Love Prevails attends Colloquy

Love Prevails’ members are attending the Colloquy sponsored by the General Board of Higher Education & Ministry and the Association of United Methodist Theological Schools in Boston, MA. The theme of the Colloquy is Missio Dei and The United States: Toward a Faithful United Methodist Witness. In this Colloquy, faculty from United Methodist theological schools and United Methodist bishops are invited to present papers in a small-group discussion format with plenary report-backs. Love Prevails’ member and Iliff School of Theology faculty Rev. Dr. Julie Todd was invited to present a paper. Here are the key points from the paper she presented today.

Paper: “Nothing About Us Without Us: LGBTQ Liberation and the United Methodist Church”
Key Points

  • Organized as a part of the The Commission on a Way Forward’s (CWF) work, the present Colloquy participates in perpetuating and participating in the illegitimacy of the CWF’s effort to determine the lives and futures of LGBTQ persons in the denomination, whose voices continue to be marginalized and silenced in this very process by cisgender, heterosexual persons.
  • These gatherings and processes embody the discriminatory status quo and the ongoing failure of our church leadership to name the real and active harm being done to LGBTQI United Methodists and other queer people by our current policies and practices.
  • LGBTQ persons are not the only people for whom the Methodist movement has mounted decades-long attempts sublimate histories and practices of violence under the halo of theological discussion, and to silence their voices and destroy their communities in the name of mission.
  • Under the requested topic of Missio Dei, the present Colloquy falls prey to the same temptation as the institutional church in general to theological discussion that sublimates an entire history of oppression in the United States’ context in which genocide and slavery were justified and propelled precisely by Christian people as the mission of God in the “new world”. The paper rejects the concept of Missio Dei as a theological grounding for the Colloquy.
  • Using a liberationist methodology that emphasizes the experience, action and reflection of those most impacted by violence, in this particular case the violence experienced by LGBTQ persons themselves as a result of the UMC’s anti-queer institutional policies and practices, as the primary locus for the determination of the means of liberation in any way forward, the paper argues against the prioritizing of the theological abstractions such as unity and missiology over-against the practice and pursuit of equality and justice for all oppressed persons, including LGBTQ persons, as a central “missional” demand.
  • Only the removal of the discriminatory language in The Book of Discipline will put the denomination on a path towards addressing the underlying systemic injustice and inequities of heterosexism and homophobia more broadly within the church and world. When this path is cleared, there will be more space for deeper commitments to address the scourges of white supremacy, savage capitalism and economic inequality, endless war, migration crises, misogyny, climate change and environmental destruction.

 

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An Open Letter to Bishop Ken Carter

On July 17, 2017 Love Prevails sent the An Invitation to Be Invitational to all members of the Commission on (Not) The Way Forward. Bishop Ken Carter, one of co-chairs of the Commission, responded to our email. Here is our response back to him. (The original email communications from Love Prevails to the Commission members and Bishop Carter’s response to us follows below.)

Dear Bishop Carter,
Thank you for responding to our Invitation to Be Invitational. Clearly you are not interested in doing so. The notion that the work of The Commission is transparent appears to us as delusional. Press releases and formulaic videos are not the same as “transparency.” Apportionment dollars used to pay for armed, local law enforcement to protect you from us does not qualify as Invitational nor Transparent.

If there is a group of persons with more of a stake in The Commission than Love Prevails, we would like for you to tell us who they are. The very existence of this Commission is in response to the pressure applied across the denomination by Love Prevails and other LGBTQ groups and advocacy allies.

In light of your statement that the Commission’s work is, in fact, transparent, we ask you for the following information.

We would appreciate hearing from you about:

1) Your list of the stakeholders in the Commission, the individuals or groups you have identified as having a stake in the outcome of the Commission’s proceedings.

2) Is our being invited to the meetings of the Commission a decision you are authorized to make? The Commission as a whole? The Council of Bishops? Since your response had no mention of our being welcome or who is responsible for excluding us (or others who might attend), please clarify.

