Tuesday, September 17, 2013

letter 48

September 16, 2013
Bishop Mark Webb
Upper New York Episcopal Area
The United Methodist Church
324 University Ave., 3rd Floor
Syracuse, NY  13210

Dear Bishop Webb:
These are excerpts from a sermon that I preached at Saint Francis in the Foothills United Methodist Church in Tucson Arizona on August 25, 2013. My Title was” and justice for all” I was a Full time Lay Pastor at St. Francis for almost seven years.  I am now a field representative for United Methodist Communications, Imagine No Malaria.  I used a lectionary text on that morning.
Luke 13:10-17
13:10 Now Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath.
13:11 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight.
13:12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, "Woman, you are set free from your ailment."
13:13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.
13:14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, "There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day."
13:15 But Jesus  answered him and said, "You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water?
13:16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?"
13:17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

We still have a long way to go if our society is to realize the dreams of Rev. Martin Luther King. -  Dreams of Justice for All. Justice for all doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  Justice comes from marching and speaking out for what is right.  Victories are not usually achieved without sacrifice.  Movements don’t move without civil disobedience.  Refusing to give up a seat on a bus got Rosa Parks arrested.
In the scripture reading above we see that Jesus was about doing what he did best.  Standing up for what was right.  He stood up for a woman who was crippled in spirit for 18 years. He modeled effective civil disobedience.  He put himself at risk.  It was behavior like this that would eventually do him in.  But he stood for justice, for a stranger no less. He overlooked the law to do what was right.  He healed a woman on the Sabbath.
This woman also broke the law by demanding justice for herself.
Count 1:  A crippled person was not allowed in the synagogue.
Count 2: a woman was prohibited from being in front of a man in the synagogue.  Back of the bus lady. 
Count 3: Most grievous of all, women were never allowed to speak in the synagogue. You see, woman were not always equal in every respect like they are today.  (not) 
13:12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, "Woman, you are set free from your ailment."
13:13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.
Is that so wrong?
 Even though clergywomen had been part of Methodism since John Wesley licensed Sarah Crosby to preach in 1761, the General conference vote on May 4, 1956, in Minneapolis was the first to give Methodist clergywomen privileges equal to those of clergymen. It meant that, for the first time, ordained Methodist women could be full members of their annual conferences and, if in good standing, were guaranteed annual appointments.
Hear these words from my dear friend Bishop Minerva Carcaño written in the Huffington Post on May 24, 2013 Titled “LGBT Families Must Be Included in Immigration Reform”
“With others I have fought for many years of my life and ministry for comprehensive immigration reform. I care deeply about the impact that our immigration policies have on individuals and families in this country -- from agricultural guest workers to the DREAMers to the families who are torn apart by deportation to the asylees who seek freedom from the persecution they suffer in their home countries. My commitment to comprehensive immigration reform and more importantly, to the families that are directly impacted by our immigration policies, comes from my faith. As a Christian I believe we are called to love our neighbor, a love to be extended to all our neighbors without exception.
Our nation's commitment to fairness and equality for all people demands that we treat LGBT families with the same dignity we hope immigrant families all across the country will be treated.”
I was born in Binghamton NY and raised in Montrose Pennsylvania.  Montrose was not the best place to grow up if you were black or Asian, or a Jew, or Polish…you get the picture. I grew up in a very racist town.  There was something worse.
Put your nine year old self in that culture and imagine you were gay.
I didn’t have to imagine.  From the time I can remember having romantic feelings; I remember having those feelings for another boy. I’m nine, the march on Washington is happening, I don’t have an opinion because I don’t know any black people and I have feelings for boys and I don’t know any gay people. 
I hardly knew anything about queers.  I heard a little about homos but it was always bad, and at the age of nine I didn’t understand much about sex at all.  So I figured that having these feelings for other boys was fleeting, and I’d grow out of it.
Deny,Deny, Deny. I don’t know how I would have survived without my favorite defense mechanism – denial. I have spent much of my life, on some level in denial.
There was a boy in my class.  His name was Robert.  He was very effeminate.  Everyone, including me called him Suzy. It was the treatment he got that scared me the most about being queer. That kid put up with so much crap.  Looking back I see that he was probably one of the bravest people I’d ever known. 
It took tremendous courage to get up every day and go to a school and take that kind of abuse. 
Denial, I was good at it.  I had to be.  There is no way that I would have anyone know this secret about me. I wasn’t as brave as Robert, I would have rather died.  Truly.
Many of you know my friend Rev. Eunice Iliya from Nigeria. We have been friends for over twelve years.  I will never forget the day that I came out to her.  She still tells folks that I am the first gay person she ever met.
After a long hiatus in her annual conference she has finally been appointed as a District Superintendent.  Eunice was out of favor with her last Bishop who refused to appoint her to a church because she took an unpopular stand against injustice toward LGBT people in the church. 
Her new Bishop, John Wesley, also an acquaintance of mine, is more progressive, but cannot publically come out in favor of LGBT Equality in the church. 
Who will march with Bishop Carcaño, Robert, Eunice and me? - We will!
In July my spouse Roy and I, after 32 years together, got legally married in Binghamton NY.  We were married in Tabernacle United Methodist Church by United Methodist pastor Rev. Steve Heiss.  Although not directly a result of our wedding, Steve was brought up on charges of performing same sex marriages in his church, two violations of the discipline.  He met with his Bishop and his accuser on August 1 in Syracuse NY.
Here are some thoughts that Steve Shared immediately after his meeting with the Bishop.
“By the end of the meeting, I had reason to believe that the charges brought against me might be dismissed if I would promise not to officiate at any more same-sex weddings.
I cannot imagine a scenario in which I would agree to that.
And so, we now have 90 days to work together toward what is called a “just resolution”.
If after 90 days there is no “just resolution” which the bishop can accept, then the bishop must do what he must do.
My dream for a “just resolution” begins with my bishop dismissing the charges filed against me on the grounds that my actions - reflect obedience to the central teachings of Jesus, confirm the best and highest reading of the UMC Discipline, and do, in truth, spring from the Spirit of God herself.
If that could happen . . . our UM church could finally begin to proclaim that we want to be a 21st century church – no longer relying on the crumbling architecture of a 19th century understanding of human sexuality.
The prize of peace is so tantalizingly close!”
I can relate to the woman who was crippled of spirit for so many years. I am grateful to Rev. Steve Heiss for his brave act of disobedience to an oppressive discipline in favor of justice for Roy and I and others like us. Who will march with Rev. Steve? - We will!
Bishop Webb, Please consider in Rev. Steve’s words, “obedience to the central teachings of Jesus, and confirm the best and highest reading of the UMC Discipline” in this matter.
Rolland (Rolly) Loomis

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