If you’ve ever read the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, you’ll remember the part at the end of Tom Robinson’s trial when Jem and Scout are shocked that Tom was found guilty of a crime he so obviously couldn’t have committed. This was a pivotal moment for the children of Atticus Finch; it was the moment in which they lost their innocence. When Tom is found guilty, the kids realize that even those who seem like good people, can be biased and that they can be blinded by that bias. Jem likens his former innocence to being in a cocoon. He had thought the people around him were “the best in the world”.
This week I can relate to Jem and Scout. I truly felt that the delegates voting at the General Conference of the United Methodist Church would vote for the One Church Plan, allowing individual Methodist churches the choice to ordain and marry LGBTQ members. Our motto after all is “Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.” But instead, the majority of delegates voted for the traditional plan. I wouldn’t have been surprised 25 years ago, but I am a bit surprised today, but I guess that may be due to my own experiences.
When I was young, I was brought up to believe that homosexuality was wrong, but while I was in college, my best friend told me that she was gay. This was a person who had been there for me when I’d been upset, angry, frustrated, and depressed. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I needed to reject the ideas I’d been raised with and accept her for who she was. She has now been with the same woman for over twenty years and married to her for seventeen. I, on the other hand, got divorced after six years of marriage to my first husband so, according to Jesus, I am an adulterer. Who am I to point fingers? I would be a hypocrite, indeed, if I rejected her and said she was doing wrong or that she can’t be in love. All of us have done things that go against scripture…whether it be lying, drinking too much, having lust, cheating someone, disrespecting a parent, not keeping the Sabbath holy, etc. Is sexual immorality wrong? Yes. Is being in a loving, committed relationship with someone who is the same gender wrong? I don’t think so. And let’s face it, Jesus didn’t even say anything against homosexuality. St. Paul is the one who talks about it. This is the same man who said that slaves should be obedient to their masters and women should be quiet in the church and never teach. Let’s not forget also, that homosexuality in Paul’s time mainly took the form of pedophilia, rape, orgies, and temple prostitution, all of which are about lust and not love.
In reading blog posts from several Methodist ministers, I am comforted that they are also disappointed with the outcome of the general conference vote. They talk about how all are still welcome at the table. While that may be true, I worry that members of the LGBTQ community feel as though they are being singled out and excluded even though no one else in our church is being singled out. As I sat in church, listening to my pastor speak today, however, I realized that it may be a bad idea to leave the church as I had been considering. How can I affect change from within if I leave the church? How can I let my voice be heard if I am not present?
Even though Atticus Finch knew all along that he would lose the case, he still represented Tom Robinson. And, surprisingly, the jury was out for quite a while. In fact, one of the Cunninghams from Old Sarum was even pushing for an acquittal. (The Cunninghams had tried to break out Tom Robinson from the prison in order to kill him before the trial.)
I think that one of the statements the author of the book, Harper Lee, was trying to make was that change can happen. It often comes in “baby steps” as Miss Maudie put it, but it can happen. But it won’t come if people remain quiet and don’t speak up for others. What Atticus Finch did in representing a black man accused of raping a white woman placed his business in jeopardy and put his family in danger, but he knew he couldn’t hold his head up if he didn’t. I hope that many in the church who agree with me will speak out against the traditional plan and push for a more inclusive church that recognizes God’s love for ALL of his children.
Photo is in the public domain and may be found at https://www.maxpixel.net/Florida-Sings-Mocking-Bird-Grey-Mockingbird-Bird-2296056