3) Descriptions of the general content of each meeting of the Commission before, during and afterwards.

4) When will the Commission be out of its “early stage” and be mature enough to invite others into its life? Was the video a misrepresentation of the trust-building it portrayed?

5) What is your communication plan to bring the rest of the church along before some great reveal in an Advance DCA for 2019?

We will be publishing your email communications with us on social media going forward.

We look forward to your utmost transparency.

Sincerely,

The Members of Love Prevails

 

****

Here is the original email Invitation to Be Invitational that Love Prevails sent to every member of the Commission.

Dear Commission Member,

Greetings as you prepare for your next Commission on A Way Forward. Love Prevails is still awaiting more transparency from the Commission. As a result, we are formally inviting you to invite more to be present with your deliberations now that you have established your trust with one another. We hope to hear your RSVP will allow ourselves and others to come in from both the cold and the heat.

We are aware that you may still be remembering our identity of being disruptive for General Conference 2016 as all other avenues than direct action have been removed from LGBTQ persons actually being at decision-making tables. We are quite capable of honoring an agreement to be non-disruptive witnesses at your meeting in the Chicago area.

We invite you to read our attached invitation and hope to hear from you soon that your self-imposed wall will be dismantled from the inside.

Love Prevails

Bishop Ken Carter responded with the following email response to Love Prevails’ Invitation to Be Invitational, addressed to Rev. Wesley White, who sent the emails on behalf of Love Prevails.

Dear Wesley,

 Thank you for reaching out to us.   We continue to do our work for the sake of finding a way forward and we are at an early stage in this mission.  We are also in continuing communication with United Methodist News Service and are transparently listening and sharing with stakeholders across the church. 

God bless you today.

The Peace of the Lord,

 +Ken Carter, Florida Area
The United Methodist Church

The Exhausted Right

IMG_0706 (2)by Rev. Amy E. DeLong

“I’m just so tired of fighting about this issue!”

These are words I hear spoken, not from me or my Queer friends who are rightfully exhausted by the church’s oppressive and intractable demand for hetero- and cis-normativity, but from my conservative brothers and sisters within the United Methodist Church.

It is a statement which frankly confuses me. Since 1972, the conservative faction of the United Methodist Church has enjoyed immense success in their legislative efforts to codify anti-Queer discrimination and prejudice. Here are the General Conference lowlights:

1972 – Labelled all Queer people “incompatible”
1976 – Scared boards and agencies silent with a funding ban
1984 – Categorically barred the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” and took steps to weed out gay candidates for ministry by inserting into the Book of Discipline the seemingly benign phrase “fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness.”
1996 – Prohibited holy unions from being performed by United Methodist clergy or in United Methodist facilities
2000 – Arrested 29 people (including two bishops) who protested the church’s anti-gay practices and polity
2004 – Criminalized immorality (including, but not limited to not being celibate in singleness or not faithful in a   heterosexual marriage), being an ordained “self-avowed practicing homosexual”, performing holy union ceremonies or same-sex marriages

For more than four decades, the LGBTQ community within the United Methodist Church has never experienced what could be regarded as “a win.” The legislation has only gotten more prohibitive, restrictive, and punitive. And yet, it is the religious right who claim exhaustion.

Of course, this begs the question, “Why are they so pooped?” The answer seems simple enough: Because they never thought it would take so much time, money, and focused energy to get rid of us. They must have been so certain that with each cruel and callous piece of legislation we would leave; that their attempts at cultural genocide would have been measurably successful by now; that their profound spiritual brutality and ever-increasing malice would have driven us away, long ago. And yet, here we are.

I am reminded of the Mexican proverb that says, “They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.”

We Queers just keep popping up. And like defiant spring dandelions, we are ever more resistant to the religious right’s spiritual “Roundup.” We are stronger, prouder, more resilient, more rebellious – and most importantly, more certain of God’s acceptance and more confident of God’s call, which, of course, makes us increasingly impervious to their spiritual abuse and bad teachings.

