Questions for Reflection
In each episode, we offer you a few prompts to think about how that day's conversation applies to you. Our supporters over at Buy Me a Coffee now have exclusive access to the PDF versions of all our Questions for Reflection. Join us today!
Beth Demme (00:03):
Welcome to the Discovering our Scars podcast.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:06):
Where we share personal experiences, so we can learn from each other. I'm Steph.
Beth Demme (00:09):
And I'm Beth.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:10):
I've been in recovery for 15 years and am the author of Discovering My Scars, my memoir about what's done in the darkness eventually comes to light.
Beth Demme (00:16):
I'm a lawyer turned pastor, who's all about self-awareness and emotional health, because I know what it's like to have neither of those things.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:23):
Beth and I have been friends for years, have gone through a recovery program together, and when I wanted to start a podcast, she was the only name that came to mind as cohost.
Beth Demme (00:29):
I didn't hesitate to say yes, because I've learned a lot from sharing personal experiences with Steph over the years.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:35):
We value honest conversations and we hope you do, too.
Beth Demme (00:38):
On today's show, we're going to have an honest conversation titled, Should Beth Leave the Methodist Church? That's me.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:45):
Then we'll share a slice of life, and the show will close with Questions for Reflection, where we'll invite you to reflect on the conversation in your own life.
Beth Demme (00:53):
Steph, should I leave the Methodist church?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:55):
Well, you know how much we love the word should. So, hopefully, if you have heard some of our episodes before, you know we're playing with the word should on this one.
Beth Demme (01:05):
Don't should on me.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:05):
We don't should on people, but we sometimes should on our titles because it's fun, it's fun to do. I texted Beth, texted her the other day, and I said, "I think we need to do an episode," because I didn't should on her, "I think we need to do an episode about what is happening in the Methodist Church." And she said, "I don't know. I don't know that other people would care." And I said, "I think it has a global appeal in the sense of the importance of talking about it, what's happening." And even if you aren't someone that goes... I don't go to church and I'm still interested. Even if you don't go to church, even if you, whatever, I still think this is an important topic that I wanted to bring up today. And there are people leaving the United Methodist Church.
Beth Demme (01:52):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:52):
And Beth is a United Methodist pastor-
Beth Demme (01:55):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:55):
... currently, and we'll find out the end of the episode if she is going to stay a United Methodist pastor. (singing)
Beth Demme (02:03):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:05):
But what I want to talk about is what's going on, and I wanted to give my overview and I want to see if I'm right. Because first of all, I used to work at a United Methodist church, that's where we met. And when I worked there, which I left in 2015, and this was in discussion, and had been in discussion I don't even know how long before, because it was towards the end of when I was leaving that I was hearing about this. So, what I'm meant to understand is there are, the United Methodist Church will stay as an entity as it is, but currently on the books it says that pastors cannot marry same-gender couples and LGBTQ+ individuals cannot be pastors or clergy or heads of churches in any way within the Methodist Church.
Beth Demme (03:01):
It does say that; our books do say that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:03):
That's what your books say.
Beth Demme (03:04):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:04):
There is a big portion of the United Methodist Church leadership that wants to change those two things to allow for pastors to marry, literally to marry people that are legally allowed to be married, and want to allow all persons to be clergy and heads of the church, Methodist Church, United Methodist Church.
Beth Demme (03:28):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:28):
Yes. All people, no matter, no discrimination, any person that is called to be-
Beth Demme (03:33):
Right, if they're called and qualified, yes, that in no way would our sexuality disqualify us from serving in that way.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:43):
Yes. There is a huge population that wants to change that verbiage, which I fully support-
Beth Demme (03:48):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:48):
... changing that. But then, there's another big portion that doesn't want to change that. We could go so far as calling it the bigot population. Is that a word we can say?
Beth Demme (04:03):
It gives me pause, but I understand it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:07):
I don't... Well, what's a definition of a bigot.
Beth Demme (04:09):
Well, I just looked it up and the definition of bigot is, "A person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people or other ideas." That's the Britannica definition, and then there's another one, just dictionary.com that says, "A person who is intolerant of any ideas other than his or her own, especially on religion, politics or race."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:32):
So that is a hundred percent the perfect word for the other group of people.
Beth Demme (04:36):
I think I'm just pausing, because it is an ugly word, but it is describing ugly behavior. So, I don't know. It feels a little bit like name-calling, but I understand where it comes from, you know?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:52):
It literally is the term though, the definition is exactly what they are doing. I think if they're listening to this podcast right now, they probably have stopped, because I don't think they want to be called bigots, but based on that definition, that is exactly the truth. Although, I think if we had someone on that side of things, which might be an interesting episode to have, I do think they would say, "Well, the Bible says this and that," they love that. They do love that.
