collective bargaining or any labor/management disagreement. We likewise reject the permanent replacement of a worker who engages in a lawful strike (Book of Discipline, §163).
We support rights of workers to refuse to work in situations that endanger health and/or life without jeopardy to their jobs (ibid.).
We hold governments responsible for the protection of the rights of the people to . . . . petition for redress of grievances without fear of reprisal . . . . (Book of Discipline, §164).
Therefore, we recognize the right of individuals to dissent when acting under the constraint of conscience and, after having exhausted all legal recourse, to resist or disobey laws that they deem to be unjust or that are discriminately enforced (ibid.).
The Social Creed with which the Social Principles ends is eloquent in articulating the basic rights of workers: “We believe in the right and duty of persons to work for the glory of God and the good of themselves and others and in the protection of their welfare in so doing; in the rights to property as a trust from God, collective bargaining, and responsible consumption; and in the elimination of economic and social distress.”
I have highlighted statements in the United Methodist Social Principles that have strong bearing on the place of gay employees in United Methodist institutions of higher learning. At this point in history, if the United Methodist Church wishes to be true to its Social Principles, it cannot avoid scrutinizing those Principles and their implications for how United Methodist institutions behave towards LGBT members of academic communities.
Since the University Senate exists to assure that United Methodist institutions of higher learning abide by Methodist criteria, including “marks” of these criteria such as the Social Principles, I am assuming that as a new member of the University Senate, Dr. Trudie Kibbe Reed will look carefully at each United Methodist college and university to see how that college/university enshrines the Social Principles. I encourage her and other Senate members to pay particular attention to how LGBT members of the community are treated, in light of the Social Principles.
If the Social Principles actually govern the institutional life of a Methodist institution of higher learning, it will accomplish the following:
▪ It will have public, stated policies in its official documents (normally the University catalogue) forbidding discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.
▪ Such statements will be not merely verbal, but will be observed in the practice of the institution: in its hiring and firing procedures, in its process of evaluating employees, in the behavior of supervisors of these employees, in the university community, among the leaders (including the President and Board of Trustees) of the university.
▪ When a United Methodist institution of higher learning hires an openly gay couple (and non-discrimination requires it to remain open to such a possibility), the institution must refrain from forbidding openly gay couples access to rights granted to heterosexual married couples at the institution: e.g., if married heterosexual couples in the institution are allowed to take each other to the doctor for medical visits, gay couples must be allowed the same rights without jeopardy to their jobs.
▪ The Social Principles’ mandate that work environments be safe for all employees will translate into vigilance within and a commitment by Methodist institutions to assure that openly gay employees are not targeted, harassed, or undermined by campaigns of lies by co-workers. The commitment to maintain a safe work environment will also require all supervisors to refrain from discrimination and from use of demeaning stereotypes (e.g., gay men “pout” or engage in “temper tantrums”) in supervising openly gay employees.
▪ If openly gay employees experience and then complain of discriminatory treatment by co-workers or a supervisors—even if that supervisor is the president herself—there must be a transparent and professional grievance process that allows prejudicial treatment of gay/lesbian employees to be addressed openly and fairly, without fear of reprisal or loss of employment by those workers.
▪ Public, officially stated non-discrimination policies should extend to an institution-wide commitment to refrain from all discriminatory or prejudicial behaviors, including open use of hateful language or demeaning stereotypes, the invitation to a campus of speakers engaging in such hateful behavior, etc.
▪ The commitment to producing a safe work environment and a community embodying the virtues of social justice must translate into active support by the leaders of United Methodist institutions of higher learning for initiatives of gay/lesbian workers to create forums in which issues of sexual orientation and discrimination may be addressed openly, respectfully, and without fear of reprisal, as well as support for initiatives to form groups offering assistance and a place to be safe and visible for gay students, staff, faculty, and administrators. The leaders of United Methodist institutions must also provide active support for educational initiatives for all employees of their institutions regarding gay/lesbian issues.
▪ In states or communities that do not afford gay workers any legal protection from unjust dismissal on grounds of sexual orientation, and in states with “right-to-work” labor laws, the Social Principles mean nothing at all in the institutional life of a Methodist college/university, unless there is a specific, stated, public policy protecting the rights of openly gay workers from firing simply due to sexual orientation.
