United Methodist LGBTQI Clergy Present At Judicial Council Hearings

by Alison Amyx

Clergy and their supporters attend Judicial Council hearings impacting their ministry, observe liturgical acts of witness

April 25, 2017— Members of the United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus (UMQCC) will be present in Newark, NJ, as the Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church (UMC) hears several cases concerning the ordination and ministry of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) clergy and candidates.

The Judicial Council will be considering three cases that directly impact LGBTQI clergy and candidates. Two cases concern the legality of the commissioning and ordination of openly LGBTQI clergy in the Northern Illinois (NIC) and New York Annual (NYAC) Conferences, respectively. The third case concerns the Western Jurisdiction’s nomination, election, and consecration of Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto as The United Methodist Church’s first openly lesbian bishop. On April 25th, the Judicial Council will hold an open hearing to consider this third case. All other Judicial Council sessions will be closed sessions and not open to the public.

“LGBTQI clergy persons ultimately pay the price for the injustices in our church polity,” said Rev. Alex Souto, “even if, on paper and in law, we are not named as the legal parties in these cases.” Rev. Dr. Israel Alvaran added, “These cases subject our call to ordained ministry and our sacred worth to The UMC’s discriminatory laws. This spiritual harm must stop.”

On April 25th, members of the UMQCC and their supporters will be in attendance at the open hearing of the Judicial Council and will observe several liturgical acts of witness. Members of the UMQCC will gather together to pray over the room before the hearing begins. At the hearing’s conclusion, the UMQCC will share in a Eucharistic celebration. An invitation was extended to the members of the Judicial Council, and all those in attendance are invited to join.

“We gather to bear witness, reminding the Council and the Church that we, as LGBTQI clergy, are real people with real families and full lives,” said Rev. Lea Matthews. “We are not an ‘issue’ to be managed. These Judicial Council cases are evidence of Church’s unwillingness to accept all as children of God and, thus, of its acute spiritual distress.”

Throughout the week, during all Judicial Council hearings and deliberations, members of the UMQCC and their supporters will keep vigil in prayer. These vigils will occur on-site at the Judicial Council hearings, in local faith communities, and online. On April 28th, members of the UMQCC and their supporters will hold a closing vigil on-site in Newark. This vigil will close with another Eucharistic celebration at the end of the Judicial Council’s deliberations.

“To what are these dockets blind? Blind to God’s presence: in the history our robes recall, in the prayers of our presence,” said Rev. Dr. Althea Spencer Miller. “Our togetherness is beloved community: loving with the relentlessness of hope. Our constancy, evidence of God’s grace in us. The sum of our moments is the litany of our hearts. This protest is our sacramental outrage against blindness.”

The United Methodist Queer Caucus, who released a pastoral letter last week in preparation for the Judicial Council hearings, is coordinating these acts of witness during Judicial Council hearings in partnership with Reconciling Ministries Network, Methodists in New Directions, Methodist Federation for Social Action, Love Your Neighbor Coalition, Affirmation, Love Prevails, Fellowship of Reconciliation, and local congregations.

“These acts of witness are deeply rooted in our Christian faith and our commitment to The United Methodist Church,” said Rev. Lois McCullen Parr. “We seek to embody Jesus’ willingness to transgress conventional boundaries to share love of God and neighbor, John Wesley’s rule for the people called Methodists to ‘do no harm,’ and the gospel call to take up the liberating practice of justice.”

Photo by the United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus