Alison Wisneski

As two gay people living separately in the Midwest, we weren’t doing a lot.

As two gay people living together in Colorado, we’re trying to do more.

Betsy and I received a civil union at our church, First United Methodist Church of Boulder, on the first day of autumn – September 22. Our pastors apologized for the harmful and hurtful ways the United Methodist Church treats LGBTQ persons. They said that people called us “biblically disobedient,” to which they challenged that no, we were absolutely biblically obedient. What we were doing was “Ecclesiastically disobedient.” We liked that. A lot.

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Pastors Pat Bruns and Joe Agne sign the civil union document, while Alison, Betsy, and witness Preston Vaughn look on

We were the first same-sex couple to receive a civil union inside of the sanctuary of FUMC, and we are so proud and so honored. Last Easter, our pastors wrote a statement saying they were going to begin to perform unions to couples who asked, and it was signed by over 300 people. As two people who signed it, we were lucky enough to see our dreams become reality.

Betsy and I are pretty different when it comes to levels of our openness. I scored nearly full extrovert on the Myers-Briggs scale, while Betsy was the perfect center of introvert and extrovert. She wanted a small, simple ceremony with just the pastors. I wanted to livestream it on the Love Prevails site. We found the perfect middle (as we always do) in this blog and with some photos. We’re disrupting on a level that we’re both comfortable with.

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First United Methodist Church of Boulder’s first civil union performed in the sanctuary

We made it an open invitation for the church to come. This is a church that became reconciling 16 years ago and lost members who believed that FUMC was breaking the outdated, non-inclusive language code of the UM Book of Discipline, stating that our sexuality was incompatible with Jesus’ teachings. Betsy and I often joke that we believe Jesus would totally hang out with us. The Jesus we know, love, and follow would have been sitting somewhere in the pews on Sunday. Chances are, the Jesus we know would have been laughing and crying right along with us. We saw Jesus in the faces of the people who attended. The faces of love, compassion, and hope for our relationship and for relationships to come that are LGBTQ-identified and Methodist. Being both gay and Methodist can coincide in harmony, just like an extrovert and a semi-introvert can.

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Julie Todd

I’ve never ceased to be amazed how hateful the anti-gay and anti-trans sentiments and actions of the United Methodist Church really are. At every General Conference I attended until 2012, and in the implementation of the church’s policies every year in between, the situation for queer people and their allies only got worse. No matter what we did – write letters, sign statements, tell stories, pray, craft legislation – it only got worse. Yet while the hateful speech and discrimination, persecution and prosecution of gay people and their allies continued unabated, for the first time since 1972, the church at GC 2012 in Tampa didn’t codify more prohibitions and penalties in the Book of Discipline.

There is a reason for this: we so significantly disrupted the GC that they could not carry on with business as usual. After the “agree to disagree” legislative compromise failed for the fourth GC in a row, the Love Your Neighbor Coalition executed a witness in which volunteers and delegates broke the bar and entered the plenary floor. We offered communion. During this action, the bishop called a recess of the conference. When communion was over, the Coalition planned to leave the floor. Love Prevails members decided to stay. The rules of the GC would prevent reconvening if non-delegates remained. Dozens stayed and we sang. We sang for three hours. Ultimately, bishops and conference organizers negotiated with us to attend a meeting with the Calendar Committee, where a representative group of UM leaders agreed to effectively bury all matters on sexual orientation and gender identity at the end of the agenda, preventing them from coming up. This was an ambiguous solution. We do not promote not dealing with GLBTQ oppression as a way of resolving injustice. But it seemed better that the BoD not change than to make it worse.

This is the bottom line: we disrupted the normal business of the Conference to such a degree that they had to negotiate with us to stop the clearly approaching anti-gay legislative train-wreck. We were willing and open to creatively engage in disruption, and we seized the moment when it arrived. And we had an impact. In 2016, we will be there, ready with new acts of creative disruption.

Julie Todd is an elder in the New England Conference. She is Affiliate Faculty for Justice and Peace Studies at the Iliff School of Theology.

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Peter Harmon

I have lobbied on behalf of libraries in our state for just over 40 years now.  I have experienced many failures, but at least a few notable successes, and if nothing else, this experience has taught me some things about the legislative process that may be of use concerning GLBT issues.

First off, I believe that most legislators are motivated by three primary factors.  The most important of these is lining up votes and getting re-elected,  Next comes raising campaign funds.  Last, and unfortunately least, is doing what they believe to be the right thing.

This is especially unfortunate because GLBT rights, which are at base human rights, are the right thing.  Our arguments are strong and persuasive, so I think that we usually have this base fairly well covered. Unfortunately that leaves votes and campaign funds to decide the issue, and that seems to be where we most often lose.  Few of us can compete with wealth of the Koch brothers or the Church of Latter Day Saints, so that leaves us with the issue of votes as single hook upon which we can hang our best hopes of success.

Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to deal with legislators to make our case in that regard.  Here are a few.

