LGBTQI+ Clergy Plan Witness in Los Angeles as Denomination’s Judicial Council Meets

LGBTQI+ Clergy Plan Witness in Los Angeles as Denomination’s Judicial Council Meets

#NoMoreCrumbs #CalledOUT
23 October 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT:
Co-Convenors
Rev. Alex da Silva Souto <pastor.alex.souto@gmail.com> 415-706-5397
Rev. Lois McCullen Parr <gizhilois@yahoo.com> 224-436-0769

“The United Methodist Church’s ongoing policies and practices of excluding and discriminating against LGBTQ people are causing horrible harm to queer lives and loves, and also horrible harm to the wider church,” says Rev. Anna Blaedel, a member of the United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus (UMQCC), United Methodists who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, and intersex. The Caucus will bear witness to their ministries as the denomination’s Judicial Council gathers in Los Angeles October 24-27, 2017. The clergy will pray, celebrate Holy Communion, and remember the Saints of the justice movement during the week as the Church’s official judicial group’s docket includes cases that affect queer lives.

The group says they are often talked about as an issue, and that their presence is a reminder to those who are in legal deliberations “that we are real people – people created by and called by God to be in ministry in Christ’s Church,” says Rev. Frank Wulf. Wulf says that nearly 200 individuals are now a part of the Caucus, and that the Caucus Leadership Team will also hold a daylong meeting during the week.

The UMQCC is organizing its own leadership and operations for its public witness as the denomination anticipates two General Conferences in 2019 and 2020 (the global gathering of the denomination where polity and policy are determined). The 2019 specially-called General Conference is anticipated to be “about us,” says the Caucus:

The UMC Council of Bishops established a ‘Commission on A Way Forward’ to set the course for the future of a church divided over its discrimination of LGBTQI people.

The UMC’s official Book of Discipline names “the practice of homosexuality incompatible with Christian teaching,” and one of the Judicial Council’s cases will examine whether this phrase, added in 1972, is actually unconstitutional within the denomination’s structure and guidelines. Two other cases reflect Annual Conference matters where a lesbian’s candidacy for ordination and a queer Elder’s status have been called into question.

“Putting people on trial for being, loving, and being in vibrant ministry is incompatible with Jesus’ teachings,” says Blaedel. “This process is dehumanizing, divisive, and undermines our mission of making disciples and transforming the world. The way forward, if it is faithful, must be a way of justice and liberation, where the gifts, graces, lives, and loves of LGBTQ people are celebrated.”

“We will be present to remind the members of Judicial Council that we have been a part of The UMC and we are faithfully serving,” affirms Rev. Dr. Israel Alvaran. “We’re inviting those members to join us in prayer and in celebrating Holy Communion – we believe that the Table is Christ’s, and that all are called to it to celebrate our common story of salvation.”

UMQCC will focus their witness with a commitment to “resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves,” using language from the liturgy of the Church’s Baptismal Covenant. “As long as injustice and oppression continue, resistance is faithfulness to our Baptism,” says Rev. Alex da Silva Souto.

UMQCC plans Holy Communion celebrations on Thursday and Friday, October 26 and 27, at noon on the Crowne Plaza Hotel grounds, 5985 W. Century Blvd., Los Angeles; a Remembrance of Saints will be held during Thursday morning’s Holy Communion service, and again in an evening vigil at 6:00 p.m. Local members of Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA), Affirmation, Western Methodist Justice Movement (WMJM), Love Your Neighbor Coalition (LYNC), and Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) will be joining the UMQCC witness.

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United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus (www.umqcc.org) is made up of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex people who are called, commissioned, and ordained clergy in the United Methodist Church. The Caucus seeks to act in solidarity with one another and with others who have been marginalized in the church.

Judicial Council Spring 2017 Explainer

Last week’s Judicial Council decisions were confusing to many of us. In order to better understand the ramifications of the Council’s actions, we are sharing this brief explanation, breaking down both the rulings and what they suggest as we move forward. Written and shared via permission of longtime MIND friend Kevin Nelson.

Methodist Judicial Council rulings explainer:

In Bishop Karen Oliveto‘s case, the JC has ruled a few things.

