Rainbow Crossing members worked through several avenues in 2005 and 2006 to have dialogue about inclusivity. Among other activities, we met with small groups within the Church, participated in a pastor-led Bible study to discuss the often quoted passages purportedly about homosexuality, placed signed statements in the bulletin and became involved in organizations external to FUMC.
As part of an education process, we placed 15 questions and answers in the bulletin in the fall of 2006. There are now 16 questions and answers.
Rainbow Crossing Questions and Answers – 2013
1. Why do some people wear rainbow ribbons or crosses?
They are members or supporters of Rainbow Crossing, and are demonstrating in a public way their celebration of Christian diversity and their desire for equality for all persons within the church. These ribbons and crosses symbolize a special welcome to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender community, whose symbol of pride is a rainbow.
2. What is Rainbow Crossing?
It is a grassroots organization within First United Methodist Church of Ann Arbor (FUMC), organized in January of 2005. Rainbow Crossing is bound by the belief that God’s grace is for all persons and thus the practices of the First United Methodist Church and the policies of the United Methodist Church (UMC) should be inclusive of all persons.
3. Why does Rainbow Crossing focus on sexual orientation and gender identity?
We focus on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (L,G,B,T) community because they are the ONLY group of people singled out by the United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline as objects of deliberate discrimination. Thankfully, the UMC no longer discriminates against divorced persons, single persons, women, or racial minorities, but we do, as a Church, deny certain rights to “homosexual persons.”
4. What is sexual orientation?
Sexual orientation, like culture, ethnicity, gender and personality traits, is one component of a person’s identity. It is the emotional, romantic, sexual, or affectional attraction that one person feels toward another. Thus, a person can feel varying degrees of attraction for any gender. Sexual orientation may change over time and does not necessarily predict gender identity.
5. What is gender identity?
Gender identity is also a component of a person’s identity. It is how we feel and express our gender. This expression can be through both behavior and personal appearance. Gender identity is how we see ourselves as a man, a woman or a transgender individual.
6. Do people choose their sexual orientation?
The leading American medical associations agree that neither heterosexual people nor lesbians or gay men choose their sexual orientation. In other words, sexual orientation is not a choice nor is it a preference. In fact, suggesting that sexual orientation is a choice or a preference is offensive to others. Further, these health organizations representing nearly half a million professionals, agree that reparative therapy (conversion from one sexual orientation to another) is not effective and may in fact be harmful to those being asked to change (usually homosexual people). Persons may change their sexual behavior, but it is highly unlikely their sexual orientation will change.
7. What does LGBT stand for?
These letters are an acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender. It is a broader term than homosexuality, which risks an inference of abnormality, disease, criminality, or sinfulness. While no subset of this group is more important than any other, the letters are sometimes changed around (such as TBLG) to indicate that transgender and bisexual people are often subject to greater risk of discrimination and assault than lesbians and gay men, and thus should be mentioned first. Gay refers to males with a sexual orientation toward males. Lesbian refers to females with a sexual orientation toward females. Bisexual refers to persons who are attracted to more than just one gender. Transgender people may feel that the sex or gender assigned at birth (female or male) is a false description of themselves, and may transition to another sex or gender role. You may also see the acronym LGBTCQ to include those (C & Q) who are curious or questioning their sexual orientation.
8. What do the Scriptures say about homosexuality?
Most Christians agree that Scripture is our highest source of guidance and instruction in faith. Interpreting Scripture, however, becomes a point of some disagreement. Wesleyan heritage directs us to a self-conscious use of tradition, experience, and reason in interpreting Scripture. And, Scripture along with tradition, reason, and experience are the four pillars United Methodists use for theological thought and discernment. This becomes vital in our discussion about homosexuality.
The Biblical passages that some have used to take a stance against homosexuality include:
– Genesis 19:1-29 (Sodom)
– Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 (prohibition by Levitical Law)
– 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10 (Paul’s condemnation of homosexuals and effeminate), and
– Romans 1:24-27 (men giving up natural intercourse).
Biblical scholars are not in agreement about how to interpret these passages. Are they about homosexuality, or are they about inhospitality, exploitation, and idolatry? Given the difficulties in Biblical interpretation, it is probably important that we exercise caution before using these few Biblical passages to condemn gay and lesbian persons today.
