United Methodist Church…

 

United Methodist Church

United Methodist Church

[This is a Nov 18 update of the post. For more information on the subject, you can go to the United Methodist Church website.]

This is my opinion, not the opinion of my church, of any committees I might sit on, of any activity groups I might be in, of my family, or of my friends…just mine: The United Methodist Church needs to delete or modify section 161.g. of the Book of Discipline and recognize that ALL people, regardless of their sexuality, are welcome into all aspects of the Church.

For the first time, perhaps the first time ever, the United Methodist Church (UMC) is having a “Special” General Conference on February 23-26, 2019, it’s special because normally these conferences only happen every 4 years…the same year as presidential elections. UMC is having this special conference because the church is divided about how to treat LGBTQ people and they want to deal with this issue by itself before the regularly scheduled conference in 2020.

The conference is the gathering of representatives from ALL of the worldwide UMC and one of the products of this conference is the “Book of Discipline” which is sort of the UMC book of law, policy, and church life. In this book, the policy of the church is laid out and then implemented throughout the worldwide church. Currently, the Book of Discipline, hence the official position of the entire UMC, is that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching (Book of Discipline, Section 161.g.) This has been an issue for a long time but has become more visible and contentious in the last decade or so, especially since the Supreme Court ruled that homosexual marriage is okay. Not unlike America and the rest of the world, the UMC is divided between what are called “conservatives” or “traditionalists” and “progressives.”

The traditionalists deny that all people are God’s people. The progressives would welcome all to the table. While conservative traditionalists might welcome everyone through the door, they do not allow anyone from the gay community to recognize a call to the UMC ministry, to be married in the UMC, or fully experience the life of the church. Progressives would allow members of the LGBTQ community to marry in the church, for UMC pastors to perform gay weddings, and for LGBTQ to be in the clergy. Some conservatives don’t necessarily oppose LGBTQ but do say that since the formal Book of Discipline says, no gays in certain places/circumstances, the clergy is responsible for ensuring that gays are not married, in the clergy, or have any UMC pastor perform a gay wedding.

There’s no silver bullet solution to this issue. Both sides claim scriptural foundation. Both sides claim the greater good. Both sides claim Holy Spirit guidance. But….. Both sides will not compromise. There are five, maybe more, plans. The overarching philosophy of this is called, “The Way Forward.” The goal of the Bishops (who are the UMC leaders and there are LOTS of Bishops) is that the UMC should stay united. They have, therefore, proposed five plans that exist on the spectrum of full conservative to full progressive. A sixth plan exists…stay the same. The sixth plan is probably the one that will win because if none of the other plans gets a majority of the votes of those at the conference, there will be no change.

I am not optimistic. It’s not that long ago that in my state blacks and whites weren’t allowed to marry. Conservatives are typically wealthier, older folks who grew up in a time when equality was gender and race based. In Africa, which is the fastest growing UMC area, homosexuality is culturally taboo regardless of the reality of its existence. So where may it end when the Special Conference adjourns on February 26, 2019? Who knows but I’m guessing the UMC will change, perhaps dramatically. The central UMC entity actually “owns” all of the real estate and property of each and every UMC place of worship so a local church just can’t “leave.” I’m guessing that this will end up in the courts for years and years as fights over property and assets demonstrates Christianity in the 21st century.

So, the bottom line for all Methodists…there are people from your church who will be going to the Special Conference in February 2019. Did you know that? Do you know who those representatives are? Do they know what you think about this issue.

For me, it’s sad, a continuation of people bashing that’s been getting more popular for quite a while. I strongly urge the inclusion of everyone into the church. All aspects of the church. Galatians 3:25-29: 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring,[a] heirs according to the promise.

Just sayin’

 

 

 

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Migrant Camps—Oh, Yes We Are

The US already has migrant camps and refugee holding facilities, and, the numbers of camps and people in those camps increases every day. And, our government is creating MANY of these camps either directly (immigrant detention) or indirectly (failure to deal with homeless issues).  This includes ALL people living in the streets or in camps or in homeless shelters. That is, not just people legally or illegally coming into the US from other countries, but, also our own citizens who are jobless or underemployed,

Homeless in DC

Homeless in DC

and, homeless. In many places in the United States, the homeless population is growing, a HUD December 13, 2017 report gave the number of homeless in the US as 553,000. In LA alone there are 58,000 homeless (LA Times, 2/25/18). In New York City the number of people that are homeless or living in shelters is 76,000. Not counting those living in shelters or the homeless in the suburbs, DC’s homeless population is just short of 7,000 (Washington Post, 5/8/2018). [Incarceration for poor people who can’t make bond or poor people incarcerated for long years for non-violent drug related crimes is another post on another day.]of the homes

Thousands in Puerto Rico are still without power or water or access to other community safety resources. They live in conditions that have NOT been fully improved or repaired all these months after Hurricane Maria.  There is little news and very few headlines about Puerto Rico and yet people still suffer and effectively live in camps or houses without roofs.