Yeah … the religious right should be tired. But imagine how tuckered out they will be after they break away from the United Methodist Church to start their own church (free of the ambiguous and gritty reality of human sexuality), only to find that there are little Queer kids singing in their Cherub Choirs who, when they grow up, won’t want to be thrown out of their churches either.

From where I stand…

Janet Ellinger, United Methodist clergy, retired

April 30, 2017, was Confirmation Sunday.  I listened to eighth and ninth graders speak their “credo,”…that to which my heart clings.

Recent rulings within The United Methodist Church have moved me to state that to which my heart clings and where it is I stand.

I boldly speak against the injustice and discrimination toward LGBTQ persons, their families and allies that yet remains within, and is supported by, the policies and people of The United Methodist Church.

I announce the harm that is being inflicted over and over again to LGBTQ persons, their families and allies.  This is not “an issue.”  This is about real peoples’ lives, literally.

I call upon allies and families to add their voices, time and resources to protest this devastating attack on LGBTQ people that is an affront to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I will not make any further financial contribution that supports the institution through apportionments.  I know apportionments support good things, too.  This does not give me pause.  I easily find ways to continue my financial support of the good work in a local church as well as similar efforts for justice and compassion outside of the Church.

I dissent in place and will not leave The United Methodist Church.

I keep my clergy credentials.  The church is a vessel.  God has ordained me.  No one can take that from me.

The April 28, 2017, ruling of the Judicial Council regarding, “can a gay clergyperson serve as a bishop?” (my summary) and the possible judicial or administrative process that may unfold in Bishop Oliveto’s Western Jurisdiction, has made it very clear what The United Methodist Church is all about when it comes to gay clergy and their appropriateness for ministry.  It is this crazy “practicing” language.  “Self-avowed practicing homosexual…”  You can be gay, you just can’t “practice.”  So it all boils down to genital sexual contact.  I sat at a church trial a few years ago and listened to the Counsel for the Church ask the clergy on trial, “Have you had genital contact with your partner?” That is where the United Methodist Church is focused.  Shameful.  Disgraceful.

Bishop Jung, your statement on this recent Judicial Council ruling talks about a “minefield of differing opinions…living in the liminal spaces of uncertainty and disagreement is stressful…our journey is fraught with perils, pressures and problems…And where does that leave us?”

It leaves us with people torn to pieces, literally, by that minefield of “faith-mines.”  It leaves us with people being told they are outside of the love of God by a church that claims to have open hearts, open minds and open doors.  It leaves us with Church leadership whose language and actions are absent of the compassion and justice we are all called to pursue.  It leaves us as participating partners in a time in our national life that is fraught with shame, abuse and disregard for decency.  It leaves us with people who can’t take a step back and catch their breath because every time they do, the church repeatedly knocks the wind out of them.

When will I hear an official episcopal statement, or a bishop, say, “We/I so deeply lament the injustice and harm we continue to inflict on the LGBTQ community”?  And if that has been offered and I missed it, I apologize to the speaker.  I can only assume we are a denomination lead by sleep deprived leaders because I don’t know how one can sleep at night while this goes on – knowing you could do something about it and be somebody who speaks against this institutional harm.

All of this…and more…is that to which my heart clings.  This is where I stand today.

Rev. Janet Ellinger, retired United Methodist clergy.

Lost in the Local Option

The following letter was sent to the Council of Bishops and the Commission on a Way Forward in late April 2017. Below the text, a PDF copy of the letter sent is available.


Lost in the Local Option: An Open Letter

In April 2014, due to the efforts of Love Prevails, the Connectional Table began a process to formulate General Conference legislation that would call for the complete removal of all discriminatory language against LGBTQI people in The Book of Discipline. That attempt, however, was internally thwarted and The Connectional Table came to General Conference 2016 with a proposal called the Third Way. Now widely referred to as “The Local Option”, this approach enshrines the geographical discrimination of Queer people in our polity and sets up the highly destructive scenario whereby our very being will be debated and voted on in annual conferences and in our congregations. Such objectification damages the hearts and souls of Queer United Methodists throughout the Connection.

