Many in our congregation have asked for a personal statement from me since the United Methodist Church (UMC) General Conference Special Session voted in St. Louis last month to uphold prohibitions regarding same-sex marriage and the ordination of non-celibate gay clergy. Of course, I am very disappointed the One Church Plan that would have allowed individual UMC clergy and churches to determine their own theology and practice did not pass. For those who want more information to better understand the vote in Saint Louis or the positions taken on either side of this issue, come talk with me and I will guide you to websites where you can learn more.
Before I go further, I have heard some accuse the traditionalists in the UMC of being “haters.” Prior to my own change of position, I was a part of the Evangelical Fellowship in the Minnesota Annual Conference and supported the national Good News Movement in the UMC for thirty years. I have never heard nor read one homophobic comment during all those years as a participant in and supporter of those groups. The differences were and are over the interpretation of scripture, theology and ministerial practice. In my opinion, evangelical United Methodists are not haters. There are certainly ”trolls” in Christian clothing out there in the world wide web who are homophobic haters, but I have not met them in the UMC in any leadership or official capacity.
Having acknowledged that,I realize I now am a pastor and leader in a denominational system that will not fully embrace homosexuals–which includes my own daughter. This is totally unacceptable to me!My wife and I will continue to work within the UMC toward systemic change in the denomination. I continue to ask this of those who disagree with the full inclusion of homosexual persons in the life of the church: Get to know one of the gay Christians in our church; they are lovely people and amazing disciples of Christ. The experiences of having a gay child and getting to know gay family members and gay Christians in the Church has changed my life and my walk as a follower of Christ for the better. I believe the visibility of gay persons in the United States is the reason two-thirds of the United States UMC clergy and lay delegates voted to approve the One Church Plan and why attitudes regarding homosexuality are changing so rapidly in the United States UMC.
Of course, this is more than an issue; this is about people and families. I want to publicly thank Bishop Ough of the Minnesota and Dakotas Annual Conference and Adam Hamilton, Senior Pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS for their leadership of the One Church Plan and for helping our denomination move forward after the St. Louis vote. It gives those of us in the United Methodist Church with gay family members, friends and congregants hope for the future.
In Christ’s Love,
Related: Read the letter from Cindy Gregorson, Director of Connectional Ministries at the MN Annual Conference
Related: Read the note from Bishop Bruce R. Ough of the Dakotas-Minnesota Area of The United Methodist Church