Over 100 United Methodist clergy came out as homosexual or transgender this week in a letter publicly addressed to the denomination in an effort to draw attention to the issue ahead of the General Conference and to seek acceptance despite policies that prohibit practicing homosexuals from serving in the ministry.
“[W]hile we have sought to remain faithful to our call and covenant, you have not always remained faithful to us,” the letter, released by Reconciling Ministries Network, asserts.
“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,” it says.
As previously reported, the United Methodist Book of Discipline outlines that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” and that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” may not be ordained as ministers in the denomination.
“While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world,” the book reads.
In the letter posted on Monday, the 111 signees state that they wish to remain in the United Methodist denomination despite prohibitions against homosexual behavior and that they desire to “create a pathway of hope into ministry” for non-celibate homosexual youth who want to serve in leadership capacities.
“LGBTQI people and their families exist in every church in every continent of this denomination. They are seeking to remain in faithful relationship with you, even when you refuse, because they know God’s tender mercies and great faithfulness,” the correspondence reads.
Signees of the letter include Brian Adkins of the Open Door United Methodist Church in Richmond, California; Bonnie Beckonchrist of Berry United Methodist Church in Chicago, Illinois; Alex da Silva-Souto of New Milford United Methodist Church in New Milford, Connecticut; Christine Lindeberg of Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church in Pleasant Valley, New York; Wendy Woodworth of Morningside United Methodist Church in Salem, Oregon; and Jarell Wilson of Argyle United Methodist Church in Argyle, Texas.
On Thursday, over 500 homosexual and transgender clergy spanning various denominations signed a separate letter expressing support for the United Methodist leaders who came out in their correspondence.
“Those of you who came out in Monday’s letter, and those who have come before you, and those who are still not able to live out your sexual and gender identities openly: we see you and we support you and we are surrounding you with love,” it reads.
Signees include Dr. Kyle Walker of Faith Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas; Dr. Mark Johnston of the First Christian Church of Des Moines, Iowa; Guy Johnson of Keysville Grace United Church of Christ in Keymar, Maryland; Erica Baron of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Catksills in Kingston, New York; Thomas Discavage of St. James Church in Los Angeles, California; and Jennifer Sanborn of Enfield American Baptist Church in Enfield, Connecticut.
Not all United Methodist clergy and ministry leaders support homosexual behavior. In an article entitled “Why Many Methodists Still Oppose Same-Sex Marriage,” John Lemperis, the Director of the UM Action program of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, said that the Bible is crystal clear on the matter.
“Even liberal Biblical scholars now agree that the Old and New Testaments are very clear in their moral disapproval of homosexual practice,” he wrote. “More fundamentally, Scripture paints a beautiful picture of marriage as a holy covenant of intensely intimate, self-giving community between man and woman, uniting the two most basic, equal categories of humanity.”
“We submit to Jesus as Lord,” Lemperis stated. “If He is truly Lord, then no area of our lives can be off-limits to Him. Jesus spoke strongly about the centrality of self-denial in following Him, which often means dramatic personal sacrifices, including not acting on powerful desires for things outside of God’s best for us. … Jesus and new life in Him are more than worth it.”