Love Prevails has always opposed The Local Option because it is predicated on the notion that it is morally and theologically defensible to allow continued discrimination within certain geographic locations within our church; thus ecclesially sanctioning the spiritual abuse that accompanies this discrimination.

There are some “progressives” within our denomination who believe that The Local Option is a good and helpful step that with time will eventually and inevitably lead to full inclusion for LGBTQI people. Love Prevails strenuously objects to this kind of thinking. This matter is far too urgent. “More time” translates as more lives lost. We believe that creating pockets of injustice is an intolerable solution which lacks the full force of gospel integrity that will ultimately delay justice for all, rather than hasten it. We see The Local Option as a seductive temptation that will lead to self-satisfaction and complacency.

By now it is quite obvious that the Commission on The Way Forward is the very expensive method by which The Third Way, or The Local Option, will be repackaged. The processes by which The Commission seeks to “listen” to voices across the connection are nothing more than resilience-building sessions for General Conference delegates and annual conferences to desensitize themselves to regionally sanctioned discrimination, the United Methodist’s new normal.

It seems clear that our United Methodist bishops are now moving to more fully support a Local Option because of political, not theological, reasons. Their priority is not justice, but institutional preservation, peddled as “unity.” Their desire to avoid a split and “save the denomination” comes on someone’s back—this time at the expense of Queer United Methodists.

Love Prevails objects to institutional preservation over justice. When we object, it is not only because The Local Option will leave some Queer people dangerously vulnerable; it is not only because there will still be babies rocking in the cradles of anti-queer annual conferences who will grow to discover they are Queer and not want to relocate in order to find a church where they will be welcomed; it is because souls will be lost in The Local Option. Permissive and categorical discrimination kills the souls of LGBTQI people as well as the soul of the church. A church of Jesus Christ cannot survive or thrive with bigotry and intolerance in its heart – and the maintenance of such a church turns the proclamations of Belovedness made at our baptisms into propagandist lies.

Love Prevails is neither for a church split nor against it. We do not advocate for it, but we also do not oppose the possibility. We persistently maintain that the only way forward is to remove all of the discriminatory language from The Book of Discipline. While full inclusion and justice will not happen immediately upon the removal of the language, there is no possibility for imagining real, comprehensive, intersectional justice or any notion of unity without first removing discriminatory language.

Laci Lee Adams
Mary Anne Balmer
Rev. Amy DeLong
Rev. Will Green
Rev. Sue Laurie
Laura Ralston
Dr. Mary Lou Taylor
Rev. Dr. Julie Todd
Brenda White
Rev. Wesley White

Lost in the Local Option PDF

Apocalyptic Institutionalism

By PASTOR JONATHAN E. RODRÍGUEZ-CINTRÓN

screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-6-53-12-pmI am a United Methodist Candidate for Ministry serving as a pastor of a mostly white congregation. As part of my ministerial work with the church and world, I am involved in other spaces within the church that seek justice for all. I am currently working with the Hispanic National Caucus of the UMC M.A.R.C.H.A. as part of the Executive Committee. I am also a member of Love Prevails, a direct-action group whose goal is to abolish the policies in The Book of Discipline which categorically discriminate against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Christians. Love Prevails has been known in the UMC as a more radical group and is often criticized for our methods and demonstrations, or what we call Disruption.

I am true believer of the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King: “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has consistently refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.”[1] I seek to expose in the church our tendency to avoid, table or ignore the evident tension our church is confronting and the harm we constantly do against all the minorities that are part of our connection and beyond. No unity is possible within the church while we ignore the injustices going on in our country and within the UMC.

The experience I had at the November Council of Bishops’ meeting convinces me that the tension we are experiencing as the UMC does not comes from our theological differences but from the level of insidious institutionalism and lack of leadership in our church. My mom would say: “Mijo, one cannot be okay with God and the Devil at the same time.”