Beth Demme (05:20):
Well, I think they would say that they're not, I think they might take issue with the idea that they're intolerant, because I think they would say there's right and wrong and there's truth and untruth.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:34):
Beth Demme (05:34):
Although, it's also the same crowd that's super into alternative facts, so I don't know about the truth.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:38):
They're using religion to show that they are on the right side of something.
Beth Demme (05:42):
But are really-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:42):
... which is basically what the definition of bigot was, is they will do that.
Beth Demme (05:46):
Yeah, they're really using religion, in my view, they're using religion to oppress a marginalized minority community.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:54):
Yeah, exactly. So, back to my... Maybe this is not a short example of, maybe this is the episode. Okay, so that is, everything that I said so far, is that accurate?
Beth Demme (06:05):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:06):
So, there's two sides within the Methodist church. There's one that wants to do this, and then there's one that I keep calling bigots, but I feel like every time I say it, you give a reaction. So what should I call them?
Beth Demme (06:17):
Let's just call them the traditionalists. That's what they call themselves.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:20):
So, the old people. Okay, that's what we called the-
Beth Demme (06:23):
A lot of them are young, actually.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:25):
So there's traditionalists within the Methodist Church, and the traditionalists are not happy, do not want the Methodist book, what is that called?
Beth Demme (06:36):
The Book of Discipline.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:38):
The Book of Discipline to be changed in these two ways, these two ways, right?
Beth Demme (06:42):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:43):
Two ways. And so, they have decided that they are going to peace out of the Methodist Church and start their own church-
Beth Demme (06:50):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:50):
... called the Global Methodist Church?
Beth Demme (06:53):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:54):
Because they don't want those two things to change, which haven't even actually changed yet within United Methodist Church.
Beth Demme (07:00):
Right. There is a group of people that are intolerant and really holding on tightly to a cultural idea that says that LGBTQ people are deficient and they want to build a denomination on that idea.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:17):
So, basically the Global Methodist Church is being built on the fact that they don't want all types of people in their church in places of leadership, they don't want their pastors to be able to marry just anyone. They want only the right people that they choose to be married by their pastors.
Beth Demme (07:35):
Right. Now, what's a little bit ironic about that particular piece is that pastors always have the freedom to decline a wedding, right? If a very traditional-looking couple came into my office and I had a sense that maybe there was abuse, right? Maybe traditional gender roles are being taken to such an extreme that this woman is actually being mistreated, I could decline to do that wedding.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:06):
Could you call the police?
Beth Demme (08:08):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:08):
Okay. You can do that, too. Okay, good.
Beth Demme (08:11):
Yeah. Yeah. [crosstalk 00:08:11] sense abuse, I would. My point is just that the idea that, that because it is legal to do a same-gender wedding, the idea that a pastor would be made to do a same-gender wedding if they didn't want to, is really silly.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:20):
Beth Demme (08:22):
I mean, that really is a made up issue.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:23):
Beth Demme (08:24):
Because no pastor ever has to perform a wedding. It's not...
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:28):
And back to a previous episode, sin is defined by anything that separates you from God, right. So, for a pastor that's very traditional, would it be a sin for them to marry a same-gender couple? Would that separate them from God?
Beth Demme (08:43):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:44):
So, that would be a sin for them, but it wouldn't be a sin for you because it wouldn't separate you from God?
Beth Demme (08:50):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:52):
So it's very fluid, very-
Beth Demme (08:54):
It is. Which makes traditionalists very uncomfortable. They really want to have-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:58):
Yes or no.
Beth Demme (08:59):
Yes or no. They want to have a red line that they know they can't cross. It's that kind of thing. And often, when that is the case, God ends up being put in a box and that makes me uncomfortable.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:12):
Well, and I like how you, like when we did that sin episode, I really like your approach to sin, because it's not a yes or no, that where I just know, "Okay, that's a sin. That's not." But it really helps me internalize it and me evaluate it and me spend that time with God, because that's what it's about. It's not about what you're telling me, "Oh, yeah, you're sinning. No, you're not." That's not what it's about. It's not about this cut-and-dry thing, it's about me processing this and really, why am I doing this thing? And is this something that is harming my life, harming my relationship? I really love that approach because it actually helps me be connected to God and not just connected to this, "No, don't do this, yes, do that kind of thing," which I don't feel really is a connection.
Beth Demme (10:01):
Right. Connect to God, not to a set of rules that somebody else hands you. And too often, the church has chosen to be known for what Christians are against, or anti-this, and anti-that. It's like, that's not who we are. Why are we defining ourselves that way, or letting ourselves be defined that way? But you have the big picture that there is currently in the United Methodist Book of Discipline, there is a rule that says LGBTQ folks cannot be ordained, cannot serve as pastors and, also, that pastors cannot marry people who are of the same gender, even though it is legal in the United States.
Beth Demme (10:41):
And in anticipation of that changing, there is a group of folks who are leaving the denomination and that is difficult, legally, because the denomination actually owns all the property for United Methodist churches. Each church is not a franchise of the bigger denomination. They actually have to buy their own property, in most cases, and build their own church, but all of that is done for the benefit of the United Methodist Church.
