WHEREAS, Paragraph 161G of The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church states:
“We deplore all forms of the commercialization, abuse, and exploitation of sex. We call for strict global enforcement of laws prohibiting the sexual exploitation of children and for adequate protection, guidance, and counseling for abused children. All persons, regardless of age, gender, marital status, or sexual orientation, are entitled to have their human and civil rights ensured and to be protected against violence” (Book of Discipline, 2016); and
WHEREAS, Paragraph 162J of The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church states:
“Certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation.… Moreover, we support efforts to stop violence and other forms of coercion against all persons, regardless of sexual orientation.” (Book of Discipline, 2016); and
WHEREAS, lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers; questioning youth are 2 times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers; and 40% of transgender adults report having attempted suicide, of which 92% have been made while under the age of 25 (The Trevor Project, 2017); and
WHEREAS, LGBTQ youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as their straight peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection, this propensity for rejection being evidenced in the disproportionate rates of LGBTQ homeless youth in comparison to the general population, and an estimated 40% of youth served by drop-in centers, street outreach programs, and housing programs identify as LGBTQ (Durso & Gates, 2012); and
WHEREAS, homeless LGBTQ youth often run away or are turned out of their homes due to discrimination, name calling, rejection and abuse and additionally, the lack of support within many institutions that guide the lives of LGBT youth (e.g., their schools, families, and churches) leaves them more vulnerable to experiences that may compromise their mental health, and as a result, LGBTQ youth are more likely to experience low self-esteem issues, putting them at a much higher risk for trafficking or turning to sex work in exchange for shelter, food or rent money (National Institutes of Health 2013); and
WHEREAS, during the first 48 hours after running away or being turned out of their homes, one in three homeless youth are recruited by a trafficker into commercial sexual exploitation. (National Institutes of Health 2013); and
WHEREAS, 58.7% of LGBTQ homeless youth have been sexually victimized compared to 33.4% of heterosexual homeless youth; LGBTQ homeless youth are roughly 7.4 times more likely to experience acts of sexual violence than heterosexual homeless youth; LGBTQ homeless youth commit suicide at higher rates (62%) than heterosexual homeless youth (20%) (National Coalition for the Homeless, 2012); and
WHEREAS, Jesus Christ has expressly given the least, the lost, and the hurting a place among the people of God, which holy privilege must not be denied them and Jesus Christ our Lord teaches us, saying…“Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40 NRSV); and
WHEREAS, the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church seeks to follow a biblical mandate of edification of the least, the lost, and the hurting in order to prevent suicide, sexual assault, trafficking, and homelessness of LGBTQ youth;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the following resolution is adopted by the 2017 South Carolina Annual Conference:
That we vow, as churches and people of faith, to bear witness to the value of each and every life by not remaining silent when this value is questioned or dehumanized. To that end, we categorically oppose the practices of human trafficking and slavery in all its forms and urge our churches, committees, campus ministries, and all other United Methodist organizations to create safe space for each and every child of God.
Further, in the spirit of advocating for safe spaces, we call upon every United Methodist to respond to acts of prejudice, harassment, bullying, abuse, and violence against all persons, including our LGBTQ youth, with acts of compassion, justice, and liberation.
Moreover, we call upon the Church and society to intentionally support, advocate on behalf of, and minister to all at risk youth regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Finally, we call upon clergy to provide counseling and emotional and spiritual assistance to the families of LGBTQ youth, to help them better understand and value their youth and to make the home a safe space that is free of ridicule, bullying, and physical and verbal abuse, wherein the desire for escape by running away from home or by suicide is lessened through acceptance and the enduring love of family and of God.