I chose to be part of Love Prevails instead of other organizations that seek for the full inclusion of the LGBTIQ people in the UMC, because I found myself tired of playing politics and trying to not disturb people in power. Being apologetic about what I believe and who I am is no longer an option for me.

And so, as part of Love Prevails’ work we went to St. Simon’s Island, Georgia to attend the Council of Bishops (COB) meeting. We went to bear witness to the faithfulness not only of LGBTIQ Methodist but also Latinxs, Black and Asian Methodists. We went to negotiate with them about the make-up of The Commission On A Way Forward, which failed to include adequate representation of all of these groups.

As we entered the retreat center where our Bishops were meeting, it was really interesting to see how most of them made “you-again” faces. Some of them were welcoming, repeating like a mantra the pastoral cliché “I am so glad to see you” or “Thank you for coming.” As a pastor I know we don’t always means those words. Others expressed from the beginning their concerns about us being there, saying: “Are you planning on disrupting the meeting?”

During these meetings the Bishops have what they call “Executive Sessions.” This means that only the Bishops can be present during those meetings, so it is closed to the common people. When the Executive Session came where the COB intended to discuss the matter of the Commission, we disrupted it by staying in the room and refusing to leave. Our demands were for the COB to reconsider and reconstitute the queer and people of color representation on the Commission. They offered us a meeting with the eight Bishops that would be part of the Commission. We had the meeting and got nothing out of it, just more political responses or no response at all. We asked the President of the COB, Bruce Ough, to give an answer to our demands by 8:00a.m. the following day. We never got a response; not even the courtesy of a no.

We decided to disrupt their business again, but this time by taking the microphone. The President immediately dismissed the meeting and called everyone to put on their robes and go outside for the official episcopal group-picture. This was clearly a planned response. So while we were literally speaking our truth, the Bishops started to leave the room. Just a few of them decided to stay and listen. It was extremely disappointing to see that even some of our so-called “allies” also walked out on us.

After we expressed our demands and concerns about the Commission and called them to do something more, some of those “allies” expressed to us how damaging doing this kind of demonstration is to our cause. How we should be treating Bishops with some special respect just because they are Bishops. How we should be more patient because things are really changing. Some of them actually told us how they have been working within the Council for some changes in our favor, but this disruption or demonstration was so disrespectful that it will damage the “amazing progress” they achieved in 44 years. Others came to tell me personally: “You are not forgotten, I know your name”.

Still crying because of my anger, frustration and disappointment, watching all of them laughing and smiling while taking their pictures, the only words I could express to describe what I was witnessing was: “The level of hypocrisy and institutionalism is apocalyptic.”

People like me have to work twice as hard as any other seminarian. We have to prove ourselves and prove our call to this church twice as much, and after everything you don’t know if in fact you will get ordained. And if you do, you will always have to work twice as hard to prove you are worthy. However, we are the ones called the “issue” of the church. We are told what we are what is dividing our church. The Bishops are so worried and so focused on the schism of the church, that they have forgotten our identity as Methodists; how for us doing justice is more important that the establishment or the institution. They preach about justice. They preach about letting the Spirit work among us. But it seems that every time the Spirit breaks in, The Book of Discipline is right there to say: “No, no, sorry, Holy Spirit, but you are acting against what is typed in here”.

The level of institutionalism and the politics within the UMC is what is deeply damaging the church, not us (LGBTIQA people). That institutionalism is what moved Methodist and other clergy to write a letter to Martin Luther King in the past, to tell him his demonstrations were damaging his cause and the amazing job they as allies were doing among the white congregations. That level of institutionalism is what Jesus criticizes in the parable of the Persistent Widow, in which a judge forgets his duty as an official to always look out for the widows and the orphans as it is stated in the Law. That institutionalism and hypocrisy is what moved the Protestant Reformation into being. Because of that same institutionalism the people Wesley ministered to couldn’t find a place within the Anglican Church and created the Methodist movement. That institutionalism is a god. We have forgotten who we are as people who are moved by the Spirit.