Yesterday, trump said that, “”The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility … you look at what’s happening in Europe and you look at what’s happening in other places we can’t allow that to happen in the United States – not on my watch.” (MSNBC broadcast of trump speech)

Well, we already are a country of migrant camps and refugee holding facilities. Sadly, most of the disenfranchised are US citizens, a half million Americans. Most wealthy people who spend their leisure time at country clubs may not actually see the homeless or their camps and  so may not be aware that 40,000 of the homeless are American veterans! (Military Times, Dec 6, 2017).

Homeless in Birmingham

Homeless in Birmingham

And, I posit that we don’t have more “migrant” camps because we have hundreds of prison camps holding adults and children. ICE has over 200 “camps” in America holding 30,000 plus men, women, and children…some without medical care, almost all without access to advice or legal representation. Texas holds 15,852, California 6,527, Arizona 3,869, Georgia 3,717, Louisiana 3,143…200 camps in all. (https://www.freedomforimmigrants.org/detention-statistics) THIRTY THOUSAND!

And the GOP, the party to which I belonged for 41 years…it’s pretty much gone. Taken over by trumpists like Steven Miller (who so reminds me of German zealots from 80 years ago). Is America becoming fascist? I read an interesting article yesterday that addressed that very question entitled, “It’s Happening Here Because Americans Can’t Admit it’s Happening Here.” The author goes through a logic process that is reasonable but describes the typical American as “in active denial,” that is, scowl on his face, defensively crossed arms, separation from the group, and more.

The author goes on to say, camps in America where ethnic groups are concentrated are being built and babies are being forcibly separated from their families the same as they were in Nazi Germany, Rwanda, Yugoslavia, and more. The Asians know, they’ve seen Pol Pot, Mao, and more. “Not here,” says the scowling American looking down his nose at Black Lives Matter, Immigration demonstrations, Peoples Climate, and, more. Well, I think it is happening here and I think the scowlers and arm crossers and deniers are sadly wrong. I think the power of the dollar is slowly replacing the power of the vote and letting the country slide into something other than a democracy.

I believe we can preserve the American way of life. We have to look the scowling, denier cynic in the eye and demonstrate to him that he is a valued part of America, but, he will not be so valued under a fascist state which by supporting trump he will receive. We need to open a dialogue with that scowling face to list the issues, list the possible solutions, link the positives, and

Homeless Camp, Fairfax County, VA

Homeless Camp, Fairfax County, VA

take action to fix and talk and fix and talk. I believe that trump is bad for America and that his cronies may be even worse: Pence, Miller, Bannon, Pruitt, Conway, Huckabee Sanders, etc. But hating them, trash talking them, targeting them for ranting abuse really doesn’t do any good. The solutions are living next door, and down the street, and in the communities. Talk to people. Vote! Get them to think about living in a place where individual freedom is a matter of whim of the despot in charge and not the American way.

And one last thing, the Democratic Party is living in a different century. They are not coming up with strong programs or people but rather same-O, same-O. They completely missed the Bernie message. They completely missed America’s view on Hillary.  They are absolutely missing the anti-trump message. The anti-trump rhetoric may win during the mid-term but IMHO will not do a thing in 2020. Somebody in the DNC needs to get their shit together.

 

 

 

 

 

Homeless in Denver

Homeless in Denver

Homeless in Birmingham

Homeless in Birmingham

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“Stop Swallowing This BS…Go Look For Yourself”

This is what a friend said in response to my post on June 16. Another friend posted a video from the Media Research Center (MRC), a locally based conservative organization whose stated mission is to expose and neutralize the media it considers liberal. I watched the MRC video.  And, I very seriously considered the comment that I should be there and thought about how not being there might influence and hamper my thought processes. I have a couple of observations regarding the express and implied comments. I truly do appreciate the respectful feedback. I am sincerely trying to look at these issues in whole instead of through a single channel or a narrow human lens.

First, would my vision or version of what’s happening on the border be clearer were I there? Of course. Well, maybe. I say maybe because I would only be able to see things from one place. To have a more complete picture, I would have to rely on other’s views because this very intense human drama is happening in many places. Those views would reach me through a variety of “channels,” such as word-of-mouth or electronically or through print. I assume that through whatever “channel” I used, that channel would have filters or bias or some sort of “tilt” toward something and we all know that talking about something with sizzle is more exciting and generates more revenue than just straight fact reporting.

Please remember, my post yesterday was a prayer for those families that were separated from their children and also for those people who were following orders to remove children of all ages from their parents. This was a prayer about human suffering.