▪ When openly gay employees are hired by a United Methodist institution in such a state or community and then are fired, there is a strong a priori obligation on the part of the governing board of the institution to investigate the circumstances of the firing, even when the ostensible reason for the firing is not sexual orientation. This the case a fortiori when the employee in question has not had a job evaluation—an action that violates not only United Methodist Social Principles, but the principles of accreditation of academic institutions, and so places the institution's accreditation in jeopardy.
Dr. Trudie Kibbe Reed definitely has her work cut out for her in her new position on the University Senate. If United Methodist institutions proclaim to the world social justice tenets that they do not practice in their own institutional life, the social justice teaching of the church is entirely vitiated. It comes to mean nothing at all for those to whom it is proclaimed, since the most effective sermon the churches preach is the one they themselves live.
As the preamble to the Social Principles state, all of the Social Principles are premised on affirmation of “the inestimable worth of each individual.” On the basis of that affirmation, the Social Principles call on Methodists to create “nurturing communities” in which each and every human being, regardless of how God has made her or him, has a safe social space in which to achieve self-worth, a place in which he or she may work and realize his/her talents, make a social contribution, and receive respect that affirms that God-given worth in the self-concept of the individual.
When Methodist institutions fail to offer such a nurturing community to some employees—and they do, unfortunately, in the case of gay human beings today—then one is tempted to conclude that the Social Principles are merely rhetorical, a window dressing to gloss over the church's lack of commitment to justice in its own institutional life. One is tempted to conclude that they have no real bearing on how United Methodist institutions and their leaders behave. One is tempted to conclude that United Methodist institutions do not really believe in the "inestimable worth" of LGBT human beings, and therefore do not recognize the cruelty of excluding such human beings from social life and from the opportunity to participate and give, by refusing to hire such human beings or by unjustly dismissing them from employment (access to health care, access to a livelihood, access to community life, access to the respect of others and to self-respect, etc.).
As an African-American woman, Dr. Reed will, I suspect, be aware of the way in which prejudice has often been disguised by rhetorical smokescreens throughout history—even (and perhaps notably) by Christian institutions—and she will, I feel sure, bring to her University Senate work a strong commitment to moving beyond rhetoric to real justice for all. With this new appointment, we can surely look for the University Senate to make strides towards prophetic embodiment of the Social Principles in Methodist institutions of higher learning, particularly in the treatment of LGBT members of Methodist academic communities.
As a leader of a university, Dr. Reed will be aware, as well, that there is another reason for the University Senate to monitor strenuously the treatment of LGBT persons in Methodist colleges and universities. This has to with accreditation expectations of bodies overseeing the professional training of various programs within the university.
As I have noted in a previous posting on this blog, the accreditation body for teacher education programs—the National Council of Accreditation for Teacher Education (NCATE)—has enacted requirements that, in order to be accredited, all teacher education programs must not only teach students about tolerance and respect for LGBT persons, but must model such tolerance and respect in how faculty members treat each other. Increasingly, accrediting bodies look askance at universities and colleges—even church-affiliated ones—in which homophobic behavior is tolerated or encouraged, and the accreditation of institutions that practice or permit homophobic behavior will be threatened.
These are important concerns for the region of the country that has placed Dr. Trudie Kibbe Reed in the University Senate—the Southeastern Jurisdiction. This is the area in which the highest proportion of the nation’s Methodists live. It is an area of the nation in which United Methodist colleges and universities are concentrated.
It is also the area of the country in which open resistance to gay and lesbian persons and their rights is perhaps most pronounced. The challenge—and opportunity—for Methodist churches and Methodist colleges/universities to address homophobia is perhaps nowhere so evident as in the American Southeast.
This is a challenge that I believe John Wesley would have relished, were he living today. It is a challenge that I also believe Dr. Reed’s predecessor Mary McLeod Bethune would have accepted with vigor. High hopes ride on Dr. Reed’s new appointment to the University Senate. I wish her Godspeed as she undertakes this charge.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Keep the Door Shut!: Churches and the Threat of Gay Energy