The word “homosexuality” was not coined until the late 1800s so it does not appear in a rightly interpreted translation of the Bible. As readers of the Bible, we must rely on the translations of Biblical scholars for their understanding of what Scriptures mean. Scripture does not speak to loving, committed homosexual relationships. And Jesus did not say anything about homosexuality.
Perhaps what we need to keep in mind is that Jesus’ message overwhelmingly encourages us to love our neighbor, be humble, avoid being judgmental, and to care for people who are hurting and marginalized by society.
9. What is The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church?
The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church is the book of policy for the UMC. It outlines our history and theology, as well as structure, policies, and procedures by which United Methodists govern themselves. Every four years the General Conference of the United Methodist Church amends and clarifies The Discipline.
10. What does The Book of Discipline say about homosexuality?
The Discipline gives a mixed message about homosexuality. It says, “We recognize that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons” and that “Homosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth.” It also states, “Certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for homosexual persons.” It also “implore[s] family and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends,” and that “we commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.” But it continues to say that the UMC does not “condone the practice of homosexuality” and “consider[s] this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.” The Discipline prohibits a “self-avowed practicing homosexual” from ordained ministry. A self-avowed, practicing homosexual is one who openly acknowledges their sexuality to those in the Church. Thus, a person in an open and loving committed relationship with another person of the same sex is prohibited from becoming an ordained United Methodist pastor.
11. What does it mean to be a reconciling congregation?
A reconciling congregation welcomes all persons, specifically including LGBT persons through a public statement of affirmation. This is the only group of people expressly made to feel unwelcome by the language of the Discipline, and the only group denied full rights of participation in the UMC. Therefore, the reconciling congregation’s statement intentionally welcomes all people, with specific mention of LGBT people. A reconciling congregation lives the UMC motto of Open Doors, Open Hearts, Open Minds.
12. Are there already congregations or ministries in the Detroit Conference that are reconciling?
Central United Methodist Church in Detroit is a reconciling congregation. Our own Wesley Foundation Campus Ministry has been a reconciling ministry since 1996. Nationally, reconciling communities include 375 reconciling congregations, 41 campus ministries, 122 communities/ministries and 25,000+ individuals. (Figures provided by Reconciling Ministries Network in February 2013)
13. What is the position of FUMC’s Leadership Council on being reconciling?
On November 7, 2006, the Leadership Council passed a motion to forward the proposed Welcoming Statement with its support and approval to the church conference on January 7, 2007, for an all-church vote. The proposed Welcoming Statement (adopted on January 7, 2007) says:
As congregants of the First United Methodist Church of Ann Arbor, we welcome and affirm all persons. We are intentional in being inclusive of those of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender orientations, all genders, ethnicities, nationalities, and abilities. In modeling the ministry of Jesus Christ, we shall all journey together into full participation in the life of the United Methodist Church and a closer relationship with God.
14. What do FUMC pastors have to say about being a Welcoming Congregation?
The appointed pastors of First United Methodist Church of Ann Arbor respect The Discipline of the United Methodist Church. However, they disagree with The Discipline when it states that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teachings, and support the need for the church to be open to all people and fully employ the gifts and graces of all people including those of the LGTBQA (lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, queer and allies) community. The pastors are supportive and encouraging to those ministries who seek to be “Reconciling,” “Open,” and/or “Welcoming,” to the LGTBQA community. The pastors of the FUMC understand that there will be opinions that differ from their own and that respectful discussion of those differences is healthy.
15. What would it mean to me to be part of a reconciling congregation?
As Christians, we strive to follow Christ’s acts of welcome and love for all. But the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church contains unwelcoming language about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons. To be reconciling simply means that we would expressly welcome this specific group of persons into our midst to journey with us in our Christian faith. FUMC would adopt a welcoming statement to include LGBT persons in particular. This would express our disagreement with the unwelcoming Discipline language and our wish to be inclusive of all people. The Scriptures would continue to be the highest source of guidance in our faith, and using them as our guide, we would intentionally welcome all. A reconciling congregation is still bound by the Discipline. Thus, we would still be prohibited from performing same sex marriages, and self-avowed practicing homosexuals would be barred from ordination.
16. How can I find out more?
– Contact any one of the FUMC pastors at 662-4536.
– Call or email Linda or Ryan Haywood at 485-1160 (firstname.lastname@example.org) .
– Explore your thoughts and feelings within small group ministries at FUMC.
– Listen to all viewpoints with respect and caring.
For additional resources see www.rmnetwork.org, the website of the Reconciling Ministries Network.