'This is not who we are as Methodist Christians’: Houston pastor calls for full LGBT inclusion [Opinion] By Rev. Diane McGehee Published in the Houston Chronicle 12:00 pm CDT, Saturday, April 13, 2019
Many American Methodists disagree with the United Methodist Church’s recent vote not to perform LGBT marriages or ordain LGBT clergy.
The United Methodist Church’s governing body recently abandoned its faithful LGBTQAI+ members, disregarding scripture, its theology and the teachings of Jesus by refusing to grant them full inclusion in the life of the church. Under the denomination’s current rules, Methodist clergy are not allowed to perform same-gender weddings or celebrate them in church buildings. Gifted and anointed LGBTQAI+ persons are also denied ordination. This past February, the UMC General Conference had a chance to change that, but refused, continuing to support and enforce discrimination of LGBTQAI+ persons. In making its decision, the denomination lost focus on the core of Christian teaching and Methodist theology that all of us are beloved creations of God and vital to the family of God in our diversity: inclusive of gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, color, age, class, ability, nationality, status and beyond. To our LGBTQAI+ family, friends and community members, as an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, the senior pastor of Bering Memorial UMC, chair of the Reconciling United Methodists Texas Conference and a scholar of scripture and Methodist theology, I ask your forgiveness for the tremendous harm that the United Methodist Church has done over the years and continues to do by its recent actions. While I cannot speak for the United Methodist denomination and do not speak for those who support the traditional plan passed by the denomination, I believe that I speak for hundreds of thousands of United Methodist clergy and laity when I say that this is not who we are as Methodist Christians. As Methodist Christians, we believe that the Bible is to be carefully studied and interpreted using four criteria: scripture, tradition, reason and experience. We are not literalists. A faithful interpretation of the Bible using those four criteria supports biblical marriage as rooted in fidelity in relationship, not in the gender of marriage partners. Biblical marriage is not limited to marriage between a man and a woman. Same-gender marriages are celebrated by God and should be celebrated by God’s church. That includes every marriage that is rooted and grounded in love and fidelity, whether between persons of the same or different genders. Contrary to decisions made by the General Conference, it is my conviction and the conviction of many other Methodist Christians that the Bible does not teach that LGBTQAI+ identity and living out that identity are “incompatible with Christian teaching.” The Bible does not say that as LGBTQAI+ persons, you need to “pray away the gay” or otherwise “fix” or deny your gender identity or sexual orientation. The Bible does teach that all of us are made in the image of God, inclusive of our sexual orientation and gender identity. According to the Bible, there is nothing incompatible or deviant about being LGBTQAI+ and living out that identity faithfully and fully in loving relationships of marriage, family and friendships, and as members of the larger community. The Bible teaches, and the gospel of Jesus Christ proclaims, that such faithful claiming of one’s gender identity and sexual orientation is to be celebrated as a sacred gift to both heterosexual and LGBTQAI+ persons. It takes each of us faithfully and fully living out our unique identity individually and together to mirror the rainbow face of God in all God’s love, creativity and divinity. I have seen the face of God and experienced the presence of God in the LGBTQAI+ members of our community and know without a doubt that they are loved and celebrated by God as fully as I am. God’s message to all of us is that God so loved the world that God came and lived among us in the person of Jesus Christ that we might have abundant life. Jesus spent his entire earthly ministry sharing the love of God for all humanity by including the excluded, tearing down walls of separation and division and restoring the dignity of those who had been judged unworthy by religious rules of exclusion. Jesus touched, embraced, healed, dignified and welcomed those explicitly excluded by such rules. He made it crystal clear that the core of God’s word to us could be summed up in two commandments: love God and love our neighbors. LGBTQAI+ family, friends and neighbors, you are unabashedly loved and celebrated by God, me and hundreds of thousands of United Methodists who refuse to honor the recent discriminatory decisions of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church. We need you, welcome you and celebrate you as beloved children of God and members of God’s family with us. McGehee is pastor of Bering United Methodist Church.