  1. Bishop Karen is still a bishop. (We have constitutionally protected fair process rights, so think of an “innocent until proven guilty” sort of thing. Bishop Karen’s membership was in good standing at the time of her election.)
  2. “Practicing,” in the term “self-avowed practicing homosexual,” got more complicated. As a legal principle, it was sort of expanded to include married to a same-sex partner. The “sort of” is that the primary legal threshold is still about “sexual genital contact,” but the JC has determined that it will go with the working assumption (or “rebuttable presumption” as they put it) that married people are having sex (basically, you can think of it as, “guilty until proven innocent”).
    [Note: Another way of thinking about this is that the JC has dared many of our queer, partnered clergy to lie about their sex lives, and bet that they won’t do it. Take a moment to let it sink in how sick that is. And all the ways in which it is sick.]
  3. Marriage licenses now qualify for self-avowal (doesn’t that make “self-avowal” kind of an oxymoron now?).
  4. Bishop Karen’s continuation as a bishop is under review, with the above matters to be taken into account and the intention that she be removed from office at a later date either as part of a just resolution or via penalty from a church trial.

In case it wasn’t already clear, this is what ugliness masked in piety looks like. This is what discrimination and oppression look like.

Bottom line: did the Western Jurisdiction mean it when they responded to the Holy Spirit’s movement and elected Karen a bishop? The JC has issued them a challenge. Will they accept it?

Options:

  1. A “just resolution” can be offered to Bishop Karen that strives to offer healing to all the pertinent parties that have been wronged throughout this process. Such a resolution would retain Bishop Karen in the episcopal office.
  2. If a resolution isn’t achieved, a trial court can decline to find Bishop Karen guilty. Perhaps they won’t find the “presumption” of sexual activity sufficient for “beyond a reasonable doubt” (not an actual UM legal principle but still worth learning from). Perhaps they won’t be quite so convinced that the Holy Spirit’s actions through this election were immoral and an unacceptable violation of UM teachings.
  3. Perhaps no matter what happens, the WJ College of Bishops, the WJ episcopacy committee and the Sky Mountain Episcopal Area will continue to recognize Bishop Karen’s election and receive her as an episcopal leader.

Will the relevant WJ bodies say, “Challenge accepted!”?

In the NY case (and I understand N IL is the same, though I don’t have the text yet), the BOOM was told they have to consider all relevant aspects of church law when evaluating candidates for ordained ministry, including provisions barring the certification and ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.” Nothing new here. For BOOMs and members of BOOMs that believe such church laws are unjust, immoral and destructively harmful, the JC has issued you a challenge. Will you continue to embrace the moral imperative to resist and not be complicit in propping up such laws? Will you embrace this manifestation of “resist[ing] evil and injustice in whatever forms they present themselves”?

Will you say, “Challenge accepted?”

Resistance is never easy, but especially for those of us who aren’t queer, we’ll probably never know what it is truly like to experience such church-sanctioned discrimination and oppression, cloaked in words of piety. We will probably never know how hard that experience really is. The resistance called of us is easy in comparison. To put this another way, this is an instance of a call to love our neighbors.

Do we say, “Challenge accepted”?

 

MIND Statement on Judicial Council Ruling Against LGBTQI United Methodists

April 29, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:
J. Michael Cobb, MIND Communications Director
203-512-1059

“No Matter What People Say: Decisions, Pronouncements On Me;
I Am A Child Of God!”

The spring 2017 meeting of the United Methodist Judicial Council has ruled that the consecration of an openly gay bishop violates church law.

Methodists In New Directions (MIND) has released the following statement in response to this and additional Judicial Council statements on LGBTQI clergy and laity:

“The United Methodist Judicial Council has spoken and its rulings against LGBTQI persons are contrary to the teachings of Jesus and to will of God. They do grave psychic and spiritual harm to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex persons among the clergy and laity of the United Methodist Church. While we review the specific language of its decisions and their implications for the UMC and for the New York Annual Conference, Methodists in New Directions reiterates its outrage at the way the church, through its General Conference and Judicial Council, continues its institutional oppression of LGBTQI persons, their families, and their allies. While the Judicial Council seeks to make LGBTQI persons even more vulnerable, we, like Jesus, stand with the vulnerable and oppressed. Of course the New York Annual Conference knew it was breaking the law by commissioning and ordaining LGBTQI persons. That was the point!

“An unjust law is no law at all. We will resist, ignore, and discredit the Judicial Council decisions, as we have of all the discriminatory language and practices of the UMC. We are confident that the New York Annual Conference will stand on the side of justice for LGBTQI persons, including LGBTQI clergy and candidates for ministry. The only way forward is non-conformity with the UMC’s discriminatory rules. We continue to call on the NYAC Board of Ordained Ministry and Bishop Thomas Bickerton to stand behind decisions and expressed desires to affirm the callings of LGBTQI people for ordained ministry. We urge the bishops of United Methodist Church and Boards of Ministry across the church to do the same.”

