discrimination, God's grace, heterosexuality, homophobia, human sexuality, John Wesley, LGBTQ inclusion, persons of sacred worth, same-sex marriage, sexual orientation, social witness, United Methodist Book of Discipline, United Methodist Church, United Methodist General Conference 2016
It’s hard to know where to begin as I reflect on my two days spent in our church’s quadrennial meeting known as General Conference. I continue to believe in the incredible gifts our church has been given to offer the world. We are truly a church of social witness from the time John Wesley first took to the streets to announce the good news of Christ to the poor. We have a vast humanitarian reach throughout the world that brings hope and healing to many lives. We are a people who use our feet and hands to move into a hurting world with peace in the name of Christ. We have so much to offer, which makes our persistent wrestling with sexual matters all the more troubling.
Yet there is much pain in the midst of our ecclesial body. There are children of God who feel invisible when others refer to them as an “issue” because of their sexuality. There are children of God who are forced to be secretive about their sexual orientation knowing they may be judged ineligible to be in ministry. There are children of God who know they will not receive the ministry of the church when they commit themselves to one another in marriage. There are children of God who are being silenced and pushed aside by a church that will not recognize their giftedness and beauty as people of sacred worth. The pain is magnified because it is caused by the very church that has nurtured them in faith and trust in God.
It’s time that the church stop harming those who are beloved of God. It’s time to allow ministers and churches to honor and bless the marriages of two persons of the same sex. It’s time to recognize the gift and graces of ministry candidates who identify as LGBTQI and not disqualify them from serving the church solely on the basis of their sexual orientation. It’s time to recognize that the discriminatory language related to sexuality in the Book of Discipline reflects heterosexuality and homophobia and needs to be removed. It’s time to stop acting from fear, misunderstanding, and intolerance. It’s time to reclaim our heritage as a church grounded in Christ’s grace! It’s time to let love overwhelm hate. It’s time to breathe in the Spirit of the Christ who welcomed persons into the presence of God without conditions.
Words (c) 2016 Mark Lloyd Richardson