First, the mass approach:  Flood your capitol with supporters.  When the issue of concealed carry came before our legislature, hundreds of supporters packed the halls and galleries – and made no secret of the fact that their votes would follow only what they considered to be a favorable response.  Nothing concerning this issue happened in the days and weeks that followed without those who favored this law in attendance.  Rallies were held through out the state.  Legislators felt that their jobs were threatened, and even many of those who had opposed concealed carry in the past caved in.  I didn’t agree with the issue, but I had to admire the tactics.  I should also point out that those of us who call ourselves allies all too often leave the heavy lifting to the GLBT community.  That won’t work for a mass approach.  All of us are needed, and especially our votes!

Second, the personal appeal:  Your own vote is important, doubly so if you are known to be politically active.  The most successful way to affect a legislator is to develop a personal relationship.  If the individual in question is a personal friend or a friend of someone you know and can mobilize, so much the better.  But another path is to attend fundraisers (there are some cheap ones out there) and work on campaigns.  Participating in a literature drop takes a few hours, but the possible dividends in appreciation are large.  Beyond this make the effort to get to personally know your legislator.  Visit his or her office and take your friends along,  And don’t just discuss your issues.  Take a little time to discover what is important to that elected official.  Do you have common ground?  Can you at least agree to disagree and establish a relationshiip of mutual respect?  And here a caveat.  Many legislators listen only to their own constituents.  Don’t depend on few concerned citizens to do the whole job for you.  It takes somebody from every district to carry the ball.

Beyond visits, it is important to keep up a flow of information.  Phone calls can be successful, but usually only if you have a personal relationship already.  This leave us with written communication.   Oddly enough, I have been told many times over the years that the best way to convince is with a hand written letter.  They take both time and commitment to write, and legislators don’t get many, so they are accordingly prized.  Next comes a typed letter.  Easier to do, but less personal and marginally less effective.  Then we turn to electronics.  Email, messages left on a legislator’s web page, facebook page, hotline, etc.  Mostly these are just stacked up and counted, to see where the voters are going today.  A further caveat.  If you cannot say what you have to say on two sides of one sheet of paper (and one side is better), it probably will never be read.  Legislators are busy.  Also, don’t overlook staff.  They have much more effect on decisions than you might think, and a personal relationship with a key legislative staff member is often as valuable as one with a legislator.

If the GLBT population is 10% of the whole, that leaves 90% of the rest of us.  As far as I can see, that means all those of us who call ourselves allies represent the mass required to get the job done.  So let’s buckle down and change the world.  It’s time!

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Deborah Buffton

I was a lifelong United Methodist until 2003.  My dad is a retired United Methodist pastor and I was baptized, confirmed and married in the church.  Throughout most of my life I supported the church financially (often significantly more than simply a tithe) and I served in leadership roles on the Church Council, Outreach Committees, Worship Committees, choir, and more.

However, in 2004 I left the local church to which I belonged, feeling that I really didn’t “belong” there, and I have never joined another UMC. This is largely because of the UMC’s contradictory and hurtful stance on GLBT people and issues.  Although I have taken pride in the church’s earlier stance on workers’ rights, I am troubled by its current disenfranchisement of GLBT folks.

If and when the church decides to live out the meaning of God’s expansive love and welcome GLBT folks fully into the church, I may return and bring back my prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness.

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Sue Laurie

I am an evangelist. I invite people to trust God with their whole being. For many years, my prayer has been to offer my own vulnerability in the struggle for LGBT inclusion. This prayer brings the challenge of being authentic on the journey.

As an openly lesbian United Methodist, my presence is “rewarded” with uncomfortable looks and hurtful situations. I can feel the hate.

But this vulnerability, this effort to keep my guard down, also allows me to worship with an open spirit and to sing the hymns in a way that fills my heart and soul for the good.  I can feel the love as well. I am confident in Christ. I invite others to join me in faith.

The effort to educate, pray and cajole the UMC toward inclusion has been very important to me. I have committed my life and my passion to this for years. I have been faithful.

I think of Paul in Philippians 3.  He was a role model for “righteous under the law, blameless”.  Me too!

Then Paul divested from that way of thinking.  He began to regard former place and privilege as rubbish. Paul put his trust in God, his faith in Christ.

Julie and I are church people; we have invested sacrificially in the United Methodist Church. But we are not to trust the church more than God.  Our second class membership becomes a second class witness.

We need to worship in a place where we can invite others into the community — without warning them to keep their guard up.

We can no longer abide the duplicity of the UMC. We have had to go elsewhere—a neighborhood UCC–where we can invite others…  to be authentic, to trust God, and thrive in the Spirit.

“Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13f.

Sue Laurie and Julie Bruno met at Edinboro UMC in Edinboro, PA. They will celebrate their 31 anniversary this fall. Sue earned her MDIV from Garrett-ETS in 1995 and was turned down for ordination because she is lesbian… and told them so. Sue and Julie have attended five General Conferences so far and given the witness their all. “We do miss those UM Hymnals and songbooks.”

