100 Methodist Clergy Just Came Out As LGBTQ In A Courageous Statement For Inclusion
Many Christian denominations have already officially adopted affirming positions regarding LGBTQ people, while others are still lagging behind — but many of their members are pushing them in the right direction. For instance over 100 Methodist clergy members just came out as LGBTQ just before the United Methodist Church 2016 General Conference, which begins this week, in order to encourage the church to take a more welcoming view of LGBTQ people. Because it's obvious the United Methodist Church and LGBTQ community overlap quite a bit.
A total of 111 Methodist pastors, deacons, elders, and candidates for ministry signed a letter to the United Methodist Church released online on Monday, stating that they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer/questioning, and intersex. "We share with you the covenant of baptism which has knit us together as one family," the letter reads.
It goes on to say:
However, while we have sought to remain faithful to our call and covenant, you have not always remained faithful to us. While you have welcomed us as pastors, youth leaders, district superintendents, bishops, professors, missionaries and other forms of religious service, you have required that we not bring our full selves to ministry, that we hide from view our sexual orientations and gender identities.
Although there is no single body that governs all Methodist Churches, the United Methodist Church is the largest Methodist denomination in the United States, and their official position on LGBTQ people is currently less than ideal. Although they believe that LGBTQ people deserve full legal rights, the church also "does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching." They do add that "God’s grace is available to all. ... We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons." But that's still all a long way from fully accepting LGBTQ people as they are. After all, there is a big difference between tolerance and acceptance.
The church also does not allow for the ordination of LGBTQ people, meaning that by coming out publicly, the 111 clergy members are risking the loss of their positions within the church. But they still feel that it's important to stand up.
"There are many voices within The United Methodist Church who want us to break up with them," the clergy members write in their letter. "From bishops, Boards of Ordained Ministries, and other leaders, we are told to simply leave." However, they explain that what they want is not to leave and found some separate denomination, but to be accepted and affirmed within the church to which they already belong. And even if they were to leave, they point out, the next generation of LGBTQ Methodist young people would simply face the same issues.
"The 'LGBTQI issue' is not one that can be resolved through restrictive legislation but instead by seeing that all persons are made in the image of God and welcomed into the community of faith," they write.
Many Christian denominations have been rapidly evolving in recent years when it comes to affirming LGBTQ identities and fully welcoming LGBTQ members. With the 2016 General Conference already beginning, and with LGBTQ issues likely to be discussed, maybe the United Methodist Church will begin making those important changes, too.
Image: Nancy Dowd/Pixabay