I grew up hearing the story. The morning after I was born, my daddy came to visit mom and me with yellow roses (our one nod to the fact that we were in Texas I suppose), and reported that he had dreamed about walking me down the aisle. (To which my mom replied: “She was just born! Let her be a baby and a child!”)
And when I was coming to grips with my sexuality, one part of what made the thought of telling my parents so hard was that at the time (and by “at the time” i mean less than 10 years ago!) was thinking that in living out who I truly was, I was killing that dream. (The other hard part was all the stories you hear of parents who are uber supportive of gay rights until it’s their child. But I didn’t need to worry.)
Two years ago, I called my daddy after the Pride Run (because news came too late to call, and I had to be at the race too early to call) and greeted him with “Well, if I ever find someone and I’m still in New York, your dream CAN come true!!” That was my way of telling him Marriage Equality had just passed in New York.
He is currently working hard with his church to try and get it to become a reconciling congregation. They’re pretty much seen as such – indeed they have a reconciling Sunday School class – but without making that statement, without writing their welcoming statement and voting as a church to officially become one, it will only be via word of mouth and they as a congregation will not be listed on the RMN website.
When General Conference (the overall governing body for the United Methodist Church) met and failed to make any movement on LGBTQ issues, and when it seemed there was some strong resistance to the reconciling movement at his church, daddy gave some serious thought to leaving the United Methodist Church, which would mean relinquishing hie deacon’s orders (he still holds the title though he’s retired). I told him then – and I’d tell him now – that I don’t want him to do anything to jeopardize his pension as I know he and mom depend on that. Ultimately he has decided to remain and keep working for the reconciling movement.
And yet, I know that if I were to meet someone and we were to move into a relationship and desire to be married, right now any United Methodist minister or deacon (as deacons can perform a marriage ceremony) is potentially subject to disciplinary action by canonical trial. In I believe every single one of the cases brought forward, the minister who performed the ceremony had been defrocked and essentially lost it all materially. I don’t know if that applies to a deacon (retired or no) who walks his daughter down the aisle…I don’t know if that has come up in a trial yet.
But the bottom line is I have no doubt my daddy would do whatever I needed for him to support me if the time ever comes.
Which is why it breaks my heart to read this article from the New York Times. (Also see this article from GLAAD’s blog.) Basically? The Rev. Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree, a United Methodist pastor and the retired Dean of Yale Divninty School, and a scholar specializing in Christian Ethics, presided over the marriage of his gay son. He has five children – two of whom are gay, and his lesbian daughter was married in a non-Methodist ceremony in Massachusetts. I love his quote about his response to his son’s request to perform the ceremony.
“I was inspired,” Dr. Ogletree said. “I actually wasn’t thinking of this as an act of civil disobedience or church disobedience. I was thinking of it as a response to my son.”
One of the people charging Dr. Ogletree wanted Dr. Ogletree to “apologize and never perform such a ceremony again” – which Dr. Ogletree refused. Another great quote…
“I said, this is an unjust law,” he recalled telling Mr. Paige. “Dr. King broke the law. Jesus of Nazareth broke the law; he drove the money changers out of the temple. So you mean you should never break any law, no matter how unjust it is?”
The United Methodist Church – as it often does…if you’ve ever seen the denominational light bulb joke, the UMC response is right on – is contradictory on how it views LGBTQ individuals. While it sees us as loved and valued children of God who are welcome to participate in church activities, it also says that our “lifestyle” is “incompatible with Christian teaching”. And many United Methodist churches have door mats and bulletins and such that use the “official” slogan of “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors” while not being truly open to all God’s children.
As the Times article says,
“The result is contradictory, Dr. Ogletree said. ‘The church’s official motto is open minds, open hearts, open doors, even though our rules on same-sex marriage contradict that claim,’ he said.
“Professor Ogletree is now working with Methodists in New Directions, a New York group that is part of a growing movement to change the church’s rules. More than 1,100 United Methodist clergy members — of about 45,000 in the nation — have expressed a willingness to perform same-sex ceremonies, even if it means they may face suspension or censure. But the issue is creating a deep rift with the church’s evangelical, conservative wing, which is being bolstered by the spread of the 12-million-member denomination internationally into Africa and Asia.”
While he is retired, so the consequences would be relatively minor, Dr. Ogletree made a conscious choice to stand up for love, to stand up for what he believes (and clearly I agree) is right. And while he was making a conscious statement for love by doing it, he was primarily being a father and showing a father’s love to a child who simply asked his dad to perform his wedding ceremony.
And I have little doubt my own daddy would do the same if I asked him to.
Such is a father’s love.