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Affirmation Sends Comments to Commission

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June 9, 2017

To: The Commission on a Way Forward
From: Affirmation: United Methodists
    for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Concerns

We in Affirmation have been “out” and advocating for the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons since 1975, in response to the statement added to the Social Principles that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” For us, as one of our members says below, this statement does not feel like a condemnation of behavior, but a condemnation of our being, since for us, being gay is far more significant than sex and sexual behavior, and our reality is embodied in our Christian experience of our sexuality.

What follows are the reflections of two of our long-time members, Gary and Ben.

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In 1970 at the age of 15, I (Gary) transferred from the (then) United Presbyterian Church to The United Methodist Church.  This was not a spiritual thing, but rather the product of a chaotic family situation.

Two years later, in 1972, I was declared “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

In 1985 I reached out to the Dallas Texas chapter of Affirmation.  Although the chapter met only once a month, it was a vital life line for a closeted introvert working for a conservative Texas bank holding company.  Through that group I met in 1985 and married in 1986 an ex-deacon of The UMC.  For the younger among you, back then a deacon was what is now known as a provisional elder.  He’d left the ministry as it became increasingly hostile towards him and the demands of looking after himself became more important.

Over the years and with much discussion, Affirmation has grown.  “Gay Concerns” became “Lesbian and Gay Concerns.”  After much more discussion, and there was plenty as I’ve heard it told, Affirmation added “Bisexual.”  As our understandings changed and grew, adding “Transgender” was just an item that had to be brought up in the corporate meeting.  Ditto adding “Queer,” “Questioning,” and “Intersex.”
As Affirmation became more inclusive from its founding in 1975, The UMC has heaped more and more restrictions into The Discipline and seems resistant to all attempts to undo the restrictions.  There are many reasons for this, and I’ll not go into them here on the assumption that the Commission on a Way Forward is aware of these.

Affirmation sends this message:

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I'm Ben Roe from Denver, a seminary-trained lay person. I grew up in Nebraska, and over the years since the early 70s, I have come to the realization that gender and sex are not binary, and that I am aware of and celebrate my attractions to persons regardless of their gender.

I've studied and taught human sexuality and it is clear to me that our Disciplinary statements about sexuality are woefully inadequate to the complexity of what we know now about human sexuality in the 21st Century.

Our scientific knowledge is growing, and so far we know that there are six biological markers for sexual differentiation: chromosomes, hormones, brain structures, external genitalia, internal reproductive structures, and gonadal tissue—and all of them have a continuum of characteristics. And this all underlies the continua of gender and sexual orientation. So, the use of the very word “homosexual” is nearly meaningless in the face of this complexity.

Since the General Conference of The United Methodist Church has been unable and/or unwilling to acknowledge, much less deal with this complexity, and since sexuality is viewed so differently in different world cultures, I believe it is time to vastly simplify our stances, taking out references to sexual orientation, gender and marriage, and letting individual Annual, Jurisdictional, and Central Conference cultures shape further statements. Human rights may suffer in some parts of the world, but more diversity and honest conversation may prevail overall. And we will be able to embrace a “United” Methodism that is about much more than sexuality!

God bless you in your conversations and decisions.