An open letter to the people of The United Methodist Church
We are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer clergy and candidates in the New York Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
The New York Conference has spoken out for decades against our denomination’s prejudice and exclusion of LGBTQI people. As a conference, we are finding ways to transcend the church’s bigotry and the spiritual crisis caused by its requirement to discriminate. With We do! Methodists Living Marriage Equality, 1,300 clergy and lay people have publicly come together to make weddings available to all couples, gay and straight, on an equal basis. In 2014, our bishop, Martin McLee, declared, “I call for and commit to a cessation of church trials” for clergy performing same-sex weddings. In February, our Board of Ordained Ministry voted that “LGBTQI candidates will be given equal consideration and protection in the candidacy process,” and further declared that the Board does not find homosexuality incompatible with Christian teaching. BOOM’s action comes 38 years after the same body refused to recommend a leave of absence for Paul Abels when he came out and the bishop asked him to take a leave.
But while the New York Conference is increasingly living into the call to “seek peace, justice, and freedom for all people,” the denomination continues to prosecute and punish LGBTQI people and those who dare to minister to us. Any United Methodist anywhere in the world could file a complaint against any one of us any day; indeed, conservatives in the church have already threatened to come after clergy candidates in New York.
We cannot hide in the welcome of our conference. We are compelled now to speak out and tell the whole truth of who we are to the wider church. Ministry requires honesty, courage, integrity. We teach our Sunday school children to speak truth. We challenge our congregations to see Jesus in “the least of these.” We mirror God’s welcome at our communion table.
Yet The UMC demands that we not tell our truth about who we are in order to be in ministry. It requires us to pretend we can excise the parts of ourselves that are LGBTQI, and to present a distorted version of ourselves to the world – all in order to avoid being hunted down and kicked out for being “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.” It does violence to our souls. It is the very opposite of the integrity that is foundational to ministry.
This demand is fundamentally unjust, and we can no longer be complicit in upholding and reinforcing it. It is premised on a lie, codified in our Book of Discipline – that our lives are “incompatible with Christian teaching” – and it does immense damage both to those whom it forces to harm themselves and to countless others to whom it communicates that there is something wrong with the way God created them.
We stand in solidarity with Cynthia Meyer, Benjamin Hutchison, M Barclay, Amy DeLong, Drew Phoenix, Beth Stroud, Karen Dammann, Rebecca Steen, Mark Williams, and Rose Mary Denman; with unknown others who have faced complaints or charges or were quietly forced out of ministry; with candidates who have lived in fear and uncertainty; with LGBTQI clergy who have suffered the violence of the church-imposed closet; and with those who have come out and live with the ever-present threat of an official complaint being made against them.
We call on LGBTQI United Methodist clergy and candidates everywhere to come out and join us in the refusal of further acquiescence to a system that silences and excludes LGBTQI people.
We call on Boards of Ordained Ministry to refuse to discriminate any longer and to publicly declare their refusal.
We call on bishops to refuse to process complaints against LGBTQI people for being themselves.
We call on all United Methodists everywhere to refuse their own complicity in our denomination’s systemic oppression of LGBTQI people and to protest this injustice at General Conference and elsewhere until it is finally ended.
Emily B. Hall
Christine M. Lindeberg
Alex da Silva Souto
Ronald D. Tompkins
Sara Thompson Tweedy
Martha E. Vink