In May, the General Conference of The United Methodist Church agreed to explore ways to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (LGBTQ) persons. Under the leadership of our bishops, a commission was formed with the objectives of finding a new denominational design for inclusivity in our church. As a renewal movement, Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) is committed to the work of this commission whose existence is the result of Biblical Obedience and ministry without fear. Today, the list of members who will participate in this work of shaping our future together was released.
First, RMN wishes to address an issue of language that continues to appear when the church discusses LGBTQ people. The term “human sexuality” fundamentally misrepresents the nature of the impasse for which the commission has been formed. The commission has not been formed to deal with “human sexuality.” It has been formed to deal with the future of a denomination that discriminates against LGBTQ persons. Using the vague and disembodied language of “human sexuality” distances us from the ways that LGBTQ persons are violently impacted by denominational policy.
Second, as to the make-up of the members of the commission, we recognize the importance of withholding assumptions about people’s sexual orientation and gender identities. At this time, there remains a strong desire to know if the commission has listened to the just call for fair representation of LGBTQ identities in the potential shaping of the future of our denomination. As a white, cis, gay man and Executive Director of Reconciling Ministries Network, I am pleased to be invited to the table. I also maintain that I cannot adequately represent the breadth of the LGBTQ community. As the commission convenes, I am eager to explore whether the request for a diverse representation of LGBTQ persons has been heard. A commission constituted of a majority of straight and cisgender people and only 2 self-identified LGBTQ persons is not legitimate.
As we keep watch on the commission and continue our ministries of Biblical Obedience in our individual lives, churches, and communities, we remain committed to ensuring that the future of The United Methodist Church includes an end to the ongoing harm perpetuated against LGBTQ members. It is our duty and calling to hold the commission accountable to a vision God has given us for the church – a vision based on the Kindom that is not yet here, but beckons our prayers and actions to make it so.
The bishops ask us to place our hope in the work of this commission. We are expected to give ourselves once again to a process that has historically betrayed us. With trepidation, we remain open, recognizing that the failure to accurately represent us on this commission would not preclude good results, but would trouble our confidence in the integrity of the process.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer people throughout The United Methodist Church need to know we are recognized as full members of this denomination in the minds and hearts of our leaders and those on the commission. While we cannot yet know how we are represented at the table, the bishops and the members of the commission can choose to use language that authentically and accurately represents the focus of this work.
The existence of the commission, the outcomes of the General Conference, and the movement of the denomination as a whole, point toward inclusion. In the words of retired Bishop Mel Talbert, “God has already settled this matter,” and so we place our hope in Jesus whose commitment to the oppressed, the afflicted, and those in need always outpaced the institutions of his day.
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