Beth Demme (11:17):
And that goes all the way back to the very beginning of Methodism in the United States, actually, even in England, because John Wesley, who's the founder of this, didn't ever want to be told he couldn't go into a Methodist church. He didn't want to be in a situation where they could keep him out, and so, he's like, "Okay, well, we're all in this together. We're in a connection." Which means, when somebody wants to leave with their property, it gets complicated legally.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:45):
So how is that going to work?
Beth Demme (11:47):
Well, so the... What's happening right now is there is a provision that allows them to exit the denomination. Any individual congregation can hold a vote of their entire membership and vote to exit the denomination if two-thirds of the people who vote agree that that's what they want to do, and they have to, there're some, again, legal things they have to do. They have to get insurance and agree to indemnify the denomination. Which means, if somebody were to come back and say, "Well, while you are a United Methodist congregation, this negligent act harmed me." Well, no, that's on them. They disconnect from the denomination's assistance in that, and they also would have to pay their fair share of something called apportionments, which is their fair share of the overall cost of running the church in, in the same-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:37):
If they get the amount of votes. They need 60% of the vote, you said?
Beth Demme (12:41):
Two thirds, so 66.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:42):
They need 66% of the vote in order to leave, and if they get that vote with their congregation members, then they will be able to leave with their building.
Beth Demme (12:51):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:53):
Was that something that was always in the books or they added that?
Beth Demme (12:57):
That actually was added at our last international meeting, which we call General Conference. Well, it was changed to make it possible for folks to leave. Now, what's interesting is, the folks who are leaving now, the traditionalists, they wanted to make sure it wasn't easy to leave, because they anticipated that the progressives would leave. So, in some ways that strategy has backfired, I guess, is what I'm saying. That now, they're the ones who are opting to use that clause when they thought, "Oh, this will benefit us because we'll make it hard for-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:30):
Oh, so then how did it get decided that the progressives would be the ones that stay United Methodist and then the bigots would leave? Traditionalists, sorry.
Beth Demme (13:41):
Friends, if you're listening, I don't think you're a bad person. I think you have some wonky ideas, but I don't think you're a bad person. Happy to be in conversation and in connection with you. I think what happened is, after we had our last General Conference, which is our international meeting, the people who get to vote at that international meeting, they're called delegates, and they are elected by annual conferences, which, it's not exactly state by state, but you can think about it that way.
Beth Demme (14:08):
So, we had the big international meeting and this idea was affirmed that we would not ordain LGBTQ individuals. Well, then the next time we had statewide meetings, people elected delegates who would have voted differently, right? Elected delegates who want to see a change in that policy, and that happened across the United States. And so, when the traditionalists saw that that is the direction that all the delegates were moving, they realized they were not going to be able to, they anticipate not being able to hold onto that restriction being in the Book of Discipline.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (14:52):
Okay, so I think I get it. It looks like it's going to be changed that LGBTQ can be leaders in the church and be married in the church, that the change is going to happen. But the...
Beth Demme (15:03):
The soonest it can happen is 2024.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:09):
No. It's 2022 right now. That's when it's going to change. What do you mean? What are we talking about?
Beth Demme (15:16):
We can't meet again, as our whole General Conference, our international meeting, that won't happen again until 2024.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:22):
So it... Why didn't it happen when... Before, there wasn't enough votes, but it was close?
Beth Demme (15:28):
It was a very divided vote, and so, we were going to meet again to talk about it in 2020.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:37):
Beth Demme (15:37):
We couldn't because of the pandemic.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:39):
And so now, it's just all been dragged out.
Beth Demme (15:40):
Yes. So, it's been postponed and postponed and postponed. And now, they've said, "Listen, we're just going to have to postpone it until 2024." Now, in the meantime, states, like Florida, so the Florida annual conference has said, if you try to bring charges up on someone for being an LGBTQ pastor, or if you try to bring up charges because a pastor performs a same-gender wedding, we're just going to put a pin in that and set it aside and not prosecute it.
Beth Demme (16:07):
Because we anticipate this changing and we don't want to do harm by going forward with a prosecution that we think, ultimately, in a couple of years will be a different, would be a different result. Now, a couple years, that's the new part. Like it was in a few months, it was like, in a few months, this could be different. In a few months... So that, I think, also has prompted some folks to decide they want to go ahead and separate, because they know that there's no consequence for breaking that rule because we know that's not a good rule.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:37):
So how much money does it cost to start a new denomination?
Beth Demme (16:41):
I would think millions, but I haven't heard any specific numbers. It's also, they're not going to tell me their numbers. They know I'm not leaving.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:52):
How many Methodist churches are there?
