Bishop Michael Coyner preached at the North Central Jurisdictional Conference Consecration ceremony July 16. The following is the body of a letter written by Love Prevails member, Mary Lou Taylor, detailing the harm he has done. (Here is a link to the archive of the livestream from the Consecration Service, viewable on July 18, 2016)
Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ.
You won’t remember my name, but I am the woman who came up to you after your sermon during the consecration of bishops for the North Central Jurisdiction on Saturday. I am the woman who told you that your words wounded many people in the sanctuary, especially Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer people, and that they were not reflective of the love and hospitality of Jesus Christ. I would like to say a little more about the damage that was done. Forgive me if I do not quote you with 100% accuracy: I believe I have come close.
Your sermon was ostensibly directed to the newly-elected bishops, giving them a little fatherly advice from a seasoned veteran. But in doing so, you took every opportunity to say, in code or in very clear language, that you do not value LGBTQ people and that you favor their exclusion and the harm it does to them in the United Methodist Church. You began by warning them not to try to be “relevant,” not to “change with the culture,” but to “stick to Scripture.” We all know what you meant—everyone in that church knew what you meant. But I’d like to ask you, which Scripture? Why do you put more weight on eight “clobber passages” than you do on the teachings of our Lord? And why is it more important that we maintain positions that were informed by a culture 2000 years old, a time, place and understanding that was dramatically different than the one in which we find ourselves today? What is it about demonizing and excluding LGBTQ people that is so important to you that you had to include it in your sermon?
But that was just a warm-up. Next, you warned the new bishops, “don’t let what the Western Jurisdiction did be your guide.” Again, your position that the Book of Discipline must be upheld even when it contradicts the teachings of Christ is clear. Do not let the Spirit of God to sweep into the life of the church, your words intoned. Follow the rules, even when they are harmful.
But the heart-breaking moment came later, when you were telling the bishops that they will be criticized, and used as an example that after 49 primarily Latino, primarily gay people were horribly slaughtered in Orlando, you and other bishops got letters calling them co-murderers because of the church’s condemnation of same-sex relationships. Was there really no other time you were criticized that you could have used as an example, one that was not so pointedly meant to harm?
Please, Bishop Coyner, think for a moment of the opportunity for compassion and healing that you missed in that sermon. Forty-nine people whom our church condemns as “incompatible with Christian teaching” and excludes from full participation in our denomination were slaughtered and you used that event as an example of how hard it is to be a bishop. Can you understand how hurtful that was? Do you understand why there were people crying in the pews?
There is so much work for the church to do in this world. In just the few days leading up to your sermon, we had police murdering black men, police being murdered, 84 men, women and children literally mowed down in Nice, and a coup in Turkey. And yet none of that—nothing—was lifted up in your sermon. The message you could have given to the new bishops about the need to work ceaselessly for the healing of a broken world went unspoken.
You display a hardened heart, I’m afraid, and your sermon reflected more concern for yourself than for the beloved United Methodist Church or the work of Jesus Christ. I am thankful that the words that we sang during communion were so much more reflective of the Christ whom I follow: “And God will delight when we are creators of justice and joy, compassion and peace.” May it be so.
May God be with you,
Mary Lou Taylor”