The decision is available at http://www.umc.org/decisions/71953

Methodists in New Directions (MINDny.org) is a grassroots organization of United Methodists working to end our denomination’s doctrinal prejudice and institutional discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. We are a regional group, organizing on the conference level within the New York Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, committed to living more fully into God’s radical welcome right now and right here.

An Open Letter to the UMC from the United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus

Click here to sign and express your support

Click here to read the press release about the letter.

 

April 16, 2017, Easter Sunday

Dear United Methodist Church,

In a week, our Judicial Council will be called into session to decide on the worthiness of the ministries and lives of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Questioning and Intersex (LGBTQI) clergy persons who have been examined, voted upon, and overwhelmingly affirmed by faithful United Methodist clergy and laity. These cases stem from questions of legality and briefs filed after the licensing, commissioning, and ordination of queer clergy in New York Annual Conference, Northern Illinois Annual Conference, and the consecration of Bishop Karen Oliveto. We, your LGBTQI clergy, write to you before their session begins to respond in love to this harm.

We, as the community of queer clergy that represent over 170 persons in 26 annual conferences, stand together: we are all one body and one church. Together we affirm and are proud of our denomination’s core beliefs and mission. We are deeply committed to introducing new people to the Way of Jesus, challenging all people (ourselves included) to grow in holiness and justice, and taking missional risks for the Gospel. While these questions, briefs and complaints are filed against some LGBTQI individuals, we consider them to be against all of us. These actions can also be considered as a general attack on the evangelism, discipleship, and mission potential of the United Methodist movement. They are hurtful to us, and they are hurtful to the whole Church. We write on behalf of our full queer clergy connection, acknowledging all those who identify as LGBTQI within and beyond our denomination who feel rejected and alienated from the church, a place purported to be the epicenter of Christ’s radical, unconditional, and unbounded love.

As a guiding principle of our Wesleyan tradition, we value and hold ourselves to do no harm. These briefs, along with complaints and charges filed against LGBTQI persons based solely on one’s sexual orientation and gender identity, are harmful. They not only fracture the body of Christ and dehumanize LGBTQI persons, but do harm to Creation, preventing a path to God’s “more excellent way” of love (1 Corinthians 12:31). These words and actions should be considered divisive by our ecclesiastical leaders and bodies. Hateful and narrow language, such as “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” does not define our sacred selves. These cases use our beloved families as weapons against us and reduce our loving relationships to sexual acts. They also drive seekers of Christ away and distract from our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We lead truthful, full and loving lives, some of us in relationships with cherished partners and spouses. We are mothers, fathers, siblings, children, and grandchildren. We are all ministers, who have been called by God, certified as candidates, licensed, commissioned and/or ordained, and consecrated.

We respond to God’s Great Commission to proclaim the good news to all people, and we intend to live into the reality of the beautiful, bold, diverse, and inclusive Body of Christ. We uphold our denomination’s call to inclusiveness. “Inclusiveness means openness, acceptance, and support that enables all persons to participate in the life of the church, the community, and the world; therefore, inclusiveness denies every semblance of discrimination” (¶ 140 Book of Discipline). In following that vision and God’s call in our own lives, we answer to a higher authority than earthly institutional power and will not accept unjust laws when they run contrary to the Gospel.

We stand firm in our baptismal vows “to confess Jesus as [our] Saviour [and] put [our] whole trust in his grace” and “..to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.” With humility and courage, we commit ourselves to Christ’s command that we love God and love one another.

We stand in support of every clergy person threatened by unjust actions, and our sibling, Bishop Karen Oliveto, as her standing is being challenged before the Judicial Council. Bishop Oliveto’s election is a visible demonstration of what is possible within The United Methodist Church when the gifts, graces, and call to ministry of LGBTQI persons are recognized and fully valued. We pray that the Judicial Council upholds clergy/episcopal fair process protections and our right to trial.

Whatever determinations are made by the upcoming Judicial Council, we will continue to run with perseverance the race set before us, looking to Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2). We continue to hold our entire United Methodist Connection in prayer, seeking God’s grace and wisdom in the coming days.