Beth Demme (16:53):
In the United States, there are about 30,000 United Methodist churches. It looks like that was as of 2018. In Florida, we have about six or 700.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:05):
Beth Demme (17:06):
Well, in our part of Florida. So, from the time change-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:09):
And are there-
Beth Demme (17:10):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:10):
United Methodists outside of the United States?
Beth Demme (17:12):
There are. There are United Methodist congregations in Africa, Asia, and Europe. And there are about 13,000 United Methodist congregations outside the US.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:23):
So, over 40,000.
Beth Demme (17:25):
Yeah. And I would say that that's also been part of the challenge is that there are places in the world where it is still illegal to be who you really are, right?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:38):
Beth Demme (17:38):
If you're LGBTQ, you can be punished criminally for falling in love and acting on it. And so, we're in connection with those folks. So, when we, in the US say, "Well, no, it's okay, legally, same-gender folks can get married here, and we want to be a part of that, and we want to, we think that the covenant of marriage doesn't depend on gender difference." That's a different world for someone who's coming to us from a community where that is actually illegal. That's the church condoning illegal behavior, which is... So, it's hard.
Beth Demme (18:20):
And I would also say that in those cultures, I mean, I don't know how much we want to get into this, but in those cultures, sodomy is an act of brutality and an act of power, and so that's their only, they are telling us that is their only context for understanding a relationship, between two men, would be a power dynamic. And it's that just isn't what we know to be true. But again, having one book that's everybody's rules, isn't serving us very well.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:54):
So, will the international people move to the global?
Beth Demme (19:00):
Some probably will. Some probably will. There's a pretty ugly fight for those churches in Africa. Both sides want them.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:11):
Beth Demme (19:12):
Because a lot of really good ministry opportunities happen there, and because the denomination has invested a lot there, built a seminary-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:21):
Where in Africa?
Beth Demme (19:22):
... and things like that. Yeah, I'm not exactly sure. And it's not just one place. But off the top of my head, I can't even remember where, what we call it, Africa University. I can't remember where that is.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:32):
This whole debate is about two things being in the Book of Discipline. Not two things that are going to instantly change anything in someone's church. You're going to go to bed, wake up and the Book of Discipline is going to have those two changes. But guess what? You're not going to magically have a new LGBTQ pastor that's going to wake up that morning and be like, "I'm now going to go get a job." That's not how it works.
Beth Demme (19:58):
Right. That's not how it works.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:00):
And you're not going to magically have a million same-gender people want to get married at church. Because guess what? They already, they know you're bigots. They're not just going to magically see that your book is changed. And guess what? You still, as you said, the pastor still gets to make a choice whether they marry someone or not, whether it's in a book or not. So to me, this is so frustrating. This is so... I mean, I feel like we are 20 years ago, though. To me, this is so frustrating that this is 2022 and this discussion is being, is happening, and the discussion is... Well, the discussion's been happening for way too long. These two things should've been added in two seconds.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:44):
Oh, of course, how did we miss that? That's how it looks like to me. And the fact that people are leaving, spending millions of dollars to leave because of these two things that aren't even in there yet, and would not actually make any changes at all to their lifestyle, because guess what? People don't want to get married by you anyways. You're not so special, okay? Look at all the other... Just go next door to the next church. And this is the reason why I am unchurched. These are the things that drive me just so, so mad. And I am so tired that these are still conversations in churches. And I consider the Methodist Church more of a progressive church. Don't talk to me about the Catholic Church. Don't get me started about that. I mean, there so many-
Beth Demme (21:31):
Right. I mean, in the Catholic Church, yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:31):
... there were so many more conservative churches than the Methodist Church, and the fact that this has been such a discussion for so long is just so, so upsetting to me. And when I learned about it, actually, when I was working there, that was not the reason I left, obviously, but that was something that was very shocking to me. A, that I'd never heard about it, that I'd never heard that this was a thing that was happening and people were potentially going to leave over it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:59):
I was very torn working at a church that was not accepting of all types of people, and that definitely led me to not want to be part of the church anymore, and I no longer work there and I no longer attend any church. I'm not saying that church, but I did. I went to other churches. I went to nondenominational, cool churches and guess what? What I learned about nondenominational churches is, they actually, typically, are a denomination, but it's just buried in their website. And guess what? I learned a lot of them are Baptists. And if we're looking for a more, even more traditional church than anything... I mean, if you compare the Baptists to the Methodists, and the Methodist are just like crazy.
Beth Demme (22:43):
Yes. Now, when you say Baptist, you mean Southern Baptist? Because that's-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:46):
Very traditional, yeah.
Beth Demme (22:48):
... what have around here. For example, Southern Baptists don't ordain women, right? Women can't preach in the Southern Baptist Church. They are more conservative. That's a pretty recent addition for them, which I find interesting. I mean, it's happened in my lifetime that they made that decision. They went from having women in the pulpit to not having women in the pulpit. And that is actually an issue that we have seen churches split over before. There were questions about whether women could be pastors, that caused splits. There were questions about whether divorced people could be pastors, that caused splits. And the United Methodist Church has weathered those, but we have not been able to weather this one.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:26):
Why? Why is that? Why could those be weathered and this can't? What are we doing wrong educating people about people? Educating "religious people," and I'm quoting, air quoting that. What are we doing wrong educating religious people on how to love people? Have they met, have they not read about Jesus?
