Along with many in The United Methodist Church (UMC), I have been anxiously awaiting the news out of the Council of Bishops’ final meeting to discuss the way forward, hopefully bringing forth a plan that would end the stalemate on “human sexuality.” At Reconciling Ministries Network, we have longed for a path forward that would remove the harmful language that has been holding the LGBTQ community hostage since derogatory language first started creeping into the Book of Discipline in 1972.
Well, the Council meeting has ended. Our bishops are journeying home. And, the church is trying to interpret the statement about their plan that was released this afternoon. We are disappointed in what we see in the statement issued.
It is RMN’s belief that the majority of the UMC wants to celebrate the life and ministry of LGBTQ people, though some still struggle to find a way to affirm our lives. That belief is not represented in the statement issued by the Council. It is disheartening that the Council has decided to send a report to the General Conference with all three models that were proposed by the Commission on a Way Forward, even if they are recommending only one. In addition to being distressed that all will be represented in the report, the implication (per the press release) is that all three models are included because they reflect the values and diversity of theological beliefs and cultural contexts in the UMC. They, in fact, do not.
None of the options considered by the commission and set forward to the Council provides equity and justice to the LGBTQ community or welcomes and celebrates the lives of LGBTQ people.
What value is there in presenting a traditionalist model that has harmed LGBTQ people and our loved ones for decades? What value is there in considering a model that is so complex we all struggle to understand it? The harm caused to LGBTQ persons is the singular reason this process was undertaken. Where is that focus? If we are trying to represent the diversity of theological perspective in the UMC, it is deeply troubling that there is a significant one missing.
Unity in mission has to be rooted in our shared values of love, justice, and compassion.
Bishops, the church we all love needs prophetic leadership. We envision and hope for a clear path that fulfills the Gospel call to lift the least and marginalized. We do not see that path in this decision.
We invite our bishops to journey with LGBTQ persons and take the narrow path toward perfection in love. During this resurrection season, Jesus tells the disciples to return to Galilee to find him. It’s time to find Jesus again in the work of loving one another and uplifting our combined ministry to the connection of disciples called The United Methodist Church.
This has been a long struggle for many among the Reconciling movement. The continued harm has left many heartbroken. But, we believe in resurrection and we have the hope that is found in Christ Jesus that we can build an inclusive church. Our prayers are with the movement and the Council of Bishops as we await the final report.
By Jan Lawrence
Reconciling Ministries Network