A Love Letter To Our Church From Your LGBTQI Religious Leaders

Originally posted by Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN), the letter below caused RMN's website to crash due to an overload of traffic just hours after the letter's release. Believe Out Loud is honored to host a copy of this historic letter, and we stand in solidarity today with the 111 LGBTQI clergy and candidates below.

Dear United Methodist Church,

As we gather in Portland to begin the 10 day discernment of God’s leading for The United Methodist Church known as General Conference, we, your Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning, and Intersex (LGBTQI) religious leaders—local pastors, deacons, elders, and candidates for ministry—want to remind you of our covenant with you.

We share with you the covenant of baptism which has knit us together as one family. You cradled us into the body of Christ, helped us know the grace that invites us to move more deeply into relationship with God, and invited us to listen for God’s call on our lives. We responded, finding that we were most faithful when we gave our lives over to full time Christian service. You embraced us, affirmed us, ordained us, and sent us to serve throughout the connection.

However, while we have sought to remain faithful to our call and covenant, you have not always remained faithful to us. While you have welcomed us as pastors, youth leaders, district superintendents, bishops, professors, missionaries and other forms of religious service, you have required that we not bring our full selves to ministry, that we hide from view our sexual orientations and gender identities. As long as we did this, you gladly affirmed our gifts and graces and used us to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world in the varied places you sent us.

While some of us have been lucky to serve in places where we could serve honestly and openly, there are others in places far more hostile, who continue to serve faithfully even at tremendous cost to themselves, their families, and yes, even the communities they serve, who do not receive the fullness of their pastor’s gifts because a core part must remain hidden.

There are many voices within The United Methodist Church who want us to break up with them. From bishops, Boards of Ordained Ministries, and other leaders, we are told to simply leave. Is leaving home ever that simple? We are United Methodists because there is no other denomination with our unique connectional polity and distinctive Wesleyan spirituality. We are here because God has called us to serve in this denomination, and our souls are fed by the theology in which we’ve been raised.

We are coming out as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning, and Intersex persons at this moment for several reasons. Foremost, we want you to know we still love you and seek to remain in relationship with you. Even if we should leave and you seek more restrictive language against LGBTQI persons, know that God will continue to move mysteriously in the hearts of LGBTQI young people and adults and will call them to serve within this denomination. You cannot legislate against God’s call. The “LGBTQI issue” is not one that can be resolved through restrictive legislation but instead by seeing that all persons are made in the image of God and welcomed into the community of faith.

We come out, too, to provide hope for LGBTQI young people in hostile UMC churches. These young people are more at risk for suicide than their peers, in part, because of the condemnation they hear from the pulpits and pews of their churches. We come out to remind them that God’s love for them is immeasurable, and offers them a love that will never let them go, even when it feels like the church is willing to let them go.

We come out to invite them to listen for God’s still, small voice that will speak in the quiet places of their hearts, who will call them into leadership positions. We seek to create a pathway of hope into ministry for them, even when the church has tried to shut its doors on them, or overtly or indirectly condoned the persecution of LGBTQI persons.

We love you, dear church. Through you, we have stood on sacred ground and seen the face of God more clearly. Our prayer, as the church begins its time of discernment, is that you will remember that there are nameless ones around the world, hungry for a word of hope and healing. LGBTQI people and their families exist in every church in every continent of this denomination. They are seeking to remain in faithful relationship with you, even when you refuse, because they know God’s tender mercies and great faithfulness.

Dear church, our prayers are with you, with all of us, in the coming days. May we all be surprised by the Spirit who continues to breathe new life in unexpected ways. May we find the body of Christ stronger at the end of our time together, not weaker or more deeply harmed. May we provide a powerful witness of finding unity even in our differences to a world fractured by fear and mistrust.