Beth Demme (23:50):
They know Jesus, they know Jesus. And they would say-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:52):
They don't know my Jesus.
Beth Demme (23:53):
... and who would say that they love people so much, they can't condone their sin. I would push back on that and say, that's where the church has failed. That we haven't done a good job at talking about sexuality. We haven't done a good job at talking about sex. We haven't done a good job talking about covenant. And so, people think that there is a, that in order to have a covenant marriage that honors God, you have to be, you have to have gender difference. And that goes back to some very old, long-held cultural ideas that go back to the time when women were property and children were property. I mean, it's just, it has some really strange roots. But because it was the rule for so long, people think that it's unchangeable and that it's godly and that it, somehow is biblical.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (24:46):
So you, Pastor Beth, are saying, if I hear you correctly, that a man and a man can be married and have the same covenant relationship as a man and a woman that are married.
Beth Demme (25:06):
Yes. And do you know that a man and a woman could get married and they could not have a covenant marriage that would not honor God?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:13):
Wow, how is that?
Beth Demme (25:14):
Yeah, because it's not about gender difference at all. It's about how people treat each other.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:20):
Wow. And that's why, when we look in the Bible for what it says about same gender, how we cannot look at the section that people always turn to, because that is not talking about a loving relationship.
Beth Demme (25:34):
That's right. That's right. It's talking about, again, acts of power. It's just not talking about what we understand now, that you can be in a healthy, loving God-honoring relationship with someone who is of the same gender. There just was no paradigm for them to even understand that or talk about it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:57):
And those relationships are wrong with men and women as well, power dynamics.
Beth Demme (26:02):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:02):
Beth Demme (26:02):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:03):
That we can look at in the Bible and say, that is wrong for same gender, for different genders, for all people. It is wrong to have power dynamics and to control somebody.
Beth Demme (26:14):
Right. I think that we also get tripped up because so much of our biblical interpretation for centuries has been necessarily cultural. I mean, it's really, you can't really step outside your cultural lens to do, interpreting something like scripture. And so, if the Bible is always interpreted through a cultural lens that thinks gender difference is required for marriage, that's what it's going to see. The idea that God would say, "Well, special privileges come with a penis." Right? That's just not biblical, but because we've interpreted the Bible through a cultural lens that had that idea, we have read that into the Bible a lot.
Beth Demme (26:57):
And all of that gets tied together. And so, what we see and we peel back the curtain on some of this in churches is, and not just in the United Methodist Church, but this has been true in other denominations as well. When you peel back the lens and you trace the money to understand who's making these, who's standing in the way of these changes, it's people who are afraid of losing power, and it's not usually women who are at the heart of that. Right? It's a certain group of folks who have done real well, culturally, and have been advantaged and privileged and don't want to see that eroded in any way. And so, this is the next front of that cultural war is in the United Methodist Church.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:50):
So, the United Methodist Church has a Book of Discipline. Is that like the Constitution-
Beth Demme (27:55):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:55):
... for the government?
Beth Demme (27:56):
Well, we actually have a constitution in it, but yes. It's like our constitution and our statutes.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:00):
Beth Demme (28:00):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:01):
So, will this new, traditional group, will they be using the exact Book of Discipline as it is now?
Beth Demme (28:10):
No, they've written their own.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:12):
So they've completely written their own.
Beth Demme (28:14):
Yep. They have what's, they're calling it a transitional Book of Discipline, because they also don't want to have... In the United Methodist Church, we have bishops that are weirdly enabled with a lot of responsibility. And they have a lot of power in some situations, and then they have no power in places where you think they should have all the power, and they just want to completely revamp that system.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:36):
So this is basically a non-denominational church, creating... This is just a new church. They're just creating their own whatever.
Beth Demme (28:43):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:43):
And there's no-
Beth Demme (28:44):
It's a whole new denomination. Yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:45):
There's no basis to it. I mean, there's no historical, it's just brand new. This is start 2020... 2022 is their start.
Beth Demme (28:55):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:55):
Yeah. They're creating it. They're not, it's not based on the... Well, it's based on whatever they choose. It may be based on the Book of Discipline, but then they're making edits here and there.
Beth Demme (29:05):
Right. They're creating a whole new thing, and they are able to call it Methodist because they want to. But also because I do think that there are going to be some things that relate back to traditional Methodist teachings. There are things about being Methodist that have nothing to do with marriage or even covenant marriage. I mean, that's the thing, that doesn't even define us, but it will define them, I guess. But I would anticipate that they will have things like... It's very Methodist to think about prevenient grace, how God's grace goes ahead of you. They probably will hold onto that Wesleyan idea, John Wesley's idea, about that and things like that, that will identify them as Methodist.
