As we prepare for the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church where we will decide whether we as a church will fully include persons who are LGBTQ in the life and leadership of our denomination, I think it is really important to realize that persons who are LGBTQ are people and not a lifestyle. They are not an issue, not a problem that our denomination is having to deal with. They are persons. They are persons who love and live, and, like all persons, they have sexual orientations and gender orientations, and they long for loving, caring, and committed relationships. They simply long to be accepted, included, and able to serve others in the life and work of our churches.
Persons who are LGBTQ are not the problem or the issue facing our denomination. The problem we are facing, the issue we are facing is whether we will be a church that fully includes all persons or not. That is the issue, that is the problem with which we are struggling. Our problem is not persons who are LGBTQ. Our problem is a lack of love, hospitality, and grace and an overabundance of judgment, fear, and sometimes even hatred towards our LGBTQ siblings when we objectify and depersonalize them as issues, problems, and lifestyles rather than celebrating their full presence as persons in the Beloved Community.
For 46 years, the United Methodist Church has explicitly singled out persons who are LGBTQ as being incompatible with Christian teaching. For 42 years, all church funding for LGBTQ support groups has been banned by the United Methodist Church. For 34 years, the United Methodist Church has explicitly denied persons who are LGBTQ the opportunity for ordained ministerial leadership in the life of our churches. For 22 years, the United Methodist Church has banned its ministers from performing same gender union services, and now that same gender marriages are legal in the United States, the ban has been applied to same gender marriage ceremonies as well. The persons we United Methodists say are persons of sacred worth are not even allowed to celebrate their marriage vows on United Methodist Church property. Their marriage ceremonies must be performed in exile from their United Methodist Church community as if they are somehow not worthy enough to be married in the church. General Conference after General Conference, the language and laws of the United Methodist Church have become more and more discriminatory against and harmful to our LGBTQ siblings.
The psychological and spiritual harm committed against our LGBTQ siblings in the United Methodist Church has been immense. There is no doubt that the United Methodist Church has contributed to the spiritual and physical bullying of our LGBTQ siblings, and there is no doubt that the United Methodist Church has contributed to the suffering and even the deaths of our LGBTQ siblings who have been harmed by the policies and practices of our church.
The experience of pain, suffering, and spiritual and psychological abuse of our LGBTQ siblings cannot be ignored or downplayed in relation to the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church. We cannot continue to ignore the real, lasting, and often deadly harm that we as a church are committing against persons whom we affirm in words as having “sacred worth,” but whom we treat in practice and policy as less than full persons. Our continuing harm of our LGBTQ siblings in word and deed is the true problem from which we in the United Methodist Church are called to repent in the hope of reconciliation of all persons of sacred worth in the Beloved Community
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