Read our recent letter to the Connectional Table below.
“The tone and content of your letter to us signaled a distinct shift away from the spirit-filled riskiness we experienced when we were with you and back toward institutional security. The steps forward that you outlined have been tried repeatedly for the past 40+ years and have proved inadequate.” This was our response to the first letter the Connectional Table sent to Love Prevails in December 2013. We have since exchanged two more letters. Here is the latest letter from the CT to Love Prevails earlier this month. Their response remains fundamentally the same: inadequate and shifting away from spirit-filled riskiness. We look forward to our encounter with the CT in Chicago at the end of the month.
We received the following response from the General Board of Discipleship after they received our open letter on March 4th. A response to their letter was sent to the Board of Discipleship on April 6th, 2014. See both letters below.
Love Prevails’ disruption of the Connectional Table (CT) meeting in Nashville in November was not planned as such. We had intended to pass out a list of Principled Leaders who had been lost to the denomination because of our exclusionary policies against LGBTQ people. But we had been agitated by the repressive welcome on our first day. The CT tolerated us to the point of disregarding us almost completely. I could not bear the thought that we would give them a list of people who had sacrificed their callings and ministries in our church, and that they would be ignored. So we decided that when we handed out the list, during the CT leadership report, I would sing the people’s names aloud.
I really hadn’t thought through what this experience would be like. I personally knew and loved the first five names on the list, as well as many others. When I began singing, I quickly became conscious that I was calling these person’s presence into the room. I felt them with me. For a moment my heart quickened. Then a calm came over me. It was a calm that came from elsewhere and covered me, and it was almost as if there was no one else in the room. I kept singing the names and walking. Certain people came vaguely into my view. At one point I was aware that Bishop Ough was asking me to stop singing, but it was as if I could not quite register his words. Then everyone stood up and read something together, aloud. I modulated to a higher key and sang the names louder. I had no plan of if or when to stop. Then CT member Ms. Cynthia Kent started screaming to stop the meeting. From that moment on, a conversation between Love Prevails and the Connectional Table proceeded.
When Bishop Jim Dorff spoke during those conversations afterwards, he said that when he entered the room and saw the CT members standing and speaking together aloud and heard my singing, he thought it was a moment of worship in the spirit of Pentecost. And he was right. It was a kairos moment filled with the Holy Spirit.
People ask Love Prevails why we are committed to the work of Disruption. This experience is an example of why. When Disruption is done in the right spirit, it provides opportunities for the Holy Spirit to break in, to create a disequilibrium in which new opportunities are made possible. Love Prevails will return to the Connectional Table meeting this April 2014. We will remain open to the creative work of Disruption and pray that the Holy Spirit will once again find ways to work through us.
You might have read our previous interactions with the Connectional Table here. We received a response from them on March 13th and replied on March 23rd. Please read their letter and our response below and feel free to share as we work towards the end of discrimination in our denomination.
My husband and I have made the difficult decision to leave Northwest Hills UMC in Austin, TX, and The United Methodist Church in search of a faith community that is inclusive of all people. We have been active members and leaders at NWHills for 25 years, but cannot continue to support the UMC policies of exclusion, oppression, and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
The UMC stance that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” flies in the face of medical, scientific, psychological, and other professional disciplines who agree that same-sex attraction is a perfectly normal expression of human sexuality. Bigotry is all that stands in the way of fully embracing gay and lesbian clergy and weddings, just as bigotry was overcome to denounce slavery and to welcome women into the clergy.
Our children and youth in the UMC are taught to follow the example of Christ and to oppose racial, ethnic, and sectarian prejudice. Simultaneously, the church sends a conflicting message of subtle oppression and outright exclusion. Locally, Mary Ann Kaiser has been deprived of completing the path to ordination at University UMC. Nationally, the continuing condemnation of Bishop Melvin Talbert, Pastor Frank Schaefer and others leaves us disillusioned by our church that claims to have “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.”
Consider the LGBT kids, youth and adults worshiping in fear and secrecy within the church, and those outside the church who feel rejected and condemned. Between 30 and 40% of LGBT youth continue to attempt suicide. Ninety percent of LGBT students were harassed in the last year, and 40% of homeless youth are LGBT having been physically or emotionally forced from their own homes.
We do not take this decision lightly. My family’s affiliation with Methodism goes back for generations, including Methodist circuit riding preachers when Texas was the wild frontier. I was raised, baptized, and confirmed in the Methodist Church. My 80 year old mother is an active, dedicated member at NWHills.
I pray that someday very soon the radical, courageous leadership and unconditional love of Jesus Christ will overflow from within the UMC for all people. I pray that anti-gay language and practices will be eliminated from the Book of Discipline. I pray that children and young people in the UMC will learn from modern-day, courageous role models within the church to strive for social justice and equality.
On that day, I will invite my younger brother and his life partner to come back to the church with the assurance that all of God’s children are welcome, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Mary Lou Taylor is a member of the Love Prevails team. As someone I consider to not only be a role model, but a friend, I take this divestment both as a serious commitment to the cause as well as a beacon by which we as LGBTQ members of the church and allies can follow. I am honored to know Mary Lou and proud to call her a friend – Alison Wisneski, social media coordinator, Love Prevails
After a lifetime as a Methodist and 28 years in the same church, where I served at one time as chair of the Church Council, Missions Committee, Environmental Committee and LGBT Advocacy Ministry, taught Sunday School and Adult Bible Study, organized mission trips and sang in the choir, I left my church this week. It wasn’t easy, but it felt right. I had to divest.
The homophobic, discriminatory language and rules against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender United Methodists must change. But power structures only change when it is too painful to stay the way they are. And as long as I stayed and gave my tithes and talents, there was no pain. It didn’t matter how much I did within my own church to make it a welcoming congregation—children who grow up in my church and discover they are not heterosexual still cannot answer God’s call to serve as a pastor; they cannot walk down the aisle of the church of their birth to marry the person they love; and they cannot be united by the pastor who nurtured them throughout their lives. To me, staying felt like belonging to a country club that lets blacks and Jews be members, as long as they don’t use the golf course or the locker rooms. It’s just not right.
Until all Methodists who believe that God welcomes us all, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, speak out with their voices, their tithes and their actions, or until enough pastors and congregations and bishops decide to follow Christ’s teachings over the flawed Book of Discipline, nothing will change. So I have withdrawn my presence, gifts and service from the United Methodist Church. I will continue my witness, by working with Kairos Co-Motion and Love Prevails. And I will continue my prayers, praying that the United Methodist Church will stop discrimination in all forms and become truly welcoming. I pray that one day I will be able to come back to the denomination of my birth without being complicit in harming others.
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