We offer our gratitude to United Methodist News Service, Rev. Dr. Althea Spencer-Miller, Rev. Chris Ritter, Rev. Dr. Mark Holland, and Rev. Rob Renfroe for producing Perspectives on a Way Forward.
We stand with United Methodists around our global connection in gratitude for the joys and pain that have brought us to this critical moment. Mixed into the foundation of godliness on which our denomination was founded is also the sin of arbitrary exclusion. Rev. Dr. Spencer-Miller rightfully acknowledged during the discussion that this was a panel of three cisgender, heterosexual white men and one Black LGBTQ woman. Inherent in this discussion, and in many of the conversations we have had about the plans before us, are the very power structures that we must strive to replace with justice.
Ours is a rich and storied United Methodist history, and we are right to be proud of it. And yet – history and tradition that do not advance love become liabilities that stunt our mission and witness. Just as Jesus simultaneously honored and challenged tradition, so must we be called to critically examine the traditions of our lineage that keep those in and outside of the Church far from God.
Thanks be to God, we are beginning to repent of misogyny and white supremacy in the Church. Thanks be to God, we are beginning to take seriously the Gospel call for economic justice. And thanks be to God, those who have followed the way of Jesus have had differing views on human identity and dignity. To say that 2,000 years of Christian teaching has adhered to the same sexual ethic that finds LGBTQ people incompatible with Christian teaching is predicated on either historical ignorance or a willful valuation of some theologies over others.
Thanks be to God, the future remains an ever-present opportunity to rectify the past.
We are similarly facing an opportunity now to relinquish the pieces of our history that oppress and do not serve. The covenant to which we are beholden – to which we must answer at the end of our days – is not one of denominational doctrine. Rather, we all must serve a higher covenant: the one to which our God has called us.
Therefore, love for our denomination must never become worship of an institution. When the institution has sinned against God’s greatest commandments, the institution must be willing to seize the opportunity to repent of its shortcomings.
Rev. Renfroe’s analogy of an unfaithful spouse is inadequate to describe the situation in which we find our denomination today. More accurate would be the image of two siblings in a family where one has consistently bullied the other, perhaps over a misunderstanding of who that sibling is, or perhaps as a display of power. LGBTQ United Methodists and our allies could leave, yes, and we would be justified in doing so, but we don’t want to leave because this is our family, too.
We stand for and support all efforts before the delegates to advance justice. As Rev. Dr. Spencer-Miller and many other LGBTQ people have observed in our Church, LGBTQ people have too frequently been the subject of conversation but uninvited to the conversation. Through this process, we have been caught in the middle of deeply harmful, wounding dialogue, and we seek justice within the Church because this Church is ours, too. And, justice to LGBTQ people in the Church is not the only matter of justice at stake: our global connection, our missions, our witness also stand to be lost if we elect to weaken the Church.
As Rev. Mark Holland said, “None of these plans are final steps. The solutions we’re going to have in 2019 are not necessarily the solutions we’re going to have in 2030.” And yet, we must pray, work, and vote in faith for the chance to meet 2030 together as one Church.
To a world where disaster relief, humanitarian aid, and higher education matter, and to a world where LGBTQ people will always be born, The United Methodist Church matters. For their sake alongside our own, we must act and vote like it does.