The Weight of Denominational Discrimination
On June 7th, 2019 I shared the following with the Clergy Session of the Iowa Annual Conference:
Ten years ago today, I was ordained an Elder in The United Methodist Church to a ministry of Word, Order, Sacrament, and Service. My ministry is grounded in an experience of God’s grace expressed in my life. At the time of my ordination I understood God to be calling me to work within the church to revive a Wesleyan witness of Grace, high-commitment discipleship, and congregations that embodied justice-love in the world.
In the years since my ordination I have worked alongside faithful and committed laypeople and clergy. Today, I celebrate ministry that has raised up leaders who were called by God, ministry that has opened the scripture for spiritually nourishing engagement, and ministry that has mobilized communities of faith for service in their settings.
However, in February, the 2019 General Conference clearly reaffirmed the commitment of The United Methodist Church to discriminate against LGBTQ people. In reaffirming the incompatibility statement and strengthening our prohibitions against same-gender marriage and ordination for LGBTQ people, the UMC sends a powerful negative message to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people - children, youth, and adults. This kind of religious rejection does spiritual harm and contributes to dramatically elevated suicide rates among LGBTQIA+ people.
Today God is still calling me to ministry among LGBTQIA+ people and our allies. Because of the open hostility of the General Conference, though, I cannot engage this ministry under the banner of the cross and flame. I cannot bring myself to invite LGBTQIA+ people and those who love us to a United Methodist congregation - even a Reconciling church like the one I currently serve. The weight of denominational discrimination threatens to overcome even the blessings of an affirming local fellowship.
My ministry is founded on witnessing to the grace I know in Jesus Christ in my life. My witness emerges from an authentic sharing of myself within the community of faith. In the past months and years, the conflict between my authentic witness to God’s grace and the denomination’s policies of legalism and exclusion have become unbearable. I can no longer represent this denomination to the world with integrity. This conflict between my call to ministry and our denomination’s discrimination have led me to request this Leave of Absence.
I hope and pray that the Spirit will move among the people who bear the name United Methodist, that we may recover a theology and practice of Grace and repent of our harm of LGBTQ people. When this happens, it will open the way for me to resume active ministry in the UMC. Until that day, I remain committed to Christ’s work in the world, knowing that I am not alone, but do so amidst a connection of clergy and laity committed to embodying liberation and love.