Reconciling North Carolina
UMC CHURCHES TO HOLD STATE-WIDE NC CONFERENCE IN SUPPORT OF LGBTQ COMMUNITY
Keynote Speaker, Bishop Melvin Talbert Calls for Biblical Obedience in The United Methodist Church and for Reconciliation Among All of God’s Children
October 21, 2014
Bill Gibson, lead pastor, THE WALK [FaithWalk]
GIBSONVILLE, NC — October 21, 2014 — United Methodist Churches (UMC) in both the North Carolina and Western North Carolina Annual Conferences of The UMC will gather all Reconciling voices from across the state on Saturday, October 25th for a conference in support of ministering to and with the LGBTQ community. The conference, titled “Ministry Without Fear,” which is timely in light of the recent NC ruling regarding same-sex marriage, will feature human rights activist and United Methodist, Bishop Melvin G. Talbert, along with Matt Berryman, Executive Director of the Reconciling Ministries Network (Chicago, IL). The conference and workshops will be held at Replacements, Ltd. (McLeansville, NC) on October 25th from 9:45AM to 4:30PM.
“There is a tremendous amount of work being done across the state of North Carolina towards making more of our United Methodist Churches fully welcoming places for the LGBT community,” said Helen Ryde, Southeastern Regional Organizer for the Reconciling Ministries Network (Chicago, IL). “This conference on Saturday will provide additional resources, support, education and encouragement that will see the work expand even further, creating more inclusion, welcome and love for all without exceptions.”
Bishop Talbert, who locked arms with The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., knows a thing or two about fighting for equality. Having served as an active Bishop in The United Methodist Church in both Seattle and San Francisco areas, earlier this year he became the first United Methodist bishop to face charges in the church for officiating the same-sex wedding of two men in Alabama. His resolve for equality and full inclusion of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) community in The United Methodist Church is put forth in what he sees as a call for “biblical obedience.”
Currently, the official position of The UMC on homosexuality is that it remains incompatible with Christian teaching, according to the church’s Book Of Discipline, while the church also maintains that marriage is between a man and a woman. Additionally, practicing homosexuals are not allowed to be ordained in the UMC, and clergy are not permitted to officiate or bless a same-sex union of any kind.
“It is important to note that the language regarding marriage and homosexuality, as represented in The United Methodist Church, is not found in scripture and does not account for the contemporary understanding of who LGBT people understand themselves to be,” stated Bishop Talbert. “Biblical obedience requires and inspires members of the faith community to search their hearts to determine if they are ready to put their lives on the line for a just cause. Are we followers of Jesus, or not?” Talbert continued.
In the wake of the recent U.S. District Court judge ruling, which made same-sex marriage legal in the state of North Carolina, the timing of Saturday’s conference in support of the LGBTQ community is almost prophetic.
“This conference has been planned for months now, which began out of a vision to connect all the the reconciling voices in The United Methodist Church from across our entire state, of which is made up of two annual conferences in the UMC,” said Rev. Kelly Carpenter, senior pastor of Green Street UMC (Winston-Salem, NC), one of numerous Reconciling Congregations and safe spaces in NC. “Now that same-sex marriage is legal in North Carolina, our church law puts many of us clergy at odds with being able to minister to everyone in the communities we serve,” continued Carpenter.
While Mecklenburg County has led the way with the most marriage licenses issued in the state to same-sex couples, many other counties are not far behind, including Guilford.
“We held our first same-sex wedding at THE WALK on Friday (October 17, 2014), in a beautiful outdoor ceremony next to the pond on our campus,” said Rev. Dr. William Gibson, lead pastor of THE WALK [FaithWalk] UMC (Gibsonville, NC). “Though I am an ordained Elder in the UMC, I was not allowed to officiate the wedding because of church law. However, I was the best man and was given permission by my bishop to lead a prayer. It is only fitting that the first time I have ever been asked to be a best man, I had the honor of standing as witness with a close friend and partner in ministry, as she married her long-time partner,” continued Gibson.
Rev. Laurie Hays Coffman, who previously pastored the first Reconciling Congregation formed in the NC Conference of the UMC, in Durham, echoed the new challenges The UMC faces today amid a changing landscape.
“I take great delight in being a small part of the work God is doing here in North Carolina, helping to bring God’s reign of justice and love to life, right here at home,” stated Coffman, who serves as a pastor in the NC Annual Conference. “The landscape has certainly changed and the tides are turning, and our [United Methodist] church has got to catch up. We still have a lot of work to do in the fight for full inclusion in the UMC. The ‘Ministry Without Fear’ conference this upcoming Saturday is designed to help equip laity, clergy, and churches in this labor of love,” concluded Coffman.
“The UMC must find ways now to be more pastoral to the LGBTQ community during these changing times. We cannot keep labeling our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters as ‘incompatible’ any longer and continue to do more harm as a church,” added Rev. Dr. Gibson of THE WALK.
Bishop Talbert asks the question, “If LGBT persons, according to church law, cannot speak openly for and about themselves, who will speak for them?” This question sounds more like a call to action, not just for the UMC or North Carolina, but for all across the country.
“It is time for members of the faithful in our church to remember their baptism and do what is right, even if that means rejecting and defying the unjust laws of our church,” said Bishop Talbert.
The “Ministry Without Fear” Conference is scheduled for Saturday, October 25, 2014 from 9:45AM to 4:30PM, at Replacements, Ltd., located at 1089 Knox Rd., McLeansville, NC, 27301. Registration is $15 and includes lunch. Keynote speakers include Bishop Melvin G. Talbert and Matt Berryman (Reconciling Ministry Network). There are several workshops, including: Transgender 101, Adopting Deeper Postures of Welcome, Ministry to LGBTQ Youth, Parents, and Guardians, and The Spiritual Practice of Coming Out as an Ally. To learn more about the conference and to register visit www.greenstreetchurch.org/ministry-fear/.
Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) has been mobilizing United Methodists to create full inclusion of all God’s children regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity since 1982. Reconciling Ministries Network is a growing movement of United Methodist individuals, congregations, campus ministries, and other groups working for the full participation of all people in The United Methodist Church. For more information visit www.rmnetwork.org.
North Carolina has two annual conferences in The United Methodist Church (among a total of 63), dividing the state almost down the center. The eastern half of the state is part of the North Carolina Annual Conference, led by Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, headquartered in Raleigh, NC. For more information about the NC Conference go to www.nccumc.org. The western half of the state is part of the Western North Carolina Annual Conference, led by Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster, headquartered in Charlotte, NC. For more information about the WNC Conference go to www.wnccumc.org. Both annual conferences account for 1,936 churches and more than 537,000 members state-wide.
The people of The United Methodist Church are part of the second largest Protestant denomination in the United States. Their worldwide connection includes approximately 12.5 million members. The United Methodist Church was formed when the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church merged in 1968. But they trace their heritage back to the movement begun in 1729 in England by John and Charles Wesley. For more information go to www.umc.org.
For the official position of The United Methodist Church on homosexuality, same-sex marriage and more, visit the following link: http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/what-is-the-denominations-position-on-homosexuality
For a list of Reconciling Congregations, Communities, and Groups in North Carolina in The United Methodist Church, go to www.rmnetwork.org/find-a-church/.