Beth Demme (29:49):
So, there's a big difference between being Methodist and being, say Calvinist. And so, a person who is a Calvinist, which would be like a Presbyterian or a Baptist would say, they have this neat little acronym for it, even called TULIP, and the T in TULIP is total depravity, which means the image of God, and you can be completely corrupted to the point that you are so far separated from God, you can never come back. And Methodists would say, "No, no, no, no. Prevenient grace goes ahead of you and God loves you before you love God, and that prevenient grace preserves the image of God in you enough that you can always connect with God." If they hold to those ideas, they could, they might still consider themselves, well, they do consider themselves Methodist.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:36):
Are there any LGBTQ+ pastors now?
Beth Demme (30:39):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:39):
Beth Demme (30:41):
Because for a time, your LGBTQ status was determined by what physical acts you engaged in. So, it reduces marriage in this case, reduces marriage to just what happens between the sheets. And as long as you weren't doing something between the sheets with someone of the same gender, you weren't considered to be lesbian or gay.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:10):
So, you were like a priest.
Beth Demme (31:12):
You could be a celibate LGBTQ person and-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:15):
Beth Demme (31:15):
... I guess, you would have gotten ordained. Yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:16):
That's basically, as long as you vowed to be celibate, if you were LGBTQ+. So, that is okay now? You can be-
Beth Demme (31:25):
Yeah, I think it said-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:26):
... LGBT... You can be openly...
Beth Demme (31:27):
... I think the language is practicing or self-avowed. You can't be a practicing or self-avowed homosexual.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:35):
I can't tell if that's worse or better than...
Beth Demme (31:39):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:39):
I can't tell if that's... I feel like that's-
Beth Demme (31:43):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:44):
... I feel like that's cruel, yeah. I feel like that's so cruel to say "Yes, you can come to our church and preach the gospel, but you can't actually-
Beth Demme (31:52):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:52):
... have a full life like all of our other pastors can because, you know...
Beth Demme (31:56):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:57):
Beth Demme (31:57):
Because we're going to reduce marriage to just that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:01):
Wow. How many LGBTQ do you know that are pastors? Do you have a number?
Beth Demme (32:06):
I don't have a number.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:06):
Beth Demme (32:07):
No, I don't have a number.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:09):
Do you know if they're really-
Beth Demme (32:11):
I know that there are people who've, I mean, I can see one person's face, actually, who isn't allowed to be a pastor right now, because she [crosstalk 00:32:21] fell in love with someone of the same gender. And so they said, "Well, then you can't be a pastor." Actually, I can think of, I can see two people. I can picture a man, too, who had the same thing happen. In those two cases, it's especially crazy to me, because they were well-respected pastors. Everybody could see that there was a call on their life, everybody could see they were doing good ministry. And then, because they were honest about who they loved, the denomination said "you're out" or "you're suspended" or you're...
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:54):
So, what are they doing now?
Beth Demme (32:55):
Oh, I think one is serving outside the church in a context where it doesn't matter, or human sexuality doesn't matter, and the other one retired. Yeah. And I think... You talked about how, when you were working at the church, you were surprised this was an issue and it wasn't something that was talked about. The reality is this has been an issue in the United Methodist Church longer than I've been alive.
Beth Demme (33:17):
So, the denomination was created in 1968, and this was, this prohibition was added very early on, in the early 1970s. And it has been fought over and over and over again since then. So, what's really heartbreaking is to be in a conversation, for example, with a clergywoman, who is at retirement age or older, who says "My whole ministry, they told me that it was going to change. My whole ministry, they told me that... They told me that I would be accepted here, that I could live a full life, that I... and the change isn't happening." That is heartbreaking.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:03):
Beth Demme (34:05):
So it isn't talked about well in churches, and it's not talked about. Because, like I said, we're not good at talking about human sexuality or sex or conflict even, and so, that all gets wrapped up in this.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:17):
Which is why I don't have a better word for it, but why? The church as a whole just seems like a joke to me. It just seems like a joke when you can't talk about anything real. If you can't talk about LGBTQ, if you can't talk about sexuality, if you can't talk about things that we all human beings deal with and need to talk about, what are you doing? What are you doing?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:42):
I have heard so many sermons in my 30-something years of life and I can't tell you anything I learned. I mean, I can't tell you, really, any moment where I was like, "Whoa, they're talking about that. They've never talked about that." I just can't even think of something that was so meaningful to me. There's probably something, but yeah, it just seems like a joke to me. God doesn't seem like a joke to me. My relationship with God doesn't seem like a joke to me, but all of the crap in the middle. It just, it just... The fact that somebody has been a pastor for all these years and it never changed.
