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“Any Kind of Heart:” An Open Letter to the United Methodist Special General Conference

Rev. David Hart

This opinion piece, in response to the United Methodist Church’s decision to affirm the UMC’s stances on homosexuality, against ordaining non-celibate gay people and prohibiting clergy from performing same-sex weddings, represents the views of its author and not necessarily those of Madison365, its staff, board, or funders.

Dear United Methodist Special General Conference Delegates:

Hip hop artist and Activist Nasir “Nas” Jones once poignantly said, “it hurts to see anybody in pain, if you’ve got any kind of heart.”

Nas, of course, said this against the backdrop of an immense amount of pain in his own world. He had gone through a very painful divorce from the love of his life, and was working through well-documented turmoil and his own family and close friends.

Nas was also deeply affected by the pain he saw in the black community.  He was deeply troubled by young men and women being killed by authorities before their time, being sent to prison before their time, being denied opportunities.

Nas saw people in pain, and he was hurt. Because he had a heart.

I say all of this about Nas to say that I, and others with big hearts and a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures, witnessed the pain inflicted on the LGBTQ community by the special General Conference of the United Methodist Church.

We witnessed the General Conference vote 438-384 to reinforce the United Methodist Church’s stance against ordaining gay clergy and performing same-sex weddings.

We witnessed as you told fellow Christians and members of the church that if they did not like the decision the general conference made, that they were no longer welcome in the communion, and we witnessed you outline a plan to help them leave.

We witnessed the name-calling, the disdain, the contempt that some delegates expressed toward members of the LGBTQ community and their allies.

And that was painful.

However, nothing was more painful than witnessing how some factions attempted to control the narrative, and gaslight the true victims of the general conference vote.

Their first attempt to control the narrative sounded loving if not familiar to victims of abuse. They said, “We love you, but your lifestyle is incompatible with the scriptures.”

Here, those members of the general conference delegation attempted to sound loving and kind to the rest of the world. However, it was a whole scale in validation of humans, Christians, clergy and faithful people.

They also said things like the Scriptures support the decision we made, and that God is calling on us to do this.  

And those of us who are allies of the LGBTQ community saw this argument coming because it’s been used for decades. They drug out the same tired Scriptures, out of context, to serve their end and further their narrative.

But a thorough, holistic and complete reading of the Scriptures doesn’t simply allow for love in the Christian context; we see that God affirms faithful people generally and members of the LGBTQ community specifically.

What’s more, these very same arguments were used to invalidate black people, their marriages and their relationships with God. It was not persuasive when the church did it in the 1868, or 1920 or 1968, and it’s not persuasive now.

And perhaps the most egregious attempt to control the narrative by some members of the general conference delegation came through victim blaming and victim shaming.

I heard Methodist founder John Wesley‘s words thrown around casually and irresponsibly by members of the delegation. They smugly reminded us “to do no harm” and to “do all the good you can.”  

And they used those words to establish a universe in which there were two sides to this argument, and that both sides have not done all the good they could do, but rather had done each other harm.

In this fight to secure basic civil and human rights for all people generally, and my friends and colleagues in the LGBTQ community specifcally, is not a two-sided issue. There is only one side to this issue. That’s God side.

Members of the LGBTQ community and their allies have not done harm to others by name calling or invalidating other humans and Christians, The assertion is that they are doing harm to others simply by existing.

And that should not be simply unacceptable, but also a very painful concept to anyone, as Nas said, with a heart.

And anyone with a heart experiencing and bearing witness to this pain should not idly sit by allowing this to occur. This should be call to action.

In service,

Rev. David Hart