Once again, you’ve left a comment that is so rich, I want to lift it from the comments section and reply to it in my blog proper, rather than in the comments box.

Your comment focuses on the creativity, spirituality, and energy for institutional transformation that self-accepting gay folks bring to our vocations in secular and ecclesial institutions. Using transpersonal psychology, you say, I'm talking about a kind of freedom from gender typing, and because of that, a freedom to explore and accept other realms of thought, creativity, and spirituality.

Your analysis notes that, because gay folks have to learn to negotiate complex questions about gender roles in accepting our God-given human natures, we develop the ability to move between various definitions of ourselves demanded by the rules of straight society. In the process, we often develop a balance of male-female principles inside ourselves, which can translate into creativity and spirituality:

This is a case of knowing you have what it takes to be competent and successful in non traditional gender roles. In this sense gays exhibit a kind of both/and rather than either/or. This is very different from the straight world, where gender roles are much more tightly defined. This tight definition manifests sexually as well.

The gay way of being in the world, at its best, involves a both-and rather than either-or. The balance—or, better, creative tension—that gay people can achieve in learning to negotiate conflicting demands of gender roles, a creative tension rooted in the ability to hold together male-female principles inside ourselves, results in a release of creative energy with the potential to transform institutions that welcome self-accepting gay people and our talents.

Key to this release of creative energy is learning to transcend the either-or thinking of hierarchical institutions that want to subordinate one group to another—in particular, female to male:

There's a school of thought currently being developed which explains spiritual, creative, and relational abilities as products of sexual energy. Sexual energy can be really polluted when a person fails to deal with dominance and submission issues.

Social and ecclesial institutions locked into dominance-submission ways of thinking thwart the release of creative energy, because they siphon off a huge amount of energy that could be expended in institutional transformation in the work of maintaining the status quo, and in particular, the dominance of one group over another (often, of males over females):

The problem with this is that if you can't get out of that system you can't experience transcendence in creative expression, spirituality, or sexual relationships. As you say, maintaining takes precedence over mission.

I think you’re absolutely right in these observations. Since our spiritual life calls on us to discern the movement of spirit within our daily lives and the experiences of daily life, I can’t help “processing” your rich reflections through the prism of Steve’s and my most recent experiences at a United Methodist university in Florida.

The Florida United Methodist Conference website has uploaded an article about the recent General Conference’s discussion of LGBT people, and the decision to hold the line against us yet again at this General Conference. This article by reporter Tita Parham focuses on the need for continued dialogue about the place of gay people in the Methodist church in Florida (

A response to this article by a lay leader of First United Methodist Church in Orlando, Robert MacLeish, focuses on the role played by the Florida UMC bishop, Timothy Whitaker, at the 30 April deliberations that resulted in the vote to hold the line. Mr. MacLeish states,

My heart goes out to our good Bishop. He was in a bind with that abominable, counter biblical homosexuality issue. It's a shame it must be dealt with when addressing it as sinful should be so simple a matter. My heart goes out to him also for having to abide by Roberts Rules of Order.

There’s quite a bit to note about this response to the 30 April vote at General Conference. Again, I want to stress that I do so in light of Steve’s and my experience of being actively recruited in 2006 by a Methodist college in Florida under the pastoral jurisdiction of Bishop Whitaker.

I’d like to suggest that our experience is, in some sense, paradigmatic. It’s paradigmatic for gay people in general, insofar as our being self-accepting, open, celebratory of the love and grace in our lives and relationships, threatens the status quo of the very institutions that tell us they need our creativity, energy, and transformative potential.

This is not the first time Steve and I have experienced this invitation-expulsion dynamic. We have learned much about it in our professional lives as openly gay theologians working in church-affiliated colleges.

We have learned that the church and its institutions want (and need) our talents and creative energy. But they do not want our openness. They do not want our honesty. They don’t want our integrity. They don’t want our love.

In other words, they want our talents and creative energy without wanting the very pre-conditions for the release of creative energy in our lives as a gay couple.

This creates a horrible quandary for gay people, vis-à-vis the churches. It creates a terrible quandary for those of us who still feel called by the Spirit to live vocational lives that have some connection to the churches—which are capable of tremendous cruelty and deceit towards us as gay human beings. (And I have to say honestly that it grows harder and harder for me as a gay person to see anything but evil in many churches today, given the extremes to which churches seem willing to go to keep gay people at bay.)

On the one hand, we have inside ourselves—precisely as a result of our willingness to undergo the hard struggle to understand and accept our God-given natures—creative energy that needs to flow somewhere. Somewhere good. It’s creative. It issues forth in our lives and hearts as the desire to do good in the world, by helping to build a better world. We know it's good and creative energy because it has good and creative results in the lives of those around us with whom we interact.

