Thinking about Chris Pratt and the UMC this morning.
Chris Pratt got into a bit of a controversy over the past week with Ellen Page. She pushed him on being a part of an anti-LGBTQ church and he pushed back. Pratt has said that his church is not anti-LGBTQ because it opens its doors to everyone. But let’s be honest, acceptance isn’t the whole deal. Can a gay couple be married at your church? Can a trans woman lead a Bible study? Can a non-binary person be ordained? Will a questioning kid hear that their sexuality or gender identity is, at its core, something that separates them from God? In an affirming church, the answer to these questions will affirm the full inclusion of LGBTQ people. A welcoming church may not. And if not, how welcome IS that welcome?
I don’t think churches exist to make us comfortable, but if you have to cut off part of your identity to participate, that church isn’t pro or even neutral toward LGBTQ people. It’s an anti-LGBTQ church.
This isn’t to say that Chris Pratt is personally anti-LGBTQ – I’m not under the impression that he is. And I understand his desire to protect a church that helped him through a difficult period in his life. I’ve been there.
Hell, I’m still kind of there. Which brings me to the other thing rattling in my brain, the upcoming special session of the general conference for the United Methodist Church.
Right now the UMC’s Book of Discipline, which is the guiding document for how the church operates, says, “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” and goes on to say that LGBTQ people cannot be ordained, appointed to serve, or married in a UMC church/by a UMC pastor. Many churches simply disregard the rules and do these things anyway (there are many openly LGBTQ ministers in the UMC as well as one gay bishop), but the thing is, if you’re going to a UMC church, you just don’t know how much of a stickler they are for the rules. An LGBTQ person simply doesn’t know when they walk into a UMC church if they’re welcomed or affirmed. And the difference between the two can be life threatening. I don’t say that to be hyperbolic. LGBTQ Christians often have an added layer of pain in their lives by wondering not only if the people in their lives love them as they are, but if God loves them as they are. The bait and switch of God loves you, but not the queer part can be devastating to anyone already struggling.
The special session that runs February 23-26 is tasked with addressing how to move forward. I honestly don’t know how this will go. I’ve read a lot by people who know a lot more about the inner workings of the UMC than me, and the consensus seems to be “🤷🏻♀️.”
I know the biggest frustration for me is that compromises were made before it even started because there is no plan that says, “The UMC will now be fully affirming,” while there IS a plan that says, “We will strengthen our anti-LGBTQ stance.” I’m not wholly opposed to compromise (okay, I kind of am, but for the sake of argument, let’s say I’m not), but it saddens me that the best plan for LGBTQ people is, “we get rid of the offensive language, but individual churches can still decide how anti-LGBTQ they want to be.” That feels…not great. It’s crumbs.
The worst Jesus story for me is in Matthew 15, when he kind of acts like a jerk toward the Canaanite woman. Maybe he’s just tired and he’s short with her. Maybe the story lost something in translation and it was kinder than it appears. But Jesus calls her a dog. Kind of the way Pratt’s church and the UMC call LGBTQ people less-than. Someone loved, but lower. Someone who doesn’t deserve a seat at the table. Someone whose presence is taking food away from those who REALLY deserve it. It’s not a good look for Jesus, tbh. And it’s not a good look for a church either.
But the woman wasn’t having it. She wanted what Jesus had to give. She wanted healing for suffering in her family. She wanted his attention. And she told him that at the very least, she deserved the crumbs. She sat at his feet and demanded crumbs. She said that those crumbs didn’t take away from the feeding of the more deserving. That even the lowly deserved some measure of sustenance.
And Jesus changed. He didn’t give her crumbs, he gave her the full meal. He praised her faith. He gave her the healing she had asked for. She got it all.
We don’t have to make our LGBTQ friend and family settle for crumbs. We can be like Jesus and give the full meal. We can say, “We love you. We accept you. We affirm you. Come, sit at the table and eat the meal prepared for all of us.”