Tonight Rev. Frank Schaefer spoke to 200 Oklahoma United Methodist clergy and laity who are longing for the day when all persons are fully welcomed into the life and ministry of our church. I was honored to be asked to give a very brief overview of the work for equality happening among Oklahoma United Methodists to set the context for the evening. The following are the words I spoke prior to Rev. Schaefer’s powerful message about his journey of ministering to all persons in the United Methodist Church:
“Many Oklahoma United Methodists through our engagement with scripture, tradition, reason, and experience, affirm the rights and dignity of all people and celebrate the recent decision by Judge Kern that the ban on same gender marriage in Oklahoma is unconstitutional. Today we celebrate with our LGBTQ brothers and sisters and pledge to express love, affirmation, and equal treatment for all people.”
The words I just read were placed in newspaper ads throughout the state of Oklahoma in response to Judge Terence Kern’s ruling for marriage equality in Oklahoma in January of 2014. These ads were meant to be a witness to the sacred worth of all persons and a celebration of the hope that one day soon the state of Oklahoma will be a place where all persons will be treated equally under the law and will be able to marry one another in freedom and equality. The ads were also an expression of hope that one day soon the United Methodist Church will truly welcome all persons in the life and ministry of the church.
Since the time the ads were placed, a more organized effort for inclusiveness and equality has come into being among Oklahoma United Methodists. A new website was created called “Oklahoma United Methodists for Equality” (www.okumcforequality.org), the Mainstream United Methodists group in the Oklahoma Conference has officially become a reconciling community, and new reconciling groups have been formed in other Oklahoma United Methodist congregations. It is in the context of this movement for equality that we have been called to invite Rev. Frank Schaefer to be with us tonight. This movement for equality in the Oklahoma United Methodist Church is by no means a new movement. It is a movement that stands on the shoulders of our reconciling congregations, Epworth United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City and St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church in Norman, Oklahoma. It is a movement that stands on the shoulders of so many persons who have been working for decades for equality in Oklahoma, many of whom have experienced personal hardship, some of whom were even removed from United Methodist ordained ministry, as they sacrificed and stood with courage and solidarity with the hope that one day soon in the Oklahoma United Methodist Church and beyond, all will truly mean ALL, and ALL of God’s children will share together as equals in the feast of God’s love and reconciliation. I want to thank you all for sharing in this expression of hope this evening.