Open Invitation to Study

Join the Love Prevails 2014 Native American Study as we engage in larger resistance to oppression within the United Methodist Church. For more information check out the tab above and please read the letter sent to the Council of Bishops and Members of the Connectional Table below for more information.

Open Invitation to Native American Study with Love Prevails-page-0

Mary Lou Taylor

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 So I have withdrawn my presence, gifts and service from the United Methodist Church.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.

Letter to Connectional Table

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.

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

Julie Todd Discloses Dismay to Her Bishop

Rev. Dr. Julie Todd wrote the following letter to her Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar. Upon receiving the letter, Bishop Devadhar invited Julie into conversation. They met recently to discuss the following matters and had a painful, meaningful, authentic dialogue. As Love Prevails and the Reconciling Ministries Network has encouraged United Methodists to do, please write to your bishop to express your desire to see justice for LGBTQ people in the United Methodist Church. Love Prevails will make a disruptive witness to the Council of Bishops’ meeting in Lake Junaluska, November 10-15.

November 4, 2013
Dear Bishop Devadhar,

Greetings in Christ’s name. Unfortunately I write this letter to you prior to having a chance to speak with you in person, which had been my hope.

Now I write in response to the Executive Committee of the Council of Bishops’ statement condemning Bishop Talbert’s officiating at the wedding of Joe Openshaw and Bobby Prince. When I read such things, I attempt to dismiss them as the familiar and useless institutional nonsense that they are.  Yet I seem never to be able to escape how deeply these letters grieve me. I cannot dismiss the ways in which such communications perpetuate the exclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people in the church. I am dismayed at the all-too-familiar way in which the Council of Bishops finds it acceptable to perpetuate injustice and call it spiritual leadership. I find it unconscionable that the Executive Committee writes what I consider to be a statement of spiritual violence while attempting to affirm that all of you believe in the sacred worth of all people. I feel like you are saying to queer people: “Really, we still love you. We just hate you in practice. Now let us pray.”

My outrage is particularly directed to bishops like you. It appalls me that you agree to lend your own name to such statements. You have portrayed yourself as a bishop who is an ally of the movement for LGBTQ equality in the denomination. I recognize that you have attempted to be kind and welcoming in various ways. I assume you recognize that such kindnesses do not constitute acts of justice. When you purposefully add your name to statements such as the Executive Committee’s recent statement against Bishop Talbert, your previous acts of welcome die their deaths in a void of personal and institutional hypocrisy. Bishop, signing your name to such statements is not being an ally, it constitutes consciously engaging in acts of oppression. The bishops’ language reinforces the culture in which GLBTQ persons continue to be marginalized and violated on a daily basis. I imagine that you do not see it this way. You believe you are upholding your responsibility to faithfully administer the Book of Discipline. Do you not see that Christian tradition at large is the primary factor for creating the atmosphere of hatred for gay people in this country and all over the world? By reiterating traditional anti-gay Christian views through your affirmation of statements like these, you, Bishop Devadhar, personally participate in perpetuating this culture of hatred, exclusion and violence. This kind of purposeful perpetuation of oppression towards queer people undermines my respect for your authority as my bishop.

There is always an overarching theme in such episcopal statements that the most important value in these discussions is the unity of the church. In my mind, these appeals to unity are little more than a cover for preserving the institutional status quo. You bishops reconcile yourselves to injustice and sacrificing the lives and callings of human beings within our church so that the order of the church is maintained. Then you call this affirming sacred worth. Please, I am begging you, stop saying that the unity of the church is more important than the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. Just stop.

Some days I am so incredibly grieved by the lack of radical, risk-taking leadership within the UMC, I can barely stand it. On such days I believe that the church has completely lost the critical and transformational power of the gospel. I think about leaving this denomination all the time, but so far I cannot bear the thought of abandoning my friends in this struggle. Everyone in this denomination knows that there are plenty of bishops, perhaps even a majority, who approve of removing the anti-gay language and practices from the Book of Discipline. If only those of you who so believe would have the courage of one such as Bishop Talbert. If you all acted and spoke together for justice, I believe there is nothing the church could do to you. I also believe the reason that you and others do not make such stands is because you fear your own personal, professional and institutional losses. I for, one, do not fear such losses. I am free in Jesus Christ to pursue radical justice in the church and in the world. In light of my understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I have and I will continue to violate the Book of Discipline in marrying same-gender couples. I feel sorry for you that you do not feel so free, or free to openly dissent from the official position of the UMC on homosexuality. At this point in history, it is unconscionable for you to fail to do so.

As you know, I teach courses in justice and peace. One of the main topics that students deal with personally is how to gain the courage to commit themselves to social justice efforts, which they know will demand losses and sacrifice. One reason they find it difficult to conceive of doing so is because they lack role models. That they lack contemporary role models in the church of Jesus Christ is a sad testament to the lukewarm nature of our witness for justice. I have been blessed with many such role models. I remain in this denomination because of the courageous witness of so many leaders like Bishop Talbert. I wish you and your other colleague bishops would stand so courageously for what you know is right. I will continue to fault you until you do so.

I would like you to know that I will be present with Love Prevails at the Council of Bishops meeting in Lake Junaluska this month. I will see you there. Having voiced my outrage to you, I remain, nonetheless,

Yours In Christ, Julie

Julie Todd is an ordained elder in the New England Conference of the United Methodist and Affiliate Faculty for Justice and Peace Studies at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, CO. She teaches online and lives in Lawrence, MA.