On December 11, 2013, Love Prevails received a response from the Connectional Table for the act of disruption performed during the November meeting in Nashville, TN. The first letter posted is from the Connectional Table; the following is Love Prevails’ response to their letter.
Rev. Amy DeLong and Rev. Dr. Julie Todd have composed a letter in response to their time at the Council of Bishops meeting, held in November in Lake Junaluska, NC. They address issues that were passed over, including LGBTQ poverty statistics, cultural insensitivity toward Cherokee Indian peoples, and prosecuting Bishop Melvin Talbert while still attempting to praise him for his good works. Please read and share this important letter.
Being Knit Together
When I think about that time
it is simply a black hole of depression
with flashes of white light and sharp pain.
The white light of another hit from the system
and the sharp pain of long term friends and family
moving away and shunning me.
When I spoke my truth out loud
I became a loose cannon,
too dangerous to be associated with or trusted.
When forward thinking progressive folks
tell me the Holy is no longer active,
or I am in a phase I need to outgrow,
I realize that they have never been
sent into the lion’s den,
thrown into the fiery furnace
or called to be a lesbian clergy person
in the United Methodist Church.
Thanks be to the Holy
has always been, is now and always will be
holding me in Her ever-loving arms.
Arms that are strong enough for anything
and kind and gentle enough for everything.
Earlier this week I came across the web site
They are naming the disconnect
between what is said in
the Book of Discipline and the Bible.
They also have a list of
Principled Leaders Lost.
Among the wonderful, powerful people listed
I found my name.
I am so honored to be included among these folks.
I am remembered.
When I spoke my truth at the Listening Post
and therefore chose to turn in my orders,
I was heard.
What I did made enough difference
to be remembered.
I had thought this wound could never be healed.
Yet now, El Roi, the God who sees,
the Holy who met Hagar in the desert,
has also met me in the sacred Arizona desert.
She is gathering in the remaining loose strands
and knitting me together.
I can stand tall and proud
of the time I spoke my truth
in a way that is still remembered
twenty three years later.
I give thanks to the Holy
for continuing to knit me together
in unexpected ways.
Thanksgiving morning 2013.
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 . . .
We are learning.
We are finally learning that
being gay harms 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
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?