Thursday, May 30, 2013
Leaders Need to Lead
In the wilderness, the people of Israel complained to Moses because they had no water. They cursed him for leading them out of Egypt so that they could die in the desert. Moses complained to God about the complaining of the people. God responded with a promise of water, but only if Moses would lead and “Go ahead of the people.” And when he went ahead, he would find God, “standing there in front of you.”
There are two messages here:
1. God is always leading us into the future.
2. Leaders need to lead.
A few days ago my friends (Facebook friends) at “Believe Out Loud” posted a picture of United Methodist Bishop Martin Mclee and commended him for speaking out against hate crimes. McLee said in part:
“The problem of bias crimes directed at members of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Community continues. As Christians, we are called to respond. Let us begin by offering prayers for the victims and families of those harmed by hate crimes. I encourage pastors to provide anti-bias leadership by teaching and preaching about the harm of directing violence against anyone.”
In spite of the fact that opposition to hate crimes ought to be a no-brainer, statements condemning such violence are important and necessary. And pastors should give leadership by preaching and teaching about such issues.
I wish that Bishop McLee had shown similar leadership in his pastoral letter regarding the situation of the Rev. Thomas Ogletree who faces a church trial for officiating at the marriage of two gay men. In his letter to the New York Conference of the United Methodist Church, Bishop McLee wrote:
“Many of you may have read the recently published article in The New York Times that centered on same sex marriage and The United Methodist Church. The confidentiality requirements of the complaint process prevent me from discussing the case in detail. However, as is the case on many issues confronting the church today, there are multiple perspectives associated with human sexuality.”
That’s all he said about the issue. The letter went on for several paragraphs saying that the United Methodist Church is concerned about many important issues and that we are not a one issue denomination and we have work to do in the world. All of that is true and right and good. But he basically said nothing about the issue at hand.
Our denominational stance against full equality for our gay and lesbian sisters and brothers is not just a bureaucratic technicality. It has real world consequences. And it does emotional violence to innocent people. Emotional violence is not equivalent to physical violence, but it matters. And the emotional violence of telling people they are “less than” can encourage those who are inclined to be bullies.
Bishop McLee is constrained by the Discipline of the United Methodist Church. And he believes it is his duty to uphold that Discipline by letting the trial process unfold.
But while enforcing the Discipline, he could also say that on this issue it is simply wrong.