Word from Winkler — The sky is not falling

The Boy Scouts of America decided it’s now okay for gay young men to become scouts, although gay men are still not permitted to be scout leaders. The decision caused some Mormons, Baptists, Catholics and United Methodists to warn that the sky is falling, and declare they will not allow their local churches to sponsor scouting troops. The Southern Baptist Convention probably will cut all ties to Boy Scout troops.

I hope The United Methodist Church will not join this stampede of panic and hate.

I hope The United Methodist Church will not join this stampede of panic and hate.

We Christians have a responsibility to uphold the tenets of our faith and to denounce fraudulent teachings. At times and in serious instances, Christians have been derelict in carrying out this responsibility.

False teachings

The Bible has been used for centuries, for instance, to disparage other faiths, keep women out of church leadership, justify war and support the enslavement of people of color. Snippets of Scripture have been used to dress up patriarchal and racist claptrap. When false teachings have at long last been confronted and cast aside, “defenders of the faith” have always asserted that biblical standards have been lowered.

But, my friends, God loves everyone without reservation.

In reality, the denomination had finally acknowledged it had been seduced by counterfeit teachings.

When Methodists finally embraced the leadership of clergywomen and desegregated denominational structures, some naysayers left the denomination while others vowed to resist. There were those who said biblical teachings were being ignored. In reality, the denomination had finally acknowledged it had been seduced by counterfeit teachings, and agreed it was time to move on.

Similarly, the Boy Scouts have made a step forward by recognizing the wrong and the harm it has caused to young gay men. Let us pray they take the next step and cease their discrimination against adult gay men as well.

I hope our denomination will soon follow the example of the Boy Scouts and remove the condemnatory language in our Social Principles against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people. I yearn for us to cease the persecution of preachers such as 79-year-old Thomas Ogletree, retired dean of Yale Divinity School, who officiated last year at the same-sex wedding of his own son.

I confess I did not expect the Boy Scouts to make this change before The United Methodist Church got around to eliminating its own negative language and practices regarding LGBT people. Upon further consideration, however, it occurred to me that we did not get around to ordaining women clergy until more than 30 years had passed since they achieved the right to vote. We didn’t desegregate our denomination until 14 years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that school desegregation was illegal.

Why should I have expected us to be in the vanguard ahead of the Scouts?

Antiquated prejudice

Last year, I had a visit from a 15-year-old United Methodist Eagle Scout who told me he was committed to changing the Boy Scouts’ discriminatory policies against gay males. He said many of his friends refused to join the scouts because of the exclusionary treatment of gay males.

I wasn’t surprised. For years, my own children, like many other young people, have viewed the hatred of LGBT people as an antiquated prejudice perpetuated by a church that is out of touch with their generation.

On many occasions, I have predicted to United Methodist audiences that our denomination’s condemnation of LGBT people will eventually end — not out of a blinding flash of theological insight, but due to generational change.

I am confident that we will not disobey Scripture as long as we do not cross one essential line in the sand: that Christ’s love for all of us is unconditional.

Letter to the Editor