Signed,

Rev. Jeanelle Ablola
Rev. Brian  Adkins
Rev. Austin  Adkinson
Rev. Dr. Israel Alvaran
Pastor Elyse Ambrose
Rev. Douglas A. Asbury
Rev. Jeanne  Audrey Powers
M Barclay
Rev. Dr Bonnie Beckonchrist
Rev. Ann Berney
Rev. Anna Blaedel
Rev. Daryl Blanksma
Rev Jan Bolerjack
Rev. Dr. Joanne Calrson Brown
Rev. Kristan M. Burkert
Rev. John Cahall
Rev. James C. Carter
Rev. Dr. Nancy A. Carter
Rev. Randa Jean  D'Aoust
Rev. Alex da Silva-Souto
Rev. Karen Damman
Rev. Diana Jani Darak-Druck
Sean P. Delmore
Rev. Greg  Eaton
Rev. Dr. Karen Engelman
Rev. Dr. Janet Everhart
Rev. Anthony M. Fatta
Rev. Robert  Gamble
Micah Gary-Fryer
Rev. Ruth Ann Charlotte Geiger
Rev. John Girard
Rev. Rebecca J. Girrell
Taylor Gould
Rev. Nancy Jean Goyings
Rev. John Edwin Griffin
Rev. Gregory D. Gross
Rev. Dr. Emily B.Hall
Rev. Trey Hall
Rev. Dr. Edward J. Hansen
Rev. Marcia Hauer
Rev. Michael A. House
Rev. Brittany Isaac
Rev. Monica Isaac
Rev. Marguerite Jhonson
Tyler R. Joyner
Rev. Elizabeth Jones
Rev. Lindsey Kerr
Rev. Dr. Jeanne G. Knepper
Ms. Ellen Knight
Rev. Katie M. Ladd
Pastor Bruce Lamb
Rev. Cathlynn Law
Rev. Ardis Letey
Rev. J. Daniel Lewis
Rev. Dr. Pamela R. Lightsey
Pastor Christine Lindeberg
Pastor Rolland Loomis
Rev. Kelly Love
Rev. Dr. Joretta  Marshall
Pastor Lea Matthews
Rev. Courtney McHill
Rev. Ralph A. Merante
Rev. David W. Meredith
Rev. Cynthia Meyer
Rev. Jerry Miller
Rev. Sharon L. Moe
Rev. Richard W. Moman
Rev. Deborah Morgan
Rachel Neer
Rev. Joshua M. Noblitt
Rev. Catherine Noellert
Rev. Gregory Norton
Rev. Dr. Karen P. Oliveto
Rev. Dr. Rebecca A. Parker
Rev. Lois McCullen Parr
Rev. Matthew A. Pearson
Rev. Drew Phoenix
Emily Pickens-Jones
Rev. Jay K. Pierce
Kendall Protzmann
Pastor Kathleen Reynolds
Pastor Jonathan E. Rodríguez-Cintrón
Rev. Daniel  Sailer
Rev. Siobhan A. Sargent
Kenneth M. Schoon
Rev. Tyler  Schwaller
Kimberly Scott
Pastor Ryan J. Scott
Rev. Patricia Simpson
Rev. Kim A. Smith
Rev. Althea Spencer Miller
Rev. Terri J. Stewart
Rev. Katie Stickney
Rev. Kristin G. Stoneking
Rev. Mark F. Sturgess
Rev. Sara Thompson Tweedy
Rev. Frank E. Trotter, Jr.
Rev. Martha E. Vink
Rev. Kathleen Weber
Rev. Dr. David Weekley
Marvin K. White
Rev. Dr. Mark E. Williams
Rev. Brenda S. Wills
Pastor Jarell Wilson
Rev. Angela G. Wolle
Rev. John Robert Wooden
Rev. Vicki L. Woods
Rev. Wendy Woodworth
Rev. Frank D. Wulf
Rev. Laura  Young
Rev. Nancy Kay Yount

Comments (248)

Wow! And, thank you all!

This is so very inspiring and empowering Jan, wonderful!

as a gay man who was once active in the UMC i find this so inspiring and refreshing. I have given up on church and god for that matter for years. I find the current contentious discussions led by the church so belittling and demeaning of who i am as a person. I hope someone can find a way to blow general conference wide open with the love of God for all of us.......i applaud the bravery and courage and authenticity of all of you.............maybe i'll come back one day

I, too, am ashamed of a church that ignores reality and tries to pretend that LGBTQI people don't truly exist. It is time for the church to acknowledge and welcome with open arms all people, not just those they determine fit. Perry, please come back and know that many of us love you for who you are.

