When I grew up during the 1930s and 1940s, I had no understanding of the terms lesbian, nonbinary, transgender, gay (back then, it meant “happy”), bisexual, or undecided (pertaining to sexuality). I did know the words homo, fag, and queer.
I don’t think I knew anyone who was any of the above, and I only used those words in a pejorative way. Ignorance drove me. I was never educated about the diversity of people’s sexuality.
I went to a boys’ prep school, a men’s college, the Marine Corps, and an all-male seminary. All of those institutions promoted homophobia in one way or another.
In retrospect, I was a homophobe.
When I went to seminary in 1957, I experienced several eyeopeners. First, I learned that at least ten percent of the students and faculty were gay, all of them in the closet. One gay man was even married to a woman.
This was an elephant in the room that no one discussed.
Then I learned about the Greek word agape. It meant unconditional love for all. Did that include the gay community? Of course. No person or institution could make lists of people deemed unacceptable, not even the church.
Then I really heard the parable of the prodigal son and realized it was more than a good story: it was the foundation of Jesus’s message. Followers of Jesus had to emulate the unconditional love of the father for his errant (and possibly gay?) son. At the beginning of every worship service at my current church, we share this message: “You are accepted here, no matter where you are on your life’s journey.”
I then had to come to grips with all my prejudices. My list was much longer than I thought. However, with information and education, I found that all my hang-ups were based on ignorance.
So, I educated myself and continue to do so. It’s amazing how better information changes one’s perspective.
The United Methodist Church just voted to maintain its traditional anti-LGBTQUI stance. The immediate reaction of many of the twenty-first-century, pro-LGBTQUI clergy and congregants is to leave the church and start anew.
I implore them not to.
Instead, I urge them to find creative ways to use their pulpits, classrooms, newsletters, Sunday bulletins, and guest speakers to educate those opposed to doing what Jesus said all of us must do—love unconditionally.
Human sexuality and its diversity is an extremely complex subject, but great research has revealed new insights into this subject over the last several decades. Heterosexuality is no longer the norm. Sexual diversity is.
Seminaries can play a major role in this education initiative by providing seminarians and ordained clergy with solid information and the tools to convey it.
To split the church (again) would leave too many uninformed people out there and weaken the impact of the greatest message ever shared—agape.
Please, my Methodist friends—don’t split! Educate.