Recently, the Vermillion River District Committee on Ministry of the Illinois-Great Rivers Annual Conference (IGRC) unanimously approved Isaac Simmons as a candidate for ministry. Now, a candidacy approval in a DCOM is not unusual in itself. In fact, this process continues in every Annual Conference’s districts as the church continues to assess the gifts and calling of her people. What makes this particular approval unusual and yet another underlying example as to why the UMC is so inescapably on a road of separation is that Isaac Simmons is openly gay. In fact, he is not only gay, but he is a publicly practicing drag queen. Currently, Mr. Simmons serves at Hope United Methodist Church in Bloomington, Illinois as their Project & Remote Learning Coordinator. His life in drag is not something reserved and removed from his service. In fact, Mr. Simmons, better known as ‘Penny Cost’, performs in drag both independently and at times as a part of Hope Church’s Sunday services.
Now, for those who have read recent Methodist related news articles or even have ventured as far as viewing one of Hope UMC’s services, when you initially see ‘Penny Cost’ for the first time, your attention is immediately grabbed. You focus your eyes and try to perceive what is before you. You quietly ask within your head, ‘Did I mis-see this?’. ‘There’s something different, something odd, something askew, even perhaps something bizarre’. And frankly, that reaction is every bit normal as to how we, the vast majority of us, perceive the outside world. Your innate tendency is to categorize whatever you see in those terms as dictated by the natural world you live in. And yet you find that you cannot, because that which is before you draws identifiers from more than just one of those nature-given exclusive and distinctive categories.
God’s first witness and revelation of Himself to man is nature itself. Romans 1 tells us that his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. And in that created world there are distinctives. There are things clearly distinct and made different than others. Fish are distinct from birds. The creeping things of the ground are distinct from the animals that walk upon that ground. And, there are distinctions within those distinctions as well. There are fish but they are made male and female. The beasts that walk the earth are also made male and female. And, even absent all religious explanations, a mere biological observation of the human anatomy gives witness to a distinction among the human species. The Creator has placed the entire human race into two distinct groups. They are either male, exclusively, or female, exclusively.
But it is not just nature alone that bears witness to a Creator’s intent to have sexual distinctions amongst His creation. Indeed, that same Creator goes on to give His own revealed voice to the same. Jesus bore witness to that very God-revealed word to mankind in Matthew 19:4 when He said to the Pharisees, ‘Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female?’. The reason so many of us struggle with the confusion and incomprehension within our heads upon seeing anyone in drag is that such a sight violates those absolute distinctions that both God’s nature and God’s word have witnessed to us all along.
And it is especially so when we see the exactitude of God’s word in maintaining those distinctions. One verse in particular from among God’s moral law is showcased in Deuteronomy 22:5, ““A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.” Although this prohibition is found only here in this book of the Pentateuch, it nonetheless clearly establishes the Creator’s intent that the distinction between male and female among His human race was to be exclusively maintained.
Now, among us all, there is that occasional desire to gain understanding beyond the proverbial ‘because I told you so’. So, there is a very simple reason as to why God commands this distinction and sees this skewing of the gender distinctions as an abomination. To dress, act, and/or live as the opposite of your Creator-assigned sex, or some amalgamation between the two, is a rebellion against the One who created us male and female. It is akin to saying to the Creator of all things, ‘(at least in my case) You got it wrong’. It is the clay pot dictating to the potter where the handle should be placed and how the spout of the jar should be formed. It calls into question the absolute inerrancy and omniscience of God by saying ‘you don’t know me’ because you made a mistake in the gender you’ve assigned or even that you’ve assigned a gender to me at all.
Yet, the Methodist world is led to ask (or at least should be led), should our denomination really be surprised? Should we be shocked by a unanimous approval of a candidate that, at least on the surface level, seems to not only defy the requirements of the discipline but violates God’s immutable imperatives as well? Is not this latest ‘progressive’ manifestation just another indicator of the underlying problem to begin with?
You know they say doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is insanity. I would say that doing nothing over and over again and expecting a different result is exactly the same…. insanity. And yet the nothing we’ve assigned to ourselves for another year is yet another delay in convening a General Conference where we can finally do something and end this destructive insanity of two dueling opinions.
We have heard the calls for patience almost immediately after the GC delay announcement. We have listened to the reasoned pleas to wait upon a properly installed plan in which to peaceably and amicably part ways. And, in a certain regard, I must admit that many of those arguments are sound and will best preserve, prepare, and propel the entities that will continue on after we separate.
But the continued ‘nothing’ begs the question of just how far we will ‘progress’ down the moral ladder before we finally do something. We fell deafeningly silent as a moral voice on divorce decades ago as we did nothing. We pretended that it was none of our business when the unmarried lived together. We then took the next ‘do nothing’ rung down in not only NOT standing against the homosexual movement, but some among us actually made the movement a virtue, clothing it in the language of love and acceptance. And now we ‘progress’ a rung lower on that moral ladder in our trajectory of ever doing nothing.
And so, one may rightly ask, ‘How shall we, the church, escape our own condemnation before our Creator in our continuing to do nothing?’. In my opinion, this latest manifestation of where a do nothing church has and will continue to progress is why, I believe, that the Protocol must…..it just MUST be added as that 13th agenda item at the coming Special General Conference in May.