This energy flows forth in our lives and hearts, as well, because, having learned to celebrate our unique natures as God’s gift to us (and to others), we then often form strong loving relationships that endure one assault after another, in a world that wants to reduce who we are and what we do to sex, and not love. Living together in long-standing committed relationships in a world that offers almost no reinforcement for such relationships, and many obstacles to them, takes miracles, on a daily basis.

We bring all of this—this history of struggle to understand ourselves, to accept ourselves, to love—to the church-affiliated institutions that tell us they want and need our talents. These church-affiliated institutions then use the talents gladly, but just as gladly discard us when it is convenient to do so—when powerful monied pressure groups “notice” that there are gay folks working in church institutions and not hiding themselves or lying about who they are; when a leader without guts and courage finds it useful to scapegoat the gays in order to save her own skin; when rewards flow to such spineless leaders from the church itself precisely because they are willing to lie to and about the despised gays and to expel them in vicious rituals of public humiliation.

I’m looking at these dynamics as a problem for those of us who have to live with them and with their aftermath in our lives. I’d like now to turn the analysis around and to examine how these dynamics affect not us who are the obvious victim of them. I'd like to look at the the churches who employ these dynamics against us and to analyze the increasing cost the churches are paying by victimizing gay human beings.

I’d like to begin by noting that the churches clearly need energy. They need creative energy. The churches of Main Street USA are aging. They are, in fact, dying. Fewer young people take part in church life, and there is every indicator that this trend will continue into this new millennium.

The response of churches to this process of internal decay has often been to engage in ever more glitzy media shows, to commercialize themselves and the gospel message, to pander to the lowest common denominator in their expectations of discipleship, by reducing what they have to say to media sound-bites. This response has been “successful” insofar as it allows the churches of Main Street USA to stay afloat.

It continues, above all, to bring money into the business of church life—and churches are businesses. It allows the churches to congratulate themselves about all those they bring to Christ—that is, to engage in self-congratulation as long as they don’t ask critical questions about what bringing people to Christ actually means. As long as we equate success with how much money comes into the coffers, how many new buildings we throw up, how many heads we count in the pews on Sunday . . . .

At their heart, in the depths of their souls, the churches of Main Street USA experience a certain soulnessness today, I would propose. Many of those hanging on with their fingernails through the happy-clappy media shows recognize that something is wrong, radically wrong, and know in their bones that more glitz and more media and more bearded pretend-macho men leading the shows are not really going to address the soulness at the heart of it all.

For many of us, church is about something else altogether. It’s about engaging in authentic community, community that affirms each of us in our uniqueness, and values and uses the gifts we each bring to the table. Community celebrated when we gather around the Lord’s table, as children of God who all have a place there, as sinners all in need of the medicine of mercy. Community that makes it unthinkable for any of us to kneel beside another brother or sister in the Lord on Sunday and then knife that person in the back economically, professionally, and interpersonally on Monday.

We long for community that embodies the gospel message. We long for authenticity in the message we first live and second proclaim. We long for authentic connection to our spiritual roots, whether they are Franciscan, Wesleyan, Protestant, Catholic, whatever. We long to find our way around commercialized sound-bite distortions of our tradition that translate into mindless acceptance of any nonsense we are told in both the religious and political spheres.

And so enter the gays. The churches of Main Street USA are in a mess. Youth—the brightest and best of this generation—want nothing to do with the happy-clappy media-driven babble about winning souls for Christ. Most youth today in the global North know and love some specific gay folks who put a human face on the stereotype the churches continue to maintain. They cannot understand the cruelty and deceit that are the price the church is willing to pay to keep gay people and gay voices and gay talents outside.

The church needs the gays. The youth of the church know this and are raising their voices. The energy and talent we bring to the institution are attractive. But who we are—our potential to rock the boat—is tremendously frightening to the same institution that recognizes the gifts we bring. And so the cruelty and deceit continue, even as they are increasingly unmasked for what they are by younger church members who recognize the violence being done to people whom they love, insofar as the church adverts to its LGBT brothers and sisters.