But, I wasn’t “there.” Where did I harvest my facts? Well, indirectly from DHS, but admittedly for this story, through an Associated Press release. On June 8, a Reuters story described how nearly 1,800 families have been separated from their children in April and May of this year. As a supporting fact, the articles states, “A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official testified last month to Congress that between May 6 and May 19, 658 children were separated from 638 parents because of the stepped-up prosecutions. That brings the total of officially acknowledged separations to more than 2,400, though that does not include recent weeks or the period from March 1 to May 6.”  I conclude that even though I am not “there,” that the separation is happening. Currently, most of my “political news” actually comes from CSPAN where I can watch DHS administrators and others answer questions from congress. From watching CSPAN, I understand that some 14 “Centers” are being used to hold the children until a place is found for them or someone claims them.

In response to the media blitz, MRC reminds us that the rules during the Obama administration were the same and that exactly the same things happened under Obama. I don’t know if that’s true, I will take them at their word and say that, tragically, those things happened then, too. But because Obama did the same thing does NOT make doing that thing okay. In fact, that should incentivize Americans to find a way to solve this problem. Holding these children hostage so that congress will vote for trump’s wall is inhuman…

Why cannot congress get off its ass and look at these issues with a solution in mind?? Well, perhaps because we let them.

And for both my liberal and conservative friends…if you reduce your information channels down to only those that agree with your current opinion and you “retweet” or repost or consume only those, you narrow your human and spiritual potential.

Life is often foggy.

Fog on Local Lake

Fog on Local Lake

 

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Children Put In Camps

I’m relatively astounded, although I know I shouldn’t be since this type of thing has been done before by Americans. Of course I ache for the children who’ve been taken from their parents, separated from their siblings, and put in what are probably terrifyingly lonely and dangerous places…

Most of the time their parents came here to ask for asylum because family members are being killed in their native countries and they had few places to go…and they chose America. I know that Sessions says DHS behavior is condoned by the Bible…I think that’s shameful, but, then I’m not as learned a scholar as he.

I wonder, if you are one of the DHS people who arrests the adults and then takes their children away…how do you go home at night and look your children in the eye? I think they must also be suffering.

I will say a prayer not only for the families ripped apart, but for the Americans being forced to psychologically torture children and put them in CAMPS! This is not a political thing…this is a human play for power. I pray for those who support this travesty because they think it might save their vision of a “America” which quite frankly is not my vision.

The shot below is an abandoned prison in Lorton, VA. The shot reminds me of the terror those kids must be going through. I can’t imagine.

Lorton Prison

Lorton Prison

 

 

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Human Suffering

Yesterday I took a trip to Richmond, VA, where I listened to two stories about life. The stories were very different and were a lot to process.  I haven’t written anything on this blog for three months, I did not want to contribute to the cacophony of words which has devolved into a contest of bitterness and hate.

My trip yesterday helped me to understand a little more about the origins of our national division. In the morning, I listened to a VA scholar extol the virtues of Robert E. Lee and explain that Lee’s country was actually Virginia, hence the Confederacy, which justified all that he’d done. There were more words in his very academia-oriented talk but that’s my Readers Digest version. And, he notes, because Lee was a noble southern hero, the monument pictured below was a fitting memorial to him. The memorial was built in 1890. Slavery was not the reason Lee fought, the speaker said, rather his reason was Virginia.  And other Confederate leaders were much like him. The speaker told us these statues were not put up because of Jim Crow activities, the timing was completely coincidental. I looked at the statue…I thought of the 360,000+ AMERICAN troops that had died because of him and others like him. And then I thought of the 258,000 southern troops that had died under his command. More Americans died in the Civil War than died in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam combined. Imagine the families they left behind.

That afternoon, I listened to the stories of African people who were snatched from their families and villages and then put on ships in tiny spaces, into a disorienting chaos of bodies crammed together: sweating, breathing, urinating, defecating in a space smaller than your bathtub… And, then the voyage ends and they are dropped off into horrible, dehumanizing conditions in Richmond at the Manchester Docks. Chained together, auctioned as chattel, treated as property, like a sofa or chair, or cow. I am reading Barracoon: The Story of The Last Black Cargo by Zora Neale Hurston and so my imagination was running in overdrive.

I was reminded at the end of the day, that these stories were about many things, but mostly, they were about human suffering. How true. I think the Civil War was an event that America has not recovered from psychologically, philosophically, or politically. Sadly, some people see this division as an opportunity to exploit emotions which continues the cycle of suffering. Slavery was in America since the birth of the nation and was a critical component of the economic development of our nation when it was young. The horror and terror of enslavement and the divisions in our country’s soul sparked the human tragedy of the war and the national acrimony in the century and half since it ended. I pray we find a healing path.

Robert E Lee Statue, Richmond VA

Robert E Lee Statue, Richmond VA

 

Fisherman on the site of the former Manchester Docks, Richmond, VA

Fisherman on the site of the former Manchester Docks, Richmond, VA

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