24 August 2011

Premature Joculation

Mohodom is abuzz over an openly gay member, Mitch Mayne, being called to serve with the bishopric (as executive secretary) in a bay area ward. My understanding is that Mitch was in a long-term relationship with a man until about a year ago, during at least part of which he was active in his ward and held a calling, and...well, read it yourself in his open letter. He's currently single and celibate, open to a future relationship (though exactly what kind of relationship is [possibly deliberately] vague), and committed to the "same standard of behavior that we require of any heterosexual member in a Priesthood leadership position." Enter my skeptical brow.

Don't get me wrong: an openly, unapologetically gay man was called to work closely with the bishopric, which may not be new but is certainly getting more attention than most and is another testament against the notions of some members that anyone who doesn't renounce and deny their very attractions is unworthy of any leadership, and that's very cool. But I think people are jumping the gun in declaring this to be a revolutionary move. For example, does he mean he will have a romantic but nonsexual relationship with a man? Does he mean he intends to have a sexual relationship with a man when they're married or in a civil union? Is the latter a completely different scenario than the first, and would it be a dealbreaker if he were asked point blank and answered with the latter? Is the former even acceptable to church headquarters? Or is the whole thing being taken a day at a time, focusing on his current compliance and worthiness, without projecting unnecessarily into the completely unknown future? I want to correct those who oversimplify: "Of course he has a calling: he's committed to chastity like everyone else." Yet when people sound victory charges for "openly gay" members to serve in church leadership, my "let's wait and see what this means before declaring social revolution" gear kicks in.

Yes, if Mitch marries a woman someday, he's golden. His open letter doesn't seem to preclude that option, and you never know what life might bring. But his views on homosexuality being inextricably part of him (not that I believe heterosexuality is a prerequisite to marrying a woman, but that's a can of worms for another post) combined with his insistence that he will be forthcoming with his leadership about his relationship status (which wouldn't be necessary for non-gay folk) lead me to believe the future relationship he's open to is most likely same-sex. If you combine that with his statement that he does not plan to intentionally spend the rest of his life celibate or single, I see a dilemma.

I know many individuals who believe the church's stance on same-sex relationships will change with time, but cleverly wordsmithing or reinterpreting temple ceremonies or the Proclamation on the Family still amounts to speculation. The church officially prohibits sexual relationships outside of man-woman marriage (long-term romantic, non-orgasmic relationships between members of the same sex are not as clearly addressed but are also slightly more common than unicorns). I'm not saying that could never change: perhaps, before I die, the church will welcome time-only same-sex partners (whether God-disapproved-married or civilly unified) into some form of meaningful fellowship, but I'm speaking in terms of today.

I just don't believe that when general authorities say members who experience "same-gender attraction" are to adhere to the same standards of sexual conduct as everyone else, what they mean is, "sure, they can date and make out like everyone else and then make each other ejaculate to their homo hearts' content once they obtain the kind of civil contract we have explicitly and vehemently opposed as being not marriage at all." I think those who believe church leaders are saying gay members should just save sex until they're married to members of the same sex should not mask or mince their words and should say so clearly and publicly...and see how church leadership responds.

So the concern I have is that despite Mitch's effort to be open and honest, there are many unanswered questions, the answers to which may likely conflict with assumptions or extrapolations many are making, e.g.:
  • he intends to be either celibate or with a woman for the rest of his life,
  • the local leadership called him knowing he intends to be with a man again someday,
  • he was officially called as a counselor in the bishopric, or
  • he was in full fellowship while in a romantic and sexual relationship with another man and church headquarters was OK with that.

I believe those assumptions to be common and understandable, given Mitch's open letter and subsequent coverage. Some of them may even be correct. But nobody has done the aggressive journalism to answer them. So they're still unanswered. And I don't think their implications are incidental or irrelevant when the calling is being framed as a bold representation of progress in the role of gay members in church leadership.

I do think the _discussion_, far disproportionate to the situation itself, is going to make waves and change paradigms. That's how activism works, so from that standpoint, I get it. I actually appreciate JonJon's response to the issue.

I say let Mitch serve quietly (although let's be honest, Mitch, you threw "quietly" aside with your open letter...actually, I think you kind of threw it up in the air and demolished it with rockets *wink*), wait and see, and get the details before portraying it as if the Catholic Church just handpicked a bishop from a pride parade's leather daddies contingent.

1 comment:

El Genio said...

The commentary on this issue has been interesting, but I find the actual calling in and of itself to be meaningless. We're talking about one ward in an area where the church was significantly damaged (both internally and externally) by the proposition 8 campaign. Clearly this stake is willing to go to great lengths to "heal wounds" or fix their problem. But at the end of the day these are just cosmetic and relatively meaningless efforts. The root of the problem is that you have a doctrine and belief system that devalues homosexual people, and often inspires outright prejudice against them. As long as that doctrine exists there are going to be problems.

So as one of those whom Mitch is trying to target, and for whom he is convinced that there is a place in the church, I have to say that I don't feel that way at all. There is NO place for me or my future family in the church today.