Letter to General Council on Finance and Administration

Dear General Council on Finance and Administration,

We received with joy word of your October 21, 2013 decision to extend benefits to “same-sex spouses” and “civil spouses.” We rejoice that the restraining effect of ¶ 806.9 in the 2012 Book of Discipline finally met real life with recent state and federal decisions regarding marriage and the reality of shifts in employment practices.

For our agencies to provide the best possible support for ministries of the United Methodist Church, from local congregations to international mission, they need to hire and support those gifted and called for particular ministry needs. These people are single and they are partnered. Those who are partnered will be in a range of relationships. When formal commitments are made and yet benefits are restricted, we not only limit the pool of the best possible employees, we diminish our witness to the inclusive love of the gospel of Christ by revealing categorical discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer people within the life of our church.

Thank you for caring for the life of the General Agencies and the lives of LGBTQ people through an extension of partner benefits.
At the same time, the restraining effects of discriminatory legislation are ongoing, affecting the lives of individuals, families, congregations, and the very mission of our church to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Now that you have disclosed your assessment of the organizational needs of the church, we point to a need for additional disclosure about how the financial restrictions based on the notion of “incompatibility” impact other resources and the vitality of our ministries.

There are numerous effects. More and more people are divesting from the church because of the ongoing discrimination towards LGBTQ people. More and more people are walking out the doors, taking with them their prayers, presents, gifts, service and witness. The financial restrictions related to sexual orientation limit education about healthy sexuality and the church’s ability to minister to all God’s people.

We urge the General Council on Finance and Administration to assess and disclose where else you see negative results from continuing the current financial restrictions in the Book of Discipline. If you see effects on the lives of individuals and ministries beyond General Agencies, we urge you to speak to the church about this before General Conference 2016 so appropriate changes can be made.

It is time to pull back the curtain on the effect of intentional discrimination within the church—Disclose it. Failing to do so is to be complicit in continuing the discrimination.

In expectation,
Rev. Amy DeLong
Laci Adams
Alison Wisneski
Rev. Dr. Julie Todd
Laura Ralston
Dr. Mary Lou Taylor
Brenda Smith White
Rev. Wesley White
Mary Anne Balmer

Zachary Ferguson

Here are my reflections regarding the statements issued by the Council of Bishops, Bishop McAlilly of the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences, and Bishop Wallace-Padgett of the North Alabama Conference regarding Bishop Talbert presiding over a same-sex wedding in Alabama this past Saturday:
In 10 years, when the majority of people under the age of 40 have left the church, I hope that the leaders of the UMC that stood for injustice and hatred will realize what role they played in the decline (and possibly even the destruction) of the church. It is very sad, because we have been through this as a church in the past.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us, “The time is always right to do what is right.” The laws and rules are not always just or right, so sometimes it means that we have to stand against those rules and demand justice. It was only 57 years ago that women finally were able to be ordained, and 47 years ago when African-American preachers were able to preach in an all white congregation– which means that the UMC is no stranger to changing our understanding of what scriptures mean. The time to do what was right in the church only came because those that were oppressed demanded that it be so. The leaders that opposed those changes because of the scriptures and the Book of Discipline were on the wrong side of history, and became part of the ugly stain on the quilt of the UMC that is our history.
Bishop Talbert understands the history, and the injustice that the UMC has committed against its members, and he personally was affected by those injustices. He should be applauded for his stance, while the Council of Bishops, Bishop McAlilly and Bishop Wallace-Padgett should reconsider their stance of hatred and complacency.
I would remind the church that Jesus spent most of his ministry with “the other”. Time and time again, we find Jesus at the gates of the cities in which he visited; a place that those outcast by society were found. He showed love, mercy, compassion, and concern to those people. Instead of focussing on the scriptures that promote hatred and judgmental actions, we might need to refocus ourselves on the example of the ministry that Christ left for us.
It is no surprise that I support the full inclusion of the church–for marriage, ordination, and membership regardless of sex, age, race, gender, sexual orientation, social/economic class, ethnicity, or any other factor.
I served the church as an US-2 young adult missionary, but because leaders of the church continue to promote hatred and division in the church, I have decided to leave the UMC. A decision that breaks my heart, but I can no longer stand idly by while my brothers and sisters are discriminated against, and individuals are judged because of how they are created. Love is beautiful, and should be celebrated by everyone–no matter if it is between a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, or a man and a man.
It seems we fear what society has not accepted as the “norm”. When we began ordaining women as a church, or opened churches to be served by pastors of a different race or ethnicity, we were going against what society, and many in the church, thought was the norm. Dr. Howard Thurman was exactly right when he said, “He who fears is literally delivered to destruction.”
Let us begin to not live in fear, but instead build a church and a world built around love and acceptance.

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.”