In advance of Love Prevails’ witness to the Connectional Table in Nashville this week, we sent the members of the Connectional Table the following letter. The letter makes the connections between LBGTQ exclusion and the missional practices and four areas of focus in the UMC.
Dear Connectional Table Member,
The 2004 General Conference made clear that: “the Connectional Table is to be motivated by faithfulness to the mission of the church to make disciples of Jesus Christ; global in scope and holistic in understanding; inclusive in nature and collaborative in style; and while being efficient in the stewardship of resources, be transparent, accessible, and accountable in all relationships.” [from UMC.org about the Connectional Table]
This task is most worthwhile for the life of The United Methodist Church. However, it is made more difficult when elements of this vision are not valued within the system. It is also made more complicated when issues of LGBTQ exclusion are ignored in the Connectional Table’s four areas of focus. Let us give some examples.
Regarding the task to develop principled leaders: There is a lengthy and growing list of names of called, gifted, and principled leaders lost to the UMC because of the current “incompatibility” legislation. This is not accountability in all relationships, nor stewardship of resources. Regarding your task to develop new communities of faith: We remove called and gifted LGBTQ clergy who can do this work faithfully and effectively. We restrict participation of LGBTQ laity within these new communities. When do we tell members of new church starts that our denomination is not inclusive in nature; that our welcome does not extend to LGBTQ people? There are faithful disciples of Jesus Christ who cannot find a home in the United Methodist Church.
We are at a critical point in the life of The United Methodist Church. We are players on a stage, reciting a script that has been acted out for more than forty years. All the while the audience is yawning, booing, and leaving.
To change this script, the Connectional Table must make transparent the effect of 40 years of exclusion of LGBTQ people from the life of the church. Failing to reveal the devastating consequences of intentional and categorical discrimination brings down the curtain on our play. By not substantively speaking to the issue of LGBTQ exclusion, the Connectional Table itself continues to be an actor in this bad drama.
After 40 years of legislation based on a false premise that same-gender love is incompatible with the gospel, a growing gap between the arc of God’s Justice and United Methodist policies has become exceedingly clear to everyone, actors and audience alike. If the Connectional Table truly seeks to be faithful to its identified mission, it needs to begin following a new script.
Rev. Amy DeLong
Rev. Dr. Julie Todd
Mary Lou Taylor
Brenda Smith White
Rev. Wesley White
Mary Anne Balmer