As the United Methodist Church (UMC) Quadrennial General Conference begins today in Tampa, Florida, we all need to turn our thoughts, our prayers, and our hearts toward the around 1000 delegates of this global denomination as they take up again the existing prohibitions levied against lesbian and gay Christians and proposals to exclude transgender people.
The Love Your Neighbor Common Witness Coalition, Methodists all, will be hard at work to overturn policies first officially articulated in 1972 that are now embodied in the Methodist Book of Discipline as six harsh words: “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” despite the evidence of eyes and ears that ten million fellow Protestant Christians now live, work and worship from within denominations that have no barriers to either membership in the church or serving as ministers leading exemplary lives, witnessing to the truth of God’s promises and the redemption of Christ to our salvation, LGBT and heterosexual.
Between today and the May 4th end of the General Conference, members of the coalition will seek the removal of these policy barriers while, at the same time, preventing efforts to add transgender people to the list of those the United Methodist church excludes.
Hopeful signs there are:
— UMC church leaders, retired and in service, are speaking out in favor of change
— A bright light has been shone on the discriminatory policies by the highly-publicized ecclesiastical trial of Rev. Amy DeLong for being a lesbian and having married a lesbian couple
— More than 1200 Methodist ministers are publically on record pledged to perform marriages for all couples
— Fifty-two percent of mainline Protestants support marriage for gay and lesbian couples
— International and national outrage has risen at efforts by some evangelicals to export their particular brand of virulent homophobia to other parts of the world, like Uganda, which has resulted in death threats, draconian legislation proposals, murder and persecution
You and your United Methodist friends can learn more about the Love Your Neighbor Common Witness Coalition at http://gc12.org/home/.
If you know of United Methodists who are in favor of full inclusion, direct them to http://gc12.org/sign/ where they can read and then sign up to the “For Love of God and Neighbor” Statement, increasing the reach and witness of the efforts to undo current and prevent further discrimination.