Rom 1:22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
Rom 1:26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
Rom 1:27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
Rom 1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

You forgot to mention that in between Romans 1:22 and 26, there first came a willful exchange of what the people first loved--their relationship with God--for a lesser love--that of idols. It was because of this initial idolatry that God "gave them up," and it is because of this initial exchange that the second exchange is contextualized and made sense of. Notice that the men left their first, natural love--women--for an unnatural love--men--not unnatural in a broad sense, but in a deeply personal sense. As a gay man, it would be defiant of my nature to have sex with a woman, just as it is defiant of one's heterosexual nature to engage in intercourse with someone of the same sex. This, along with idolatry, are what Paul condemns in this passage, not the mutual, self-giving, God-centered love yearned for and shared by the LGBTQ+ folks mentioned in this letter.

While it is a fair comment to suggest that the initial sin condemned in Romans 1:18-32 is idolatry, and from this flows the "handing over" passages which is the fruit of an idolatrous lifestyle, it is also fair to say that the very first step toward idolatry began with the words, "Did God really say?" This produced doubt in the heart, the very place where both the seed of religion is found and thus the seed of idolatry is sown. Therefore, idolatry is not an external practice but an internal reality. Israel often practiced the law externally though their hearts were removed from the correct worship of what God required, from the heart. The doubt from the heart which removes true and authentic worship starts with this initial question, "Did God really say?" And this question dominates the LGBTQ+ agenda, for it questions whether or not God really did in fact say such and such about correct sexuality. Yes, God does show compassion to the weak and faint hearted, but God also does legislate what we are and thus how we ought to live in light of what we are. This is not unloving, it is grace, for left to ourselves we will self-destruct, which is what Romans 1:18-32 is all about.

I'm trying to understand these issues and this confuses me. Are you implying that your sexuality is fixed? If so, how do we explain sexual fluidity – people going from straight to gay, gay to straight, etc? I have friends who've gone both ways.

I think that there is a general agreement among human sexuality researchers that one's sexual orientation is discovered, not chosen, and is fixed in adulthood, not changeable. On the other hand, one's sexual behavior can be varied. People of all orientations can choose to be celibate; persons with a bisexual orientation are attracted to both genders, but usually not to the same degree. However, gender identity is often fluid. Some children who identify as the gender opposite their birth-identified gender change later in life.

This shows yet again "man's" ignorance and fall from grace. The story of Adam and Eve explain that by beginning to "judge" or discern in their eyes what was good/evil, better/worse, godly/ungodly, they catapulted themselves on the road out of "Eden" Eden is the state of complete "non-judgement" and the faith that G-d knows why everything is the way it is. It is only the controlling, devious individual who starts to condemn others. Our only responsibility is our relationship to God, our family, and ourselves, and to let those relationships be our guidelines to treat others in like manner. If one truly believes G-d is responsible for ALL things created, then G-d is responsible for all variations on sexual, emotional love, and that there is a reason for every variation, and who are we to condemn or judge it. THAT is the road out of Eden and on to painful life situations, conflict. My life, my relationship to G-d, my sexuality, is MY responsibility, not yours....

Paul wrote this of those who engaged with temple prostitutes of the many pagan religions prevalent in the regions of his time. I do not believe he was condemning those whose nature God had created.

Thank you so much for citing scripture. We can see what divisions are coming about in God's church because of new interpretations, tolerances, and willingness to exchange the church's leadership for their own.

The bible is merely a collection of metaphor and allegory. Stop holding up a bound collection of fairy tales as your justification for judging others. The entire spirit of the bible can be summed up as "Love One Another". I realize that loving your fellow human is inconvenient when you prefer to judge them, but don't hold up a book as your justification for that.

'Merely a collection of metaphor and allegory.......a bound collection of fairy tales'? Oh, really? "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and for instruction in righteousness, so that the minister of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2nd Timothy 3:16, 17) Folks like you who so quickly dismiss the authority of the Book of the Church are why the Church is so divided today! How utterly sad.