Beth Demme (35:23):
Right. Well, I mean, I would say that, the fact that you know your relationship with God is not a joke is a testament, maybe, to some of those sermons? Even if not, even if one, in particular-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:34):
Beth Demme (35:34):
... doesn't stand out, I would say-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:35):
You sound so pastor-y right now, that you're-
Beth Demme (35:38):
... I would say-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:38):
... like, "Well, it's because you came to church that you know God, so we did something right." Right. Yeah, but I left the church, so what did you do wrong?
Beth Demme (35:48):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:48):
Not you, obviously.
Beth Demme (35:49):
No. Yeah. No, I know. [crosstalk 00:35:51] point, yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:51):
You as a whole.
Beth Demme (35:52):
You, the church. I get it. Yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:53):
You give me hope-
Beth Demme (35:54):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:54):
... that you are a female with these views, so you do give me hope. I do, it does make me pause. And also, I do know a handful of Methodist people, leaders, pastors, things like that, that are like-minded like you, so I do see hope and I do hope that change happens quickly where it hasn't, and I would love to see-
Beth Demme (36:19):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (36:20):
... I would love to see acceptance and readily talked about, readily... Because it's been such a conversation behind the scenes for so long and, yet, it's never a conversation from the scenes. Why? Why is that?
Beth Demme (36:34):
There are a handful of things like that, that pastors talk about amongst, we talk about it amongst ourselves, but we don't do a good job talking about it with our congregations. And in some ways, they merge. For example, we don't do a good job talking about who wrote the Bible. So, there's this cultural idea that the Bible fell from heaven as a complete book... And so people don't appreciate that it was written by humans and that God can work through imperfect humans, and that it was touched by editors, we call redactors.
Beth Demme (37:16):
And so that gives people the... Because we don't do a good job talking about it, it gives people the wrong impression of what the Bible is, and it makes them think that they can't ask questions about, "My parents and grandparents say that it's wrong to be gay." I can't question that because an authority has said it. So you know what? You see how all that gets tied up together? And it's also a little bit dicey because there really aren't denominations that exclude LGBTQ folks from the pulpit, but allow women to preach.
Beth Demme (37:55):
Because the issues of biblical interpretation are so related on those issues, and so it gives me pause to see a denomination being formed around this idea of exclusion and just wondering, what does that mean for clergywomen who are going to go with that denomination? What's their future, really? Because we don't do a good job talking about gender, either. I said, recently, in a sermon, actually, I was talking about the idea of privilege and I was trying to turn it on its head a little bit, because I needed them to hear me on it.
Beth Demme (38:30):
And so, I was saying, as a woman, I am paid less than my male colleagues and less likely to be appointed to a leadership position than a male colleague. But I know that I do have privilege still, right? And I was talking about how I know that if I cry, it's going to make a man uncomfortable, and I have, in my life, used that to my advantage, just turning privilege on its head. Anyway, afterwards I had somebody come up to me and say, "Are you really not paid the same as men, as a man?" And I was like-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:59):
Who? A man or woman?
Beth Demme (39:00):
It was a woman. And I said, "If you look across the board at the statistics, sure, women make 75 cents on the dollar compared to what men make in the US." And I said, "And that's true for pastors, too." And she said, "But we have a minimum salary. We have salary requirements." And I said, "Right, sure. But how many women are at minimum salary churches and how many men are at minimum salary churches?" So, it's just... Okay, we just don't do a good job talking about it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:27):
I may cut this out, but I was watching a YouTube video yesterday of Jane Fonda. She was talking about the films she's been in, and she was talking about the film she's been in. 9 to 5 was one of the films she talked about, and she said, and I guess it was in the '80s. And the film is about working women in the '80s. And she was talking to a friend or somebody and they were talking, they were telling her how hard it was for women to be working in the '80s, how much sexual harassment they had to deal with, how many, just so inappropriate things and being paid so little, and Jane had no idea. She's an actress, she had no idea. And when she heard that, she's like, "We got to make a movie about this."
Beth Demme (40:07):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:07):
And that's how that came about.
Beth Demme (40:09):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:09):
So it's interesting that, because she heard this, she did something that made a huge change for people. And that's what I'm saying. What would it look like if every pastor on Sunday said, "We love every single person, gay, lesbian," if they said those things, every week they said those things. If they brought these things that actually matter up in church, yeah, I bet a lot of you are going to be uncomfortable, and you know what? You need to be. That's the whole point of church, yet it's not. Because you're not uncomfortable. You come every Sunday. You have your dent in the pew. Yeah, we know.
Beth Demme (40:45):
Yeah, I have said many times, if we can't talk about it here, church is really meant to be a covenant community, which means we're bound by a promise, right? So, we're a covenant community living under the grace of God. Those are very churchy words. Everybody in church understands those words. If we can't talk about it here where we're under the grace of God, where do you think you can talk about this?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:07):
When these people leave and the United Methodist Church... Well, it won't stay the same because in 2024, they will have in their Book of Discipline that all people can be pastors and be married.
