I belong to a divided church.
And some of you who read this will understand how Sundays sees our nation divide – with black people going to black church services, “coloured” people attending “coloured” services, and some white people going to church (most do not go to church at all).
But this is not the division I think of – I am referring to the division between straight and gay people. The Methodist Church of SA has chosen to maintain a distance from gay people. No – this is not overt: as my Bishop’ pastoral letter says : “ We must, and I do, care for them pastorally and with sensitivity.” But this is exactly the divide: “we care for them”.....us and them. “They” are not understood as being “us”. In fact, after the humiliating treatment dished up by straight Christians, I am surprised that there are any gay people left in church.
And to add insult to injury, the MCSA has affirmed that we must be “one and undivided”. But this is not about being in unity with gay people. No, this is about maintaining our unity with those who are anti-gay. Our desire to remain united with the anti-gay lobby outweighs our desire to be one with the gay members of our church. And so we have compromised truth in the name of unity. And we have not even questioned the ethical correctness of this unity.
Here is my pain: the statement that “we are one and undivided” was a statement of courage in the face of the 1958 Apartheid Government’s desire to divide our church on racial lines. We had moral courage – then. We adopted this statement, in the face of a threat by white members to leave our church. We understood that this was a particular kind of unity. It risked division in the name of a greater unity – a unity with the truth of the Gospel of Jesus.
We have lost this. We are so afraid of losing members that we would rather forfeit Gospel truth. I am convinced that the mantra “one and undivided” now gets in the way of our ability to be a church in mission: there are many, many people who look at the Christian Church in bewilderment. All they see is prejudice and bigotry in our response to gay people. And they want nothing to do with us.
Our division undermines our Christian witness.