A Covenant of Conscience: 2018 Update

With a special session of the General Conference set to take place in February 2019, the United Methodist Church stands poised either to embrace or to turn away from a future of equality for all its members. At this historic moment, Methodists in New Directions and the Queer Clergy Caucus of the New York Annual Conference invite the individual laity and clergy members of the annual conference and each of our individual congregations to take a stand in support of full and equal inclusion of all persons, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, in the life of our church. 

As a way of encouraging individuals and congregations to take such a stand we are circulating A Covenant of Conscience, originally published in 2011, with an updated preamble. The updated language follows.

You can download a printed version of the 2018 revised Covenant to sign and return to MIND here.

A Covenant of Conscience 

Published October 17, 2011, With updated Preamble January 1, 2018


In February 2019, a Special General Conference of the United Methodist Church will convene to discern A Way Forward for our church with regard to the inclusion or exclusion of LGBTQI+ persons. After long struggle, and in a defining moment in our history, each of us, as United Methodist lay persons or clergy, and each of our congregations face an inescapable challenge: where do we stand?

The stand taken by the New York Annual Conference is clear: “our way forward is the way of a just, inclusive, loving church that embraces the full spectrum of the children of God. We seek to embody the beloved community of hope by openly and joyfully affirming the lives and loves of all United Methodists, regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression.” (2016 NYAC Resolution, A Way Forward Together).

While the rite of Christian marriage officiated by our clergy and celebrated in our church buildings is now denied by UMC law to same-sex couples, the New York Annual Conference urges its clergy “to minister equally to all members of their churches and to consider the conference’s call to inclusive ministries in deciding how to honor their congregants’ covenantal commitments.”   (2010 NYAC Resolution,Ministering to All in Covenantal Relationships)

And while gifted LGBTQI+ clergy and candidates face exclusion and are subject to complaint and even to trial in the United Methodist Church, the New York Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry and the New York Annual Conference have declared that “lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, questioning, intersexed, and straight candidates will be given equal consideration and protection in the candidacy process.”   (2016 NYAC Resolution, Celebrating the Journey to Equality)

By remaining silent in these matters, we offer tacit consent to the injustice done to LGBTQI+ persons in the church. This a critical moment for United Methodist to declare to the world our conviction that pastoral care and the sacraments and rituals of the church are means of grace by which the lives of all Christians are blessed by God, and that therefore we, as congregations and as individual lay persons and clergy, declare our commitment to offer such means of grace to all persons on an equal basis.

By adding our individual names and the names of our congregations to this public covenant, we affirm our commitment to the pastoral care of all persons. We commit ourselves to “a just, inclusive, loving church that embraces the full spectrum of the children of God.”  We simply refuse to discriminate against any individual on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity as we make this covenantal commitment:

We, United Methodist clergy, in accordance with our ordination vows to “seek peace, justice, and freedom for all people,” commit to marrying all people, regardless of sexual identity or gender expression, who seek the blessing of the church, without bias or discrimination.

We, United Methodist laity, in accordance with our membership vows to “resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves,” commit to supporting our clergy in faithfully ministering to all, including through any consequences of their living fully into that duty.

We, united Methodist congregations, refuse to discriminate in the sacraments and rituals provided to our members and pledge the full and equal use of our facilities as we welcome and celebrate equally all couples and the families they may choose to create.

Further, each of us, clergy, laity, and congregations, pledge to one   another our spiritual and material support in fulfilling this covenant of conscience.

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
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.


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?


  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

J. Michael Cobb, MIND Communications Director

“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.