Beth Demme (41:21):
I sure hope so.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:22):
That's what's going to happen because this will be insane. Well, it already is, but that we're going to say that. That's what's going to happen in 2024. So do you think that is actually going to bring more people into the United Methodist Church and/or more people into the... blah.
Beth Demme (41:38):
I doubt it. I don't see anything bringing more people into church, and I don't like to be so negative or blunt about it, but I don't. That's just what I see. I just-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:48):
Do you think you'll find people leaving from, individuals leaving from one of these or the other?
Beth Demme (41:56):
I think when individuals leave, they probably will leave like you have left. I don't think that they're going to leave to go to another congregation. And I do think that people will leave and-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:09):
Beth Demme (42:10):
... individuals will leave and what will be sad is that they will have come back after COVID, which is... Only about half the people are coming back, and now they're going to leave again and we will have really blown it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:22):
So, what this is dividing the church more, literally dividing the church more. Many people will leave after that and no infill's going to happen. No one's going to come after this happens. That's not going to be an invite, like, "Oh, well they love me now."
Beth Demme (42:40):
I think that's the most likely outcome. Now, as I'm sitting here thinking about it, I don't want to discount the possibility. I do believe in the Holy Spirit. I do believe in God, so maybe God is going to work something in this. And I would welcome the opportunity as I already do, but I would welcome additional opportunities to be in ministry with folks who have been marginalized, who have been hurt by the church. And maybe some of those opportunities will come about, because people will realize that there is a place where they're welcome and that there is a place where their whole person is valued and honored.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:16):
And I think it can happen if the conversations are no longer behind the scenes but are in the church being talked about. If when this change happens, if those conversations are being taught, spoken at the pulpit by a pastor, I think that's where real change will happen and people will feel comfortable, possibly feel comfortable coming into that church. But you got to say it so many times before people are going to believe it, and if you're not even, you haven't said it, well...
Beth Demme (43:48):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:49):
Beth Demme (43:49):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:49):
It's going to take you a while to find those people.
Beth Demme (43:51):
Yeah. And you can't say it just in the pulpit, right? You got to say it-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:54):
You got to say it through your actions.
Beth Demme (43:55):
Yeah, it's got to be true in how you live and interact with people.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:59):
Exactly. Beth, WWJD? What does Jesus think of this?
Beth Demme (44:05):
Well, Steph, in the Bible, the night before Jesus was crucified, he got down on his hands and knees and he washed the feet of his disciples, and he said, "I'm doing this because I want you to hear me when I give you this new commandment, that you go and love one another. Because people will know you are my disciples by how you love them, actually, by how you love each other." I think that, I don't know, maybe Jesus is doing a facepalm, right? "Why aren't they loving each other? Why is there so much conflict and disagreement and hatred and bigotry? Just love one another. They will know that you are mine by how you love each other," because Jesus loves people really well.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (44:56):
I would encourage you if you know someone that is a member of the Methodist Church to share this with them, or a member of any church or not a church, share this with them. And it's pretty easy to do in most podcast platforms. And if you happen to be on Apple Podcast right now, please scroll down to the bottom and you can click the fifth star to give us a review. And if you want to share any thoughts, if you were really upset by this episode and want to tell us your side of things, feel free to call us on our voicemail number, and that is 850-270-3308. You can also text to that number.
Beth Demme (45:36):
And I don't know what, how people will answer our question, should Beth leave the Methodist Church? But my plans right now are to stay.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (45:42):
I forgot. That was the spoiler. Yes. So, I'm assuming you're stay?
Beth Demme (45:49):
I'm going to stay. But I do want to say that it is hard to be in a denomination that does exclude people right now. And if they were to lift the ban on prosecutions, that would be really hard for me, because I don't agree with the with that prohibition at all. But I would love to hear from people on this, especially if you're in a Methodist Church, I'm curious if it's being talked about, I'm curious if you have questions that you think maybe I could answer for you, just like Steph said, give us a call, 850-270-3308.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (46:24):
At the end of each episode, we end with Questions for Reflection. These are questions based on today's show that Beth will read and leave a little pause between for you to answer to yourself, or you can find a PDF on our Buy Me a Coffee page.
Beth Demme (46:37):
Number one, would you leave the Methodist Church over this? Why or why not? Number two, have you ever been part of a group that splintered? What was that like for you? Number three, do you think churches, overall, do a disservice to their congregations and society by not discussing the concerns of LGBTQ folks? And number four, what were you taught about human sexuality at home, school, church? Have your views changed over time? Why?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (47:12):
This has been the Discovering our Scars podcast. Thank you for joining us. The way you said, why.
Beth Demme (47:21):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (47:21):
Beth Demme (47:21):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (47:21):
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I'm a mom who laughs a lot, mainly at myself. #UMC Pastor, recent Seminary grad, public speaker, blogger, and sometimes lawyer. Learning to #LiveLoved.