These events followed by the racist acts against United Methodist Latinx Youth that took place in North Carolina, and the lack of action from our leadership once more has me wondering: How long am I willing to endure this?

I believe God has called me to the ministry of reconciliation and healing, but this church is so soul-sucking. Why should I keep fighting or trying so hard to create spaces in a place where evidently I am not accepted or welcome as a gay person, but also as a Latinx? My body is constantly patronized, tokenized, or demonized, whether by The Book of Discipline or by the silence of those who otherwise come to whisper in my ears: “you are not forgotten, I know your name.”

If I would like to play politics, I would’ve take the path of law school and then gone into the world of politicians not pastors. They are playing politics while our lives and careers are at stake. They hide the bigotry, the hatred, the homophobia, the racism all of these sins against our bodies behind “theological differences,” but we are the ones called incompatible with Christians teaching and sinners. Although I still believe the Spirit will break in through the persistence of the widows, and God will see we get justice and quickly (Luke 18:8); right now I am not convinced I want to be the persistent one, for the sake of my own soul.

[1] Martin Luther King. Letter From Birmingham Jail. https://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/documents/Letter_Birmingham_Jail.pdf

LGBTQI Groups Condemn Composition of Commission that Excludes Queer Voices

 

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-10-44-11-am

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 31, 2016
Contact: Dorothee Benz 718-314-4432

LGBTQI Groups Condemn Composition of
Commission that Excludes Queer Voices

Call on Bishops to Start Over, Call on Straight People to Resign,
Make Room for LGBTQI People

Last week the United Methodist Church Council of Bishops announced the members of its Commission on the Way Forward, following a mandate from the church’s General Conference in May to create a body to discuss the UMC’s policies of discrimination against LGBQTI people. Of 32 members, only two are identified LGBTQI people – 6% – and both are white cisgender men. The commission is majority white.

As the Council of Bishops prepares to discuss the Commission as part of its biannual meeting currently being held in St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, Love Prevails and Methodists in New Directions issued the following statement:

The Commission as appointed by the Council of Bishops represents a continuation of the systemic exclusion of LGBTQI United Methodists and perpetuates the fallacies that cisgender heterosexual persons are both unbiased and able to fully articulate the concerns of LGBTQI United Methodists. The only thing this Commission is representative of is the current dysfunction in the United Methodist Church. It embodies the discriminatory status quo and the continuing failure of our episcopal leaders to name the harm being done to LGBTQI United Methodists by our current policies and practices.

For 44 years LGBTQI people have been demonized and condemned by the church, discriminated against and categorically excluded, prosecuted and persecuted, legislated about and lectured to – but never once negotiated with. The formation of the Commission was an opportunity to finally rectify this fundamental injustice.

When the proposal for this Commission was presented to the General Conference in May, LGBTQI people did not stand in the way of its adoption, despite the failure of three previous similar church bodies to remedy our exclusion. In numerous forums since then, we let our bishops know that the Commission needed to include a broad spectrum of LGBTQI United Methodists who constituted at least half the body. Then we let the Council-led process unfold.

It is now clear, however, that our leaders have failed us yet again and that our deep concerns remain ignored. This Commission continues the UMC’s shameful history of treating LGBTQI people as a problem to be solved, rather than faithful partners in ministry.

The Commission has no legitimacy if it omits from the conversation those whose rights, whose safety, whose very lives are at stake.

Therefore, we call on the Council of Bishops to repent of its grievous error and change the composition of the Commission to include the full spectrum of LGBTQI people as well as the full spectrum of people of color in the United Methodist Church. To have validity, half of the members of the Commission must be LGBTQI-identified.

Additionally, we call on heterosexual cisgender members to resign their positions in order to make room for LGBTQI voices on the Commission, and especially LGBTQI people of color and women.

PDF of October 31,2016 Press Release