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Rev. Steve Heiss

Rev. Steve Heiss has generously agreed to let his letter to his Bishop Mark Webb, publicly disclosing his acts of ministry in having conducted and continuing to conduct same-sex unions and weddings. Read Steve’s poetic and prophetic letter here. You can find further reflections by Rev. Heiss since his case became public on his blog, Rainbows and Sunspots, http://rainbowsandsunspots.blogspot.com/.
We support Rev. Heiss in his act of disclosing. We encourage you to express your support to him. And we encourage you also to disclose, in the myriad ways open to you.

Rev. Steve Heiss Discloses
To Bishop Mark Webb, my brother in Christ!
In the spirit of the One who said the truth will set us free, and emboldened by the freedom given by grace for which Jesus lived and died, I want and need to share with you how God has led me (and many of our colleagues) in ministries to help set at liberty those who have been held captive by the tyranny against people who are gay.
In the last few years I have officiated at several weddings for brothers and sisters who are lesbian or gay. One of those weddings—the highlight of my ministry—was for my own daughter and the woman who is now her wife. They are so happy!
Further, much to my delight, I have plans to officiate in the near future at yet another wedding for two women, that their joy may also be complete.
Bishop Webb—the long bitter era of scorn and hatred against gay people is dissolving before our very eyes. Christ has broken down the walls.
Those who have lived within the law and those who have lived outside the law are sitting down together at the table of grace.
The parable of the Kingdom of God as a wedding banquet has become an event in real time for hundreds of gay couples across our state. Finally, like the guest list in Jesus’ parable, those on the outside are invited to the inside of God’s grace.  They must come!
Nevertheless, some yet refuse the invitation.
They make excuses.
They cite Scriptures, yet offer no interpretive principle by which their claims are validated.
They prefer the “tradition of the elders” to Jesus’ teachings about “not judging the other.”
They screen for the gnats of sexual correctness while the elephants of consumer materialism, environmental degradation, and global starvation pass right by, completely unnoticed.
We cannot judge them, of course, for they too are given grace.
Who among us can say we have always accepted every invitation toward grace and away from judgment?
And so, grace abounds!
Further, the harvest of that grace is found everywhere—even in the church!
With regard to homosexuality, we who count ourselves as United Methodists have been wandering in the wilderness of uncertainty about all things gay for 40 long years.  Now the Promised Land is coming into view.
During those 40 years we have attempted to trap gay folks in nets of shame.
We stalked them with bible verses.
We legislated against them – whereas this, and whereas that.
We sent them to trials.
In righteous rage we lifted stones against them.
Now, in our own time, we are dropping those stones, one by one –
at first –  mothers, dads, sisters, brothers, school mates, talk show hosts, the neighbor next door.
We were learning.
Then—psychologists, pediatricians, sociologists, school teachers, neuro-scientists, biologists, counselors.
We were learning.
Then—Anglicans,  Episcopalians, Lutherans, United Churches of Christ, Presbyterians, Reformed Jews.
We were learning.
And now – baseball players, bible scholars, theologians, professional ethicists, Sunday school teachers, pastors . . .

and bishops.
We are learning.
We are finally learning that
being gay harms no one.
No one.
No one.

We are learning it is not a sin to be gay nor was it ever “incompatible with Christian teaching”.
We are learning that it is really OK with God if one is gay –
(just as eating shrimp is OK,  regardless stern biblical injunctions to the contrary!)

And so a new circle is forming.
A new circle is being created,
and it is being drawn wide.
A circle of understanding.
A circle of compassion.
A circle of truth.

The complex name for that circle might be:

“the fellowship of those who are no longer
throwing stones at people just because
they happen to be gay, lesbian,
bisexual or transgender”

A simpler name for that circle might be:

“those who are trying to live in the light of God’s grace”

But the name of the circle I most hope for, is this one:

The United Methodist Church

Your brother on the journey,
Stephen Heiss,  Pastor
Tabernacle United Methodist Church
Binghamton, N.Y.

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Rev. Tina S. Lang

I don’t identify as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender so what do I have to “disclose?”
A lot, actually!
I really can’t claim to be an ally if I choose to keep my mouth shut and live in the relative comfort of my heterosexual privilege while others are systematically and categorically excluded.
As people of faith we are called to do justice.
We’re called to speak out when we find ourselves in family, faith, political or cultural systems that diminish any part of God’s creation.
We’re called to speak up for those whose voices, gifts, and very personhood have been marginalized and excluded.
We’re called to speak honestly about our human tendencies toward self-righteousness, judgment and division.
We’re called to speak above the institutional clatter and angst with words of grace and love.
We’re called to speak beyond the short-sighted fearfulness of our current realities toward the expansive and life-giving possibilities of the peaceable kingdom.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
What do I have to disclose?
A lot!

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