Your siblings in Christ,

United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus Representing over 170 persons in 26 Annual Conferences (including our Hidden Faithful siblings)

UMQCC Open Letter Signatories:

Rev. Jeanelle Nicolas Ablola
Rev. Brian Adkins
Rev. Austin Adkinson
Rev. Dr. Israel I. Alvaran
Rev. Elyse Ambrose
Rev. Douglas A. Asbury
M Barclay
Pastor Denyse Barnes
Rev. Bonnie Beckonchrist
Rev. Ann E. Berney
Rev. Rachel Birkhahn-Rommelfanger
Rev. Anna Blaedel
Rev. Daryl Blanksma
Rev. Jan Bolerjack
Rev. Thomas R. Boller
Rev. Elizabeth Brick
Rev. Tony Brown
Rev. Kristan Burkert
Rev. John Cahall
Rev. Dr. Joanne Carlson Brown
Rev. Dana Carroll
Rev. Jim Carter
Rev. Ronna Case
Rev. Karen Cook
Angie Cox
Rev. Britt Cox
Rev. Karen Dammann
Rev. Randa D’Aoust
Rev. Jani Darak-Druck
Rev. Alex da Silva Souto
Pastor Sean Delmore
Rev. Amy E. DeLong
Rev. Dr. James A. Dwyer
Rev. Greg Eaton
Rev. Dr. Janet Everhart
Rev. Renae Extrum-Fernandez
Rev. Anthony Fatta
Pastor Alexis Francisco
Rev. Rock Fremont
Micah Gary-Fryer
Rev. Ruth Ann Charlotte Geiger
Rev. Nestor S. Gerente
Rev. Sandy Gess
Rev. John Girard
Rev. Becca Girrell
Pastor Kaiyra Greer
Rev. John Edwin Griffin
Rev. Gregory D. Gross
Pastor Taylor Gould
Rev. Nancy Goyings
Rev. Will Ed Green
Rev. Dr. Emily B. Hall
Rev. Trey Hall
Rev. Dr. Edward J. Hansen
Rev. Janet Hanson
Rev. Marcia Hauer
Pastor Ashley Hawkins
Rev. Michael A. House
Rev. Betty J. Howard
Rev. Ann Hunt
Rev. Brittany Isaac
Peter Jabin
Rev. Dr. David Jenkins
Rev. Marguerite K. Jhonson
Rev. C. Michele Johns
Jacey Johnson
Rev. Elizabeth Jones
Rev. Lindsey Kerr
Rev. Dr. Jeanne Gayle Knepper
Rev. Katie Ladd
Rev. Bruce Lamb
Rev. Sue Laurie
Rev. Ardis Letey
Rev. Dan Lewis
Rev. Fred Lewis
Rev. Samantha Lewis
Rev. Dr. Pamela R. Lightsey
Pastor Christine Lindeberg
Pastor Rolly Loomis
Rev. Kelly Love
Adam Marshall
Rev. Dr. Joretta L. Marshall
Rev. Lea A. Matthews
Rev. Lois McCullen Parr
Rev. Courtney McHill
Rev. Ralph A. Merante
Rev. David. W. Meredith
Rev. Cynthia S. Meyer
Pastor Kathleen Meyerson
Rev. Jerry M. Miller
Katelyn Miller
Rev. Sharon L. Moe
Rev. Dr. Richard W. Moman
Rev. Deborah Morgan
Rev. Jeffrey S. Mullinix
Rev. Rachel Neer
Rev. Joshua M. Noblitt
Rev. Catherine Noellert
Rev. Gregory Norton
Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker
Rev. Matthew Alexander Pearson
Rev. Drew Phoenix
Emily Pickens-Jones
Rev. Jay K. Pierce
Rev. Jeanne Audrey Powers
Kendall Protzmann
Pastor Kathleen Reynolds
Pastor Jonathan Rodríguez-Cintrón
Rev. Maggie Roe
Rev. Daniel Sailer
Rev. Siobhan Sargent
Kenneth Schoon
Rev. Tyler Schwaller
Pastor Kimberly Scott
Pastor Ryan J. Scott
Rev. Patricia Simpson
Rev. Kim Smith
Rev. Dr. Althea Spencer Miller
Rev. Nea Stepp
Rev. Terri Stewart
Rev. Katie Stickney
Rev. Kristin Stoneking
Pastor Charles Straight
Rev. Mark Sturgess
Grant Swanson
Rev. Sara Thompson Tweedy
Rev. Ronald D. Tompkins
Rev. Adrienne Trevathan
Rev. Dr. Frank E. Trotter, Jr.
Dr. Joan Van Dessel
Rev. Martha E. Vink
Anna Voinovich
Rev. Vivian Ruth Waltz
Rev. Kathleen Weber
Rev. Dr. David Weekley
Rev. Judy WestLee
Jennifer Weyenberg
Rev. Jay Williams
Rev. Dr. Mark Williams
Rev. Brenda S. Wills
Rev. Jarell Wilson
Rev. John R. Wooden
Rev. Vicki Woods
Rev. Wendy Joy Woodworth
Rev. Frank D. Wulf
Rev. Laura Young
Rev. Nancy Kay Yount

Click here to sign and express your support
Click here to read the press release about the letter.
The original letter is published here.

www.umqcc.org