Yet another clergy person is being brought to trial for expressing his authentic self. The twist is that this time it isn't a United Methodist. ELCA pastor Bradley Schmeling of St. John's Lutheran Church in Atlanta, Georgia will be undergoing a hearing beginning January 19. "On August 8, 2006, Bishop Ronald Warren of the Southeastern Synod filed formal charges with the ELCA against Pastor Schmeling because of his committed relationship with Rev. Darin Easler. Currently, the ELCA has a policy that excludes gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in relationships from the ordained ministry" (St. John's website).
I have pledged to be in prayer for St. John's community, for Bradley Schmeling, and for the ELCA. Our communions are coming apart at the seams, bursting with the ignorance of many and the prejudice of some. I hear people raise up the Bible as a defense for their hurtful attitude toward and sometimes violent actions against GLBT people. While I could argue (and win, I must say) a prooftexting fight with these folks, what astounds me the most is the amount of weight they have given to seven scriptures that have been cherry picked from the Bible. I have to say that I've never seen a pastor on trial for encouraging her/his affluent church to remain aloof, bigotted, and segregated. And yet the Bible is clear, consistent, and unrelenting on the moral failure of those who oppress and refuse aid to people most vulnerable. I've never seen a denomination take a stance outlawing behavior that harms our environment. Yet the first thing that Adam and Eve are told to do is to tend to God's creation. I've never heard of someone being forced from office or removed from their orders for not loving their neighbor as themselves. So,while I heartily disagree with those who find GLBT folks in a state of sin just for being who God has made them to be, it is the unbelievable hyprocrisy of those who have made this so great a sin that it overshadows much more fundamental moral failings listed consistently in the Bible.
I pray that Lutherans will find their way to the light even if we Methodists are still living in shadow. I pray for bitterness to remain far away from the hearts of those who attend St. John's; it will be tempting to hate those who hate you, to hold in contempt those who hold you in contempt. I pray for strength and good humor for Bradley Schmeling, someone I have never met and who I consider my brother. I pray for all of us to stop manufacturing prejudice and exporting bigotry and to learn to struggle together toward full communion in God our Creator, our Redeemer, our Sustainer.
The world is vast. And in it we have many opportunities to grow in faith and life. Some of those opportunities are painful and are born from the womb of Injustice. Other opportunities, thank heaven, we welcome more easily. These arise from the womb of Joy. Both Injustice and Joy give birth every day. But won't heaven sing with delight when Justice and Joy are the mothers of this world? Until then I will continue to pray for Methodists, estranged from one another, and for Lutherans, who struggle this week to find a new path.
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