On Saturday, February 12th, the Reconciling Ministries Network hosted a training for the Southwest Texas Conference (our conference) to help our community work towards official full-inclusion within the global United Methodist Church. During the training, a proposal for legislative change in the current United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline (church law) was formed.
This Sunday, February 27th during the 9:15am, 11:15am, and 12:45 services at Trinity, our congregation will have the opportunity to approve a document which will propose to clearly state in the UMC’s Book of Discipline that persons cannot be denied membership or participation due to “sexual orientation, or gender identity expression.” See the PDF for complete wording. If approved by our local congregation this proposal will join a group of other signed petitions and be sent to the Board of Church and Society. We will be seeking the Board of Church and Society’s approval for this document to be sent to Annual Conference held in June.
While Trinity is inclusive and welcoming of all persons, the United Methodist Book of Discipline policies are very exclusive, contradictory and divisive surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity. The two main policies that are being enforced and explanations of those policies are below:
Article IV. Inclusiveness of the Church
The United Methodist Church is a part of the church universal, which is one Body in Christ. The United Methodist Church acknowledges that all persons are of sacred worth. All persons without regard to race, color, national origin, status,4 or economic condition, shall be eligible to attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments, upon baptism be admitted as baptized members, and upon taking vows declaring the Christian faith, become professing members in any local church in the connection.5 In The United Methodist Church no conference or other organizational unit of the Church shall be structured so as to exclude any member or any constituent body of the Church because of race, color, national origin, status or economic condition.
While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world. The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals1 are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.
Since sexual orientation and gender identity are not listed in the paragraph about membership and that in the paragraph below it about ordination of clergy states “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” it is up to the pastor of the church to decide whether or not to grant membership based on sexual orientation. Take a look at Joey Heath’s story: http://www.youtube.com/rmnvideos#p/a/u/0/xlyxuOaIwxo
Why is Trinity welcoming and other UM churches are not? Great question! TUMC voted as a church body that our community would be a reconciling congregation (rmnetwork.org), this is something that the larger UMC has allowed individual communities to do. But the fact is that there are a number of places where there aren’t reconciling communities and even where there are those affirming communities have limitations put in place by church doctrine. So it is extremely important for us to change this legislation!
“Self-avowed practicing homosexuals,” are not only being denied membership but they are not able to become ministers or candidates for ministry in the United Methodist Church. This requires people who feel called to ministry to choose between doing ministry in the closet or to no longer be in the ministry. This means that even if a pastor who identified as GLBT was appointed to Trinity they could not be open about their sexual orientation and if they were they would risk being put on church trial and having their credentials stripped. For example, take a moment to read the story of Amy DeLong: http://loveontrial.org/
If you would like to read other pieces of legislation from the Book of Discipline surrounding sexual orientation here’s a link to the UMC website directly on the issue: http://archives.umc.org/interior.asp?mid=1324
If you are interested in joining the ongoing efforts to work towards full-inclusion within the United Methodist Church, please contact Britt Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org.