In anticipation of The United Methodist Church’s General Conference in May of 2016, Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) is advancing new legislative strategies including protecting LGBTQ lay employees and advocating for LGBTQ youth.
The General Conference, which convenes every four years, is the policy making body of the Church and the one opportunity RMN and progressive allies have to overturn or amend discriminatory policy. Alongside RMN’s legislation in alignment with its long-standing position that The UMC should remove prohibitions on all LGBTQ clergy and same-sex marriage, these additional proposals signal an aggressive and ambitious strategy to change institutional policy at this General Conference.
“It is time for The UMC to catch up with so many faithful members who want their church to be a true expression of Christ’s inclusive love,” said RMN executive director Matt Berryman. “With all that has gone on in the last few years, including the recent ruling by the United States Supreme Court granting the freedom to marry nationwide, it’s time the Church welcomed and celebrated its LGBTQ members.”
Discrimination towards LGBTQ lay members employed in United Methodist churches and affiliated organizations has become a growing concern and made national headlines earlier this year when Jaci Pfeiffer and Kelly Bardier were both fired from Aloma Methodist Early Childhood Learning Center in Winter Park, FL after rumors spread they were a same-sex couple. Without explicit protections against job discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, lay persons employed by local churches – often serving out a call to ministry – have no protection against discrimination, and local churches face no accountability from the denomination for the refusal to hire or decision to fire effective employees like Jaci and Kelly based on their identity or relationships.
RMN submitted additional legislation seeking a “resolution” to reduce harm toward LGBTQ children and youth. The resolution would highlight specific challenges faced by LGBTQ young people including family rejection, risk of homelessness, bullying and suicide. As proposed, it would state that “The United Methodist Church is called and seeks to educate families about how to respond with love to their youth whose sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression may not conform to their family’s expectations. This response includes affirming the value and sacred worth of their youth, maintaining safe spaces and not severing ties with their youth, and demonstrating respect for their youth…”
The petitions seeking to amend the Book of Discipline address The UMC’s personnel policies as they apply to the many positions held by lay people. It states in part: “Employment policies for non-appointed personnel shall prohibit discrimination in hiring, contracting, evaluating, promoting, retiring, and dismissing lay staff based on age, race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or marital status..,”
RMN filed four petitions and two resolutions last week in compliance with the deadline for legislation to be considered in May of 2016 when the General Conference convenes in Portland, OR.
RMN represents over 700 Reconciling communities and more than 34,000 individuals in its work. The filing of the petitions and resolutions is a core component of the advocacy and work RMN intends to undertake both in advance of the General Conference and at the committee level in Portland this May.
Contact: M Barclay
Director of Communications
Reconciling Ministries Network