Last weekend, RMN staff attended UM Forward’s event Our Movement Forward, which sought to hear from marginalized voices in our Church – especially those of QTPOC (queer/trans people of color). What resulted from this convening included avenues for QTPOC United Methodists to work together for justice and the beginnings of action plans for resistance and new Methodist expressions.

We then joined with over forty UM Forward attendants and over 600 total United Methodists at UMC Next, hosted by the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS, to continue this journey of discernment with our United Methodist siblings. Jan Lawrence, RMN Executive Director, was a part of the convening team for this event. The results of this meeting were similar to those from Our Movement Forward. Both meetings generated dual commitments to resist the implementation of the Traditionalist Pan and to form something new. There was tension in both spaces caused by a desire for immediate action and because of the broad breadth of perspectives.

While we met in Kansas to pray and deliberate over the future of The United Methodist Church, a candidate for ordination was discontinued by her District Committee on Ordained Ministry for being transgender after two years of being denied the ability to serve her call. During an examination that focused primarily on the candidate’s gender identity, she was asked if she saw herself “in the future ever being at a place that being transgender is not a big part of [her].” Although the Book of Discipline does not explicitly discriminate against transgender candidates for ministry, the implicit spirit of institutionalized transphobia forbade this candidate from pursuing her holy call – highlighting the pervasive prejudices that poison our denomination beyond the discriminatory language in the Book of Discipline.

There is yet reason to reform the institution of The United Methodist Church so that it adopts a posture of repentance and seeks the way of justice. LGBTQ children will still be brought up in United Methodist congregations; LGBTQ United Methodists will still be called to ministry in this Church; our connection bears fruit and breaks down walls; and pieces of our institution are courageous and worth preserving for the sake of the kin-dom of God.

However, there is also reason to lean with courage into the new thing that the people of God are creating in the aftermath of General Conference 2019. We work with hope toward an expression of Church where LGBTQ justice is fundamental; we acknowledge the ongoing damage that intersectional oppression does to human life and Christian witness, as in the case of the candidate described above; and as followers of the way of Jesus, we cannot with integrity continue to partner with an institution explicitly set on harming the most marginalized among us.

Therefore, multiple paths forward remain. It has been three months since General Conference 2019, and in this time, the surface of the soil seems still, full of promise but devoid of life. As more forums meet and join the movements already underway; as we follow the leadership of queer and trans people of color; as we continually take stock of the ways in which our theology and systems can be freed the limitations we ourselves impose; and as we prayerfully inquire of the Spirit: we continue to pray and work for a liberative Wesleyan expression of faith.

We do not have time to wait. And yet we are also called into this deliberative, formless moment that is not bound by deadlines and seasons.

We enter now into annual conference season, where opportunities to resist in your local context abound. Until we can be certain of the best way forward and until new life is ready for us to move in its direction, we must still act in faithful resistance to the harm done through General Conference 2019. The following is a list of practical acts of resistance that your church can begin to undertake today.

For moderate churches and churches in conservative annual conferences:

  • Perform a same-sex wedding with multiple officiants.
  • Expand the Reconciling work by supporting other churches in the Reconciling process and mentoring individuals in other churches.
  • Hire seminary-trained LGBTQ individuals as associates and into staff positions. Publicly celebrate and announce your new hires if the individuals hired are comfortable with that.
  • Suspend apportionment payments.
  • Continue to pay apportionments but send a letter of protest each month.
  • Align your ministry with a local LGBTQ civil advocacy group.
  • Appoint LGBTQ individuals and allies to the Board of Ordained Ministry (BoOM). Prepare to send letters to your bishop urging the appointment of LGBTQ individuals and allies.
  • Appoint LGBTQ individuals and allies to the District Committee on Ordained Ministry (DCOM).
  • Witness at your conference office: take an open letter to the bishop, demand a meeting with the bishop, share stories, and don’t leave without making an ask.
  • Invite LGBTQ individuals to be guest preachers and publicize their appearance at your church before and after their preaching.
  • Schedule a pre- or post- Annual Conference gathering of people interested in learning about how they might support their LGBTQ members.
  • Arrange for LGBTQ people lead a discussion in your community about their faith journey and invite other churches.
  • Write op-ed pieces for your local paper pertaining to the importance of full LGBTQ inclusion in the Church.
  • Demonstrate visible solidarity with the LGBTQ people in your church and community.
  • If you are not a Reconciling Church, consider starting the process and joining our movement for justice for and liberation of oppressed people.

For churches already living into Biblical Obedience:

  • Continue to stay and stand in resistance until we are better positioned to live into the new expression of the Church.
  • Perform as many same-sex weddings as possible.
  • Ask for LGBTQ clergy to be appointed to your church.
  • Hire LGBTQ individuals to staff positions at your church.
  • Elect as many progressive Annual Conference delegates as possible.
  • Witness at your conference office: take an open letter to the bishop, demand a meeting with the bishop, share stories, and don’t leave without making a clear ask.
  • Invite LGBTQ individuals to be guest preachers, and publicize their appearance at your church before and after their preaching.
  • Schedule a pre- or post- Annual Conference gathering of people interested in learning about how they might support their LGBTQ members.

Thank you all for journeying with us and living into the tension of this anxious moment. We are now being called to action in a way we have not been in half a century.

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