Why is a Gay Man at General Conference 2016? (GC2016 Newsletter May 14)

Gary Shephardby Gary Shephard

Why is a gay man at GC 2016? The struggle within the church for recognition of our humanity and differentness and for acceptance has gone on since the 1970s. Good grief, the Supreme Court finally recognized our right to marry, something I thought I’d never live to see, and still we have no guarantee that The UMC will change in 2016, or that it will ever change.

Yet change it must. This is a very important thing for us to accomplish. Look around us.

Yes, we have marriage thanks to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Affirmation LogoWe don’t yet have countrywide protection against discrimination in housing or employment. In a medical emergency while traveling, could we wind up in, say, a religiously oriented hospital, and have critical medical care or even admission denied to us, or have our spouse denied access to us or to make decisions for us? Could renters find themselves homeless on short notice because of a property owner willing to break a lease to satisfy their homophobia? Could we find ourselves without employment because of our real or perceived sexual orientation?

“But,” I hear some argue, “why struggle with The UMC? Why not give it up and go fight for legal rights?”

Unfortunately, human beings aren’t compartmentalized. Strictures in one part of someone’s world are going to bleed over into other parts of their world. We need to work this on several fronts. Yes, it’s exhausting. However, unless we can get rid of religious objections, religion is always going to be used as a weapon against us to classify us as the unworthy other.

Once we get rid of religious concerns, assurance of our civil rights would, I think, be that much easier to obtain, should the civil rights lag behind religion in general.

I’ve been a United Methodist for 45 years. This church is in my blood. I’ll be at GC with Affirmation and LYNC (Love Your Neighbor Coalition) until I’m too weak and infirm to come, or until we finally see justice for all in The UMC.

Gary Shephard is long-time activist with Affirmation and retired mainframe geek.

Affirmation offers 24-hour counseling during GC2016: call 612-425-5215

Read the whole issue: (PDF)