For Freedom We Have Been Set Free

