For over forty-five years, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (LGBTQ) people have bore the brunt of The United Methodist Church’s debate over the inclusion of our community. While LGBTQ people continue to graciously offer our gifts and graces to the denomination, the dialogue about us carries on as if the policies and practices are not still actively causing us harm. For this reason, the recent launch of the Uniting Methodists Movement (UMM) is of great concern to Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) as we continue our 30+ year mission of advocating for LGBTQ justice in The UMC.
The foundational statement of the UMM is another example of fellow United Methodists advocating for changes “about us, without us” and once again asserts the false notion that a unity of substance can be achieved while discriminatory policies remain in place. The proposal joins a long tradition of prioritizing a surface level kind of unity over the well-being of LGBTQ people, particularly those most vulnerable in the South, and fails to embrace an unprecedented opportunity to set our church on a new course toward justice, reconciliation, and health.
Countless numbers of LGBTQ people and allies have made the painful decision to leave the church they love in order to honor God, themselves, and their calling. Thankfully, the church has failed to chase every LGBTQ person and ally away. As we live into our United Methodist Baptismal covenant of resisting evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves — which includes oppression of LGBTQ persons — we seek to change the church and transform the world one pew, pulpit, and community at a time.
As Reconciling United Methodists, our commitment is to the LGBTQ lives found at every intersection of humanity.
We grieve the fact that international headlines are filled with queer teens who have died by suicide, hate crimes against LGBTQ persons, the murder of trans women of color, new pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation being proposed and enforced regularly, and pervasive cultural attitudes of misogyny, racism, homophobia, and transphobia often taught in our churches and certainly perpetuated by the denomination’s silence.
Those being harmed by systemic evils should be able to turn to the church – the place that proclaims to be a sanctuary for those who are marginalized and disenfranchised by systems of oppression and power. This is the calling and purpose God has set before us. Prioritizing first the institutional survival of The UMC, at the cost of LGBTQ people or our foundational purpose to be that which we proclaim – a sanctuary – is, at best, unfaithful.
The unity we seek is one that speaks to our shared purpose to proclaim and model love and justice as disciples of Jesus Christ and to share the good news of the gospel with all God’s children. These children of God include the teen rejected by their family after coming out, the young trans woman worried for her physical safety, the lesbian immigrant whose marriage is threatened by unjust immigration policies, the bisexual senior who fears a return to the closet when moving to assisted living, and the gay Nigerian who fears for his life under oppressive anti-LGBTQ laws.
We know that they belong to God. And it is our church’s work to ensure they know that too.
The United Methodist Church has a great many resources to use faithfully in its mission of “transforming the world.” The world is aching with need of the faithful prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness we see poured into ministries in our local churches. But until “diversity of opinion” is no longer equated with a loyalty to policies that institutionalize discrimination and reinforce harm towards LGBTQ people, the church will simply remain a mere shadow of what it could be – of what God calls all of us to be.