The Failure of the Council of Bishops

For Immediate Release, Tuesday November 22, 2011

By Affirmation: United Methodists Co-spokesperson Tim Tennant-Jayne

The recent letter from the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church (available here) is a well crafted letter that side-steps the issue at hand, even while attempting to address it. The Council is trying to lead this denomination in ministry to and with homosexual persons. Their letter is a response to the signed statements by over 1,000 clergy who are proclaiming their willingness to officiate at ceremonies celebrating same gender relationships, even with the known risks of disciplinary action.

 

Clergy from a wide variety of annual conferences have signed statements supporting same-gender wedding ceremonies. Inspired by such leadership, each day more clergy and lay members join them. However, contrary to what the Bishops write, these statements are not the root cause of the “great pain throughout the church.” That pain comes from The Book of Discipline. The recent statements have only brought that pain into greater public view.

The Discipline does indeed declare the church “to be in ministry for and with all persons.” Yet it is also very clear that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons are not as welcome as are other people. The UMC is willing to receive our money, count our membership, and accept our service – if we are quiet about our lives. Yet we can not openly serve God who calls us or celebrate our relationships. Ministry for and with us is only discussed if it involves legal action forbidding such ministry.

Many United Methodists like living the lie that our denomination is of one, uniform viewpoint and that we “continue to live together.” The results of this are much more than “deep disagreements”. The results include wide spread rejection of our LGBT children leading to serious depression, wide spread alcoholism, drug abuse, and even suicides. Fearful voices cry of the loss of membership if we learn to accept that God is love, while ignoring the quiet voices of LGBT members, their families, and allies who have already left.

Affirmation: United Methodists for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns exists to challenge that lie. We are here to help this denomination we love find ways to work together through this time of change, to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. In a world with too much inaccurate information about God’s bounteous variety of sexual orientation and gender identity, we seek to help others find the truth about our lives. The Council of Bishops claims to seek “a more excellent way” of ministry. The valor and faithfulness of the clergy willing to celebrate same gender relationships are indeed one “more excellent way” of ministry.

We recognize that the Church hired the Bishops to uphold The Discipline. Ironically, the source of pain in the UMC is also the source of the Bishops’ authority. In this letter they only offer prayer and enforcement of the Law. We hope that as they pledge “to offer grace upon grace to all in the name of Christ”, they will themselves find the grace and strength of Christ to truly prophetically lead this church.

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As an independent voice of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer people, Affirmation: United Methodists radically reclaims the compassionate and transforming gospel of Jesus Christ by relentlessly pursuing full inclusion in the Church as we journey with the Spirit in creating God’s beloved community.

Affirmation: United Methodists for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Concerns is an activist, all-volunteer, not-for-profit organization with no official ties to The United Methodist Church.

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