We, the undersigned clergy and lay members of the Texas Annual Conference, mourn the harm done by the recent global gathering of our denomination known as the General Conference. We grieve the actions of this General Conference in tightening restrictions on the ordination of LGBTQ clergy and maintaining prohibitions against our clergy performing same-gender weddings. These actions continue the pain and oppression of our LGBTQ siblings and damage both our members and our Christian witness to the world. We seek to be a diverse, global church, but, contrary to that vision, these actions perpetuate discrimination and exclusion. However, these actions will not change what we believe or how we act. We who represent the diversity of the Texas Annual Conference, including persons who are LGBTQ and allies, say together, “You are beloved children of God, and you are beloved by us.” The actions of this General Conference do not reflect the hopes and dreams of 2/3 of the U.S. delegates who voted in favor of a more inclusive church. More importantly, we believe they do not reflect the hopes and dreams of God. Too often, our silence as clergy and lay Christians has done harm. We therefore commit to be silent no longer. We will advocate and work for the full inclusion of all people in Christ's church, and we humbly ask for the prayers and forgiveness of all we have failed or forgotten. We believe that God has not yet finished working in or through The United Methodist Church or the Texas Annual Conference and hope you will join us in this work. 1000+ Clergy and Lay members from all over the Texas Annual Conference signed this letter published in the Houston Chronicle on Sunday, April 14, 2019.
RUMTX Statement of Support for Bishop Karen Oliveto
Reconciling United Methodists Texas Conference unreservedly supports Bishop Karen Oliveto of the Mountain Sky Area. We pray her episcopacy will be long and fruitful—resulting in many disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
We give thanks for vocal disciples in the Western Jurisdiction nominating, electing, consecrating, and assigning Bishop Oliveto.
We disagree with the South Central Jurisdiction’s Petition for Declaratory Decision from the Judicial Council concerning the Western Jurisdiction’s action. We wish our Jurisdiction had waited for the Commission on a Way Forward to complete its work and present the Commission's results at General Conference. Likewise, we disagree with the Judicial Council’s Decision 1341 on that Petition, and we support dissents to that Decision.
We challenge the United Methodist Church to acknowledge that same sex and transgender relationships under the covenant of marital fidelity are holy unions worthy of full inclusion in the church.
We hold a high view of Scripture and affirm the biblical witness of Galatians 3:26-29 --"You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Now if you belong to Christ, then indeed you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise." We call upon groups believing to have the one and only correct interpretation of scripture and church doctrine to prayer and humble conversation, for the sake of the gospel and the mission of the Church.
We pray and work for The United Methodist Church to include and accept the LGBTQ community at large, without reservation, as we seek united life together in Jesus Christ. We, the Board Members of Reconciling United Methodists Texas Conference, stand as an inclusive, reconciling body to all whom God sends to us. May the people called Methodists welcome and affirm all God's children with the grace, peace, and love of Jesus Christ.
Signed: Reconciling United Methodists Texas Conference Board Members
Rev. Jim Bankston (retired), St. Paul's UMC - Houston, TX Rev. Nathan Lonsdale Bledsoe, St. Stephens UMC - Houston, TX Rev. Glynden Bode, Rosehill UMC - Tomball, TX Nelda Brooks, St. Peter's UMC - Katy, TX Brett Falkenhagen, St. Paul's UMC - Houston, TX Erin Kupcunas Faseler, FUMC - Conroe, TX Bodie Gilbert, FUMC - Fulshear, TX Judy Graves, St. Mark's UMC Pecore - Houston, TX Norma Graves, Memorial Drive UMC - Houston, TX Trish King, Strawbridge UMC - Kingwood, TX Rev. Diane McGehee, Bering Memorial UMC Burke Randolph, Christ Church - Sugar Land, TX Randy Scott, Bering Memorial UMC - Houston, TX Lahonda Sharp, Christ Church - Sugar Land, TX Roxanne Taylor, Texas Annual Conference Rev. Hannah Terry, Westbury UMC - Houston, TX Tom Thompson, Texas Annual Conference Rev. Rahel Yoo, FUMC - Pearland, TX Deaconess Laura Young, St. John's UMC - Lubbock, TX