Something New

photo credit: “Agnus Dei” by Rev. Alex da Silva Souto, Matagalpa, Nicaragua

photo credit: “Agnus Dei” by Rev. Alex da Silva Souto, Matagalpa, Nicaragua

Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, whose resurrection we joyfully celebrate this Eastertide. As I give thanks for you and your leadership in our District of our Annual Conference, I pray that you and your congregation are having a blessed and meaningful Easter season. Indeed, death has lost its sting. Grave has lost its victory. God has done and is continuing to do something new.

Something new.

In these troubling and uncertain times in which we find ourselves living—in a world that’s hell-bent on living according to the old ways—that is the promise we find ourselves grasping on to. God is doing something new in our midst. I confess that I am not blameless when it comes to holding on to the ways of the past. Today, I commit to relinquishing my grasp on the past and diving in deep to the something new. 

For over a decade, I’ve been tirelessly following a call to ordained ministry in the United Methodist denomination. It started on a beach in Cuba one starlit New Year’s Eve surrounded by a motley crew of United Methodists and Baptists and non-denominational Christians and atheists and young people and old people and capitalists and communists all sharing in one peculiar holy mystery. My call is to be a part of creating anew moments like that, moments where the sheer magnitude of the reign of God is palpable. Throughout my discernment journey, that part of my call has never wavered. However, after spending the past Lenten season in deep prayer, I am now convinced that I am unable to fulfill my call to ministry within the context of ordained ministry in the United Methodist denomination.

Throughout my journey, I have known that the United Methodist denomination is an unjust institution. The called session of the General Conference did not, as some have claimed, change the nature of the United Methodist denomination. The United Methodist denomination has been one that has failed time and time again to fully embrace the lives of the most marginalized. It is an institution that is steeped in the sins of heterosexism, white supremacy, colonialism, and patriarchy. The only thing that the called special session of the General Conference did was shine a light on how far we have fallen.

I had thought that by pursuing ordained ministry in this denomination, I could help fix it from within. But what I learned in St. Louis and the weeks that followed was that somewhere along the line, our institution had rotted to its core. The United Methodist denomination is, for all intents and purposes, dead. I can no longer, in good consciousness, be ordained in this denomination. As a cisgender and heterosexual man, I have no right to allow a United Methodist bishop to lay his or her hands on me in affirmation of my calling when so many of my siblings—who are far more gifted and graced for the work of ministry than I am—are not afforded the same right.

Therefore, I hereby request to discontinue my candidacy for ordained ministry until such a time arrives when every person can be celebrated fully for who they are in our denomination, regardless of whom or how they love. I am a disciple of the Incarnate One who lived life in and among the margins of society and who is calling me to take this next step in my ministry journey.

Our denomination might have died, but the promise of Easter is that in every death there is a powerful resurrection. And so, while this marks the end of my discernment to be an ordained minister in this denomination, I also commit, here and now, to remain in the struggle. I will not run away from our death. Instead, I will join in our death in a posture of solidarity. I will carry the cross I am being called to carry. I will go into the tomb to tend to the body and anoint it with oil and spices. And I will pray without ceasing for the resurrection of the United Methodist denomination so that we can truly be the Church Christ is calling us to be.

Your brother in Christ,

Ian C. Urriola

Ian C. Urriola