I would like to add my name to this list who was pushed out of pastoral ministry by the VAUMC after 10 years of faithful ministry and service in the local church. It broke my heart to be asked to leave because I am gay but it was also the most liberating experience in my life. I could finally be authentic and begin the process of reconciling my faith and my sexuality. You destroyed my faith, asking me to hide my heart, pretending to be someone I was not. Love is Love and Love is from God.

Bravo to you all and courage on your journey. This Presbyterian prefers to remember what Jesus said about the LGBTQI community...

yaaass!!

I sit here reading your Testimony of Faith, in awe, inspired, but also heartbroken that such beautiful souls have struggled for so long. God does not make mistakes and you are perfect in his eyes and in mine. We need you to stay strong and stay with us. I am fervently praying for inclusion. God bless

You are loved and supported by many. Thank You

Indeed it is time.

It is long past time that the UMC show Biblical obedience and embrace fully all of God's children.

What a joy! Congratulations. What a blessing!

I resigned my credentials in 2010 when I came out to my District Superintendent. God Bless these courageous people fighting against being called "incompatible with Christian teaching". It is time for the Church to change!

Thank you Stephen for having the integrity to resign your credentials. I wish there were more that would resign also, instead of bring such division and broken covenant.

Love All

If you reject the Bible and what God says in it and you don't like what the Methodist Church believes, it seems you are of a different religion and would want to create a different church where you can do whatever you like.

Jenny, how could you say such things? Over 50 comments here, and all of them celebrating the honesty, and frankly the bravery, of these wonderful people. Why would you come here to criticize them? Shameful really.

Thank God we are growing up as a church, and realising now that human sexuality is not as people saw it 44 years ago.

Even if it is late for us, The UMC, to change. Too late for the young people that have taken their own lives, and late compared to the population of people who do not grace our "Open Doors" with their presence (for they are more Christian in their love and affirmation of others than too many of those inside our Church have been)

This is a remarkable act of compassion for the young and for future generations.

As a lifelong Methodist from the UK who has lived in the USA for two years, I want to say a big thank you everyone who has signed this beautifully written letter. Praying for reconciliation, for love, for Open Minds, Open Hearts and truly Open Doors.

Amen!

I simply choose to disagree, I don't know Gods plan (I wish he would fill me in) I think lgbtdagi community is not what God intended. I could be wrong, I still love you and more importantly God does too. U

I do not think that those who are of the LGBT commounty should be pastors as the Bible clear on people who are gay. I will love them but not the sin they are in. God can change them. I also do not belive that they should be in any kind of leadership. I hope we do not start doing wedig for them.

I wholeheartedly agree with Sam and believe somewhere down the road the people who are coming out strayed from God's Word.

Thank you for standing up for Biblical truth!

Do you realize that these church leaders are living as hypocrites, saying they believe in God but not trusting Him and His laws? God said very clearly that sex is to be within marriage and between one man and one woman. Who is man to think he knows better? It doesn't matter how progressive people want to be, how they foolishly think that accepting more and more as all right is good, how they think it's showing compassion to applaud people into the hell that rejecting God's laws will lead them to, or how they think that disagreeing is always wrong or hate (unless a progressive disagrees with or hates a Christian - then it's thought of as okay - how hypocritical to think they can never be wrong). If you agree with the UM church leaders, fine, but don't ask anyone how he or she can be against it. Approving of sin means you are not the one who is compassionate. Those who think beyond the here and now and care about a person's soul are the ones who are compassionate.

I am Jewish, but have always had Christian friends and family, and having an interest in religion, I even attended youth group at Abington Friends Meeting in junior high. As I understand Jesus's teachings, his main theme was that the RULES are NOT the most important thing, that blindly following the RULES can easily lead one AWAY from God instead of TO God. And I have read both Old Testament (Torah) and New, and it seems the # of comments against homosexuality is incredibly small. The times we are told to forgive and release people from debt after 7 years is more often and more directly commanded, yet I don't see ANY religious institutions calling for that to be followed. There are countless ways in which people have changed i their ideas in the past 2016 years, some for practical reasons (like that debt law) some for societal preference (no more multiple wives). Being expansively inclusive of what we now understand is a natural occurring human trait, is a
good rule to discard. Jesus included people outside of Judaism who followed NONE of the rules, and spoke out against people of the faith who put Rules above love, compassion and inclusiveness. It does not seem too hard to me to see what you should do. Stop excluding a portion of your own people because of a minor RULE. Stop pretending that you would be making a unique exception in discarding a Rule that no longer upholds,a Rule that actually blocks, the most important teachings.

