I grew up a Methodist. Epworth Methodist Church in Belleville, Main Street in Alton, Godfrey Methodist.
Joe Evers was the pastor at Epworth. I would know him for a long time, as he played a pivotal role in my life when my mom was killed in 1972. At Epworth, I remember Brother Joe railing against presidential candidate John F. Kennedy—the Catholics would take over. This fit my father’s worldview to a tee. Joe himself would later regret his comments. He was capable of self-reflection. Brother Joe would be the first pastor in the history of the Illinois Methodist Church to be tried for the sin of adultery. He ended up selling pots and pans, even asking me if I could lend him money.
At Main Methodist Street, Pastor Henderson, thinking he had spotted future minister talent and wanting to start a fund so I could attend Garret Theological Seminary at Northwestern, invited me to deliver a series of Sunday evening sermons—heavy stuff for a kid. Two talks in, Henderson took me aside and said that Plato’s allegory of the cave was not a fit reference in a sermon. He was probably right, but I was done preaching—show business was calling. Later, he told me my views on the Vietnam War were not acceptable. In other words, hit the road, would-be rev.
This would-be rev hit the road to Godfrey Methodist Church and Judson Souers, a charismatic man if there ever was one. I spent a lot of time in his house, often late at night, talking about books and ideas and drinking beer.
Yesterday, the Methodist convocation in St. Louis voted against inclusion for gay marriage and LGBT folks. Either the church is right, to firmly hold on to “teachings” of a Bible, its Old Testament of which was written by women-hating, ignorant patriarchs (ignorant of the nature and genetics of humans), or the church now—not ignorant of science and genetics and human nature—has a political motive.
Methodism, like all region-based isms, is becoming irrelevant. To keep up its numbers, it now appeals to more Methodists in Africa than here. And those Methodists, citing the fact that ministers in homophobic cultures feel they have to ban gay and LBGT rights, or be killed.
The church dies, or the homophobes, the bigots, fill the pews. Stand up for moral right—or be killed. Ironic. Interesting.
Growing up, I slowly became uneasy with the notion of prayer. If God is like Santa Claus, a metaphor, no problem. If: God is a Deity who resides in the clouds, picking and choosing who will die and who will live; all the while, this God encourages entreaties for saving lives and enriching people—the best pray-er of prayer wins. The narcissistic, women-hating patriarchs wrote that “we are in His image” blather.
You are a bigot, or you’re not. Religion is not a cloak to hide in. Subconsciously, we’re all bigots. But acting consciously is what is needed here. We can pray for our internal sins all we want.
Consciously and prayerfully, with no outward sign of shame, with a nod to attendance statistics over morality, over ethics, the Methodist Church has just announced its official stance.