I continue to follow discussions about General Conference, in part, to continue trying to understand what happened to Steve and me at a United Methodist college in Florida. In many blog discussions of that fateful 30 April discussion of the place of LGBT brothers and sisters in the Methodist church, I find recurring concerns about several issues:

  1. Since Bishop Timothy Whitaker of Florida is known to be one of the leading proponents of holding the line against gays in the Methodist church, how did it happen that he was chosen to preside at the fateful 30 April session on this issue?
  2. Doesn’t the choice of a leading proponent of holding the line in itself represent an a priori attempt to skew the process of holy conferencing in an anti-gay direction?
  3. Were Roberts Rules of Order misused by those trying to engineer another anti-gay vote in the 30 April session?
  4. If so, do Roberts Rules of Order have much at all to do with holy conferencing?
I might add two more questions based on my own experience

I am putting these questions in very personal terms because those personal terms indicate how acute is the crisis the churches of Main Street USA face today, re: gay people and gay energy. The churches want our energy and talent.

They do not want us.

Not us, insofar as we are open, honest, living lives of integrity and love—all of which is the precondition for our having the very energy we bring to church institutions.

This is a serious problem, one the churches can no longer avoid or gloss over, no matter how hard they try, by uploading to their institutional website one more happy-clappy article about "approved” minorities, or by electing to positions of power and authority members of “approved” minorities who do the dirty work to gay brothers and sisters on behalf of the white male power center of the churches.

It is a problem the Spirit will not allow the churches to avoid any longer, because the Spirit is creative energy. The Spirit wills creation, ongoing creation. The Spirit wishes to see the churches alive with profound transformative energy. The Spirit speaks to the churches of Main Street USA today through the voices of young members in whose hands the future of the churches lies.

The Spirit calls gay brothers and sisters to the churches, gives us creative energy for our vocations in the churches, and is grieved when the church slams its doors in our faces.

In conclusion, to return to your analysis, Colleen, I see two wellsprings of this creative energy in gay lives, following your transpersonal psychological analysis. One is the hard struggle we who are gay go through to see ourselves as God’s children, when the churches insist on calling us spawn of the devil or “abominable, counter-biblical” sinners.

You locate the wellspring of that energy, once we accept ourselves, in freedom, “freedom from gender typing, and because of that, a freedom to explore and accept other realms of thought, creativity, and spirituality. I think this is absolutely right.

A study was done some years ago (and I can’t place my fingers on it now) of the moral development of priests. The study used the Defining Issues Test to identify levels of moral maturity among priests.

The priests studied were asked to identify themselves as gay or straight. The study found an interesting correlation between sexual orientation and moral development. On the whole, gay priests scored higher on scales of moral development than did straight priests.

The author of this study and others who commented on it at the time noted that coming to moral maturity requires that one struggle with issues that test the boundaries of our moral assurances, of our givens about what is “obviously” right and wrong. We develop conscience (and the moral maturity to use conscience correctly) not by being provided all the answers, but by encountering disjuncture between what we take for granted and other worldviews that have different ways of viewing the world.

The author of this study noted that straight priests often do not have to struggle in the same way gay priests do to come to terms with their sexual orientation, with profound questions about gender identity and gender roles, and with the inadequacy of formulaic answers (in bible or church teaching) to all moral dilemmas. This struggle—when one undergoes it with honesty and integrity (and obviously not everyone, gay or straight, is ready to undergo such struggle)—yields higher moral sensitivity, ability to negotiate difficult moral questions in one’s own life and that of others, and compassion for others in their struggles.

You also put your finger on another wellspring of creative energy in the lives of many gay people which demands a whole other blog posting: this is the creative balance of male-female principles within ourselves, which gives us the potential to bring such creative balance to the churches.

And the churches definitely need that balance, along with the wisdom to move beyond paradigms of female subordination that idolize masculinity in its cheapest, rawest forms. Look at the pictures of those sitting at the presiding podium and on the stage, as the churches pass laws to keep gay people and our energies out. They are essays in the problem the churches need to overcome today, if they wish for authentic transformation.

When the rule of white males in the churches must be protected even at the cost of lying, deceit, manipulation of rules for holy conferencing, overt violations of the social principles of the churches, the price begins to seem simply too high. And when the energy being kept at bay demands that we use such devilish tools to keep that energy at bay, then what is the church doing to itself, by refusing the gifts of its gay brothers and sisters?