So well said Janet!

Thank you for this. One of the biggest problems we have is self-righteousness. We love rules, no matter how silly or obsolete, by which we can judge others. It's shameful, and the world is watching this foolishness.

Show me where the Bible talks about the marriage ceremony was for Adam and Eve. Show me the 11th commandment that says, "Thou shall not commit homosexual acts." You can't. But I can show you the one that says, "Thou shall not commit adultery." Spend some time complaining about that one why don't you.

Please don't equate these two terms just to cover your poor attempt to excuse yourself! You fool no one! Either love or keep quiet!

It's more shameful to celebrate sin.

Many of us have left positions in the church after coming out. And while that decision comes from a place of integrity, those who choose to live and serve and be true to who God has made them are acting with no less integrity.

Nasty little comment Jenny. It belongs in the ash heap of history...

Nasty little comment Jenny. It belongs in the ash heap of history...

John,di am abhored aat your comment that God is not pleased with the subject of sexuality t. NOONE, ANYWHERE, REGARDLESS OF THEIR STATUS can speak for God. Hopefully when you meed God he can help you come to grasp with thie issue of LGBT. God Bless you.

John--

Ezekiel 16:49 says the sin of Sodom was being overfed, unconcerned, and not helping the poor and those in need. If the story of Sodom is a sexual morality, then Lot is a righteous man because he sends his daughters to be gang raped by a mob. Again: If this is a story condemning homosexuality, then it also celebrates gang rape, thus making unthinking, unfeeling sexual objects of girls and women. This is one of the most misused texts in the Bible, and it angers and saddens and frustrates me as a woman and a gay person that it is still read this way.

Jenny I agree wholeheartedly. God is not please with this nonsense and we as the church must for what is pure and Holy before God. Stop making excuses for SIB and call it what it is If God destroyed cities for this same reason why would anyone think that his stand on this has changed stop conforming to this world and making excuses for wanting to walk in your flesh.The Bible put it this way we spoke in your name healed in your name but God replied I never knew you depart from me you workers of iniquity. Those that you teach to walk in this same way you will be punished for.it. repent and turn to God before it is too late

Lisa, God did not destroy Sodom or Gomorrah for anyone's gender or sexual orientation (please reread the scriptures). The sin of those cities was assault and inhospitality. As much as it is accused of LGBTQIA individuals, individuals with unexamined Victorian prejudices are using cherry picked (and poorly translated) Bible verses to inflict that prejudice on others with devastating effects to our communities. It is time that stopped.

repent or burn..repent or burn...i get so sick and tired of hearing that crap. for those of you who are so offended, why are you still reading? go away and worship yourselves and your image of God that you are holding on so tightly to. hope it works out for you, but my bet is ....it won't

I feel that it's because of people like you who bring such division to our faith and our beliefs we are all children of God all of us inclusion is what its all about I am not a second class citizen and I deserve to be treated with respect just as I'm sure you believe about yourself the God that I worship and praise is a loving God who includes all of his children ALL! And I have a lot of respect for those who have chosen to come out and be who they are and as my loving God has made them I am grateful to them and my loving God doesn't do wrong and he had made us all in his own image

I'm sorry that you needed to surrender your credentials, Stephen. I don't know you or the circumstances, but I regret that the UMC no longer is the beneficiary of your gifts and graces.

It's time for the church to change? To change from God's holy and unchangeable laws to man's ever-changing laws? God is the one who is all-knowing, all-wise, all-powerful, and all-holy. People are the ones who need to change. We are merely the limited, sinful created; God is the Creator. He gets to set the rules.

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