Straightsplaining in the UMC

For three years, the United Methodist Church has been engaged in a denomination-wide process of “straightsplaining” to the LGBTQ community.

Actually, you could make a strong case that we’ve been straightsplaining since 1972.

What is “straightsplaining?”

Go ahead, Google it.

It’s exactly what you think it is. It’s the rainbow flag community’s version of “Mansplaining.”

“Straightsplaining” is straight CIS-gendered people “explaining” what is best *for* gay people, *to* gay people, but without actually talking *with* gay people.

With a very few and notable exceptions, this is what the United Methodist Church has been doing for three solid years. And it’s time for that to stop.

Need proof that most of the talking going on is “straightsplaining?”

“Methodists in New Directions” are actually hosting a forum titled, “What, You Haven’t Talked to a Queer Delegate Yet?”
Their posts then includes: #withnotabout

Yes, yes, yes…to this hashtag… “With, not about.”

After Tuesday — after whatever does or does not happen in St Louis— we need pastors, lay leaders, ordinary lay folk, and members of the hierarchy who will covenant to *stop* the straightsplaining.

Imagine, if you will, this kind of three-year conversation —the one we have just had in our denomination— happening about *women,* not gay people.

See? You can’t even do it. Because that would LITERALLY be mansplaining.

You can’t imagine it, because you know that women themselves, and the men and queer folk who love them, would rise up in unison and say “That’s sexist!”

What about African-Americans? Can you imagine a three-year conversation ABOUT the future of African-Americans in the United Methodist Church where, predominantly, the conversation was White people talking to White people?

Time…and time…and time again, I have witnessed the same thing over the years. I have witnesses straight, CIS gendered United Methodists talking about United Methodist *structure,* rather than LEADING WITH about their actual support, love, and care of and for actual gay people.

Time and time again, for three years, I have witnessed something like the following, from CIS gender United Methodists.

Question: “What do you believe about LGBTQ persons?”

Answer: “I believe we should all live together as one church.”

But, see, that’s not an answer to the asked-question. That’s like being asked “What do you think about African-Americans?” and answering, “You know, I’ve always loved mid-century modern architecture…”

It’s a non-sequitur.

Truth is, the entire *process* of these past three years was DESIGNED this way.

On the precipice of what some leaders believed to be a disaster at the 2016 General Conference, the process on “A Way Forward” was birthed. But that process, predominantly, has been concerned with STRUCTURE, not PEOPLE. No matter which of the four plans you advocate, they all provide a structural change to a people problem.

Gay and lesbian people are *not* an issue, and not a problem. They have NEVER been our problem. Our polity is.

No matter what happens next week in St. Louis, all United Methodists will still be left with a basic question:

How will we incarnate the love of Jesus for and with LGBTQ people? What specific things will we do? What will we say to make sure they understand they are truly welcome in our congregations, regardless of the St. Louis outcome?”

If you are frustrated by what I am saying, or if you are confused, perhaps analogies to other social movements will help.

It’s widely accepted today that racism stops when WHITE people stand up to racism, when they acknowledge it, instead of just saying “I have a black friend, and we get along just fine…”

I recently wrote about the situation with Virginia politicians and “blackface,” and I suggested that it could have ended quite differently for Northum if he’d just acknowledged how he’d changed over the years. If he’d said, “Yes, I did racists things in my past, but God has changed my heart, and I know now I was wrong.”

I’ve heard many pundits of color say that this would likely have made a HUGE difference in the way this situation would have played out.

We need folks in the UMC to do this. The Bishops, for example, put out a pretty decent letter addressed to the LGBTQ community, acknowledging the harm that has been done through this process. This was a very good step.

I do know individual delegates who have also done this. For years, I’ve told the story of my dear friend, Richard Hearne, and how beautiful and powerful his story of changing his heart on these issues. I won’t recount it here, but it’s a powerful example of the confessional change of heart that we need from straight people.

And after that, we need denominational leaders to say, “Here is how we will all live together now…now that we are in this new reality.”

This is different from saying “We should all live together.”

We need *specifics*

“Here is HOW we will live together…”

We have got to, got to, got to stop protecting institutions over people. We will lose *both* the institutions *and* the people, if we continue to do this.

Everything I have learned in past twenty years of ministry has led me to this inescapable truth of the previous two sentences.

By the way, it’s also in line with what Jesus said about how we should live.

Jesus said that we will lose the things we try the most to keep, and we keep the things (including our lives) that we are most willing to give up.

Jesus also told us to love “God, self, and neighbor.”
Jesus never said to love “God, self, and buildings.”

Dear United Methodists, whatever happens this week: Lead from your personal convictions about actual gay people. I hope that means coming out in full support of LGBTQ persons in the life of the church.

And understand that straightsplaining is only ever possible from our incredibly “privileged” position. And that, like all privilege, it’s the failure to recognize it that causes us the most problems. My dear friend, Rev. Michael Baughman said this better than I ever could, in a post yesterday:

“Those of us who are heterosexual and in places of authority in the United Methodist Church need to own privilege in saying that whatever happens next Wednesday, the church is going to be okay. Privilege allows heterosexual church leaders to retreat from the anxiety experienced by LGBTQ Methodists.”

Amen and amen. I am genuinely convicted by these words. I hope all straight preachers are.

I *get* that this is hard time in the life of the church.
I *get* that the future of the denomination is at stake.

But I’m pretty sure that in midst of our massively overblown worries, Jesus would tell us, “Is not life more than food, and the body more than a building?”

Love people. Put people over institutional preservation, and it will never be easy, but you can never go wrong. (And you’ll sleep better at night too…)

So….what do I think is going to happen in St. Louis?

My strong hunch is: Nothing.

I’ve believed this from the first day that The Way Forward was announced. I was encouraged to give the process time. OK, we all have.

So, now that we’re on the brink of the called session, while I’m confident there is a *path* to change, it seems to me the most statistically *likely* result is four days of arguing and, once again, no change. (I have reasons for this belief which I will post in the comments section, so as not to make this any longer than it already is…) I basically put the likelihood of the *any* plan being adopted at about 20 percent.

But the day after General Conference, the one thing I know is clear is this: the time for anyone who claims to be supporter of LGBTQ persons to remain silent and only say “we should all live together” will be OVER AND GONE. The time for holding our breath will be OVER AND GONE.

It will be time EVERYONE, regardless of theology, to LIVE FROM THEIR CORE VALUES. Edwin Friedman, and systems theory, would say that until we can do that nothing can, or will, ever change.

Friedman reminds us that true leaders self-differentiate around their core values. They can love, serve, and respect those who see things differently than they do. But they alway state and live from those values, and they live with the consequences of living from those values.

Mike Baughman models this in his post of yesterday. He lists off the following bullet points about the post-General Conference world, and calls us to remember:

* God will still call LGBTQ persons to ordained ministry.

* Queer children of Methodist families will still need a church home that sees their sexuality as a gift from God.

* Gay people will still fall in love, desire to make a life-long commitment to one another and welcome God into their marriage. They will naturally want to be able to make those vows in the churches they have built, sustained, and grown up in. Some will just want to hold hands in church without worrying that it will create an “issue” for their pastor to deal with.

* Gay couples will still want their children baptized and spiritually formed in a church that doesn’t claim the baptized child’s parents’ love is “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

* LGBTQ persons will still die (alarmingly earlier than heterosexuals) and their families will need to know that the church accepts their family in death even if it didn’t in life. (Sadly this is *still* a problem in some United Methodist Churches).

* LGBTQ persons in the state of Texas can still be legally discriminated against in the workplace. They will look for places of sanctuary against discrimination.

* LGBTQ teens will still be the highest US demographic to attempt or commit suicide. The church will still be an accomplice to these deaths.

Amen and amen to all of these bullet points. I could not have written it any better.

So, specific prayers for all of us over the next week…

— Pray for all those General Conference delegates.
— Pray for an end to straightsplaining.
— Pray that people might *own* their core values, and live from those core values the best they can, regardless of the cost.
— Pray that we place people above institutions.
— Pray especially for LGBTQ persons, who for these past three years have again found themselves a topic of debate, rather than a partner in ministry.

Pray for a miracle.

“All means all.”

“It’s time.”

Way, way, way past time.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He is Senior Pastor of Kessler Park UMC United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. Previously, he was pastor at Northaven UMC in Dallas for seventeen years. Eric loves to write on topics of spirituality, social justice, music/art and politics. The entries on this blog reflect that diversity of interests. Eric is an avid blogger and published author, and 2017 recipient of the prestigeous Kuchling Humanitarian Award from Dallas’ Black Tie Dinner. (Human Rights Campaign) Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He’s a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named “best judge” by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County, and is currently the longest service district judge in that district. She was re-elected for a fourth term in 2018. They have the world’s best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. Find links to Eric’s music-related websites, at the top of this site’s navigation menu.

4 thoughts on “Straightsplaining in the UMC

    1. David: I want you to know that I typically delete anti-gay posts from my blog as being against the standards of decency I have established.
      However, because these are the very issues being debated here, I will leave this comment standing.

      I will point out, however: You totally just proved my point on “straightsplaining.”

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