IS STILL A LEADER
In all causes of human rights and justice. Why don’t you hear more about it? Isn’t that what we supposedly pride ourselves on in The People’s Republic of SM?
It’s Rev. Janet Gollery McKeithen‘s fault. She’s not Jim Conn. Who? Who?
See? Even if you have lived in Santa Monica a long time, you may not be familiar with her work or even know her name. Just today I met a local official, longtime resident, who drew a blank at the mention.
It’s her personal style, I think. She speaks quickly but very softly. She’s diminutive. Humble, a gentle spirit. Thoughtful with her words. Not flashy or flamboyant in any way. More interested in listening than talking. She’s self-deprecating but makes it clear she is not afraid of anything and is willing to take on the biggest challenges. If the cause is right, having only the slimmest chance of success is not even a consideration for her.
Only some might call her that, but that’s OK. We love charisma, don’t we? But it’s overrated.
Often it’s useful. Dr. King’s charisma and oratorical skills brought attention and respect to the Civil Rights Movement that perhaps no one else could have. Same with Gandhi. I keep hearing that Donald Trump has charisma, but I just can’t seem to find it. (Maybe it’s being audited, with his tax returns. Maybe it’s under one of those strategically-coiffed flying buttresses of dyed blond hair.) JFK had charisma, Malcolm X, Cesar Chavez, New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, Gavin Newsom, Beto seems to, Bernie has his own kind.
Her predecessor, Rev. James Conn, had a lot of charisma, and he accomplished a lot. Conn was ambitious and ran for City Council and was appointed Mayor, and some say that changed him, for better or worse. His legacy in Santa Monica is undeniable and large; many credit him with single handedly turning a scruffy beach town in the ‘70s into the poster child of all things progressive.
That’s the big shoes McKeithen came to fill, and she’s done it much more than many people know. Very quietly, of course. But it’s time to familiarize yourself with, and support, all the good work Rev. Janet does at the Church in Ocean Park (CIOP), because we may not have her, or the church, for much longer.
MESSING WITH THE METHODISTS
There’s a big fight going on now in the second-largest Protestant church in the US, and while you do not want me to bore you with the details (it’s concurrently shameful and not surprising), the end result may hit us hard right here in Santa Monica.
(The LA Times ran a long front page story on the Methodist problem Tuesday.)
The Rev came close to being ousted a few years ago by a bishop who didn’t think her church service was “Christian enough.” No altar, no crosses, no vestments, no Bibles being thumped, and a really mixed congregation including Jews, Catholics, atheists, Buddhists, all races, all genders, all abilities, you name it. Very Santa Monica, not so Methodist.
She survived that one (the bishop was sent packing to Northern California) but this one is not about her, it’s the whole worldwide church. And their firm stand against gays.
The Methodists have a Book of Discipline, which contains the law and doctrine they follow. The BofD frowns menacingly upon homosexuality; it does not allow gay ministers, and it punishes any minister who performs a gay marriage with a year’s suspension without pay for the first violation, and permanent expulsion, no trial, for the second. Rev. McKeithen says she loves the CIOP and feels it is what she was called to the ministry for, and would hate to lose it. Unfortunately, the United Methodist Church (UMC) owns all their church buildings and land. (Also, losing her pension after 35 years as a minister would be a personal disaster.)
BRING IT ON
But morality and principle put everything else in the back seat for her. The UMC had a special session in St. Louis last month, to consider the growing division over the stand on gays, and she spoke out in no uncertain terms.
“It may come to a schism, a split,” she told me. “If that happens I know which side I’m on. The progressive wing of the church is all over the place — as progressives usually are — but I cannot be part of some compromise to what I know is right.
“There was some pretty strong language at the conference, gays were called everything including ‘spawn of Satan’ — I have seen what terrible damage that does, when you tell someone, especially a young person, that they are damaged goods, broken, wrong in their very being. I won’t be a part of that.”
She has performed quite a few same-sex marriages since landing here almost 14 years ago, has not yet received any discipline for it yet but is a known “rogue minister” to the church’s conservatives. There are a few policy procedures to go through before the next quadrennial session in January but it looks like the deck is stacked, she said, and it would be a miracle if things could be resolved in a way that keeps her here or even in the United Methodist Church. (Her husband is also a UMC minister.)
She doesn’t know what she will do but she does know what she won’t do.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
“I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man’s reasoning powers are not above the monkey’s.” — Mark Twain
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 33 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org