With Bishop Richard Wilke headlining for us, our 2009 witness gave us unprecedented visibility at annual conference. Wilke spoke at MIND’s lunch and also, at Bishop Park’s invitation, preached at the culminating ordination service on the conference’s closing day. Wilke twice in his sermon lifted up the need to welcome gays and lesbians – probably the first time those words were ever spoken from the pulpit at a NYAC ordination service.
In addition to Wilke’s presence, a special dialogue session set aside 90 minutes for presentations, small group discussion and an open-mike period to address the church’s internal conflicts around issues of homosexuality. MIND’s presentation lifted up the lived experiences of welcome and particularly unwelcome of LGBT Methodists, their parents and pastors and commanded the attention of the entire auditorium. Other highlights from our witness included the annual armband witness at the ordination service. The armbands are blue to symbolize tears: tears of joy as we celebrate with those who are being ordained, and tears of sorrow as we mourn with those who are also called by God by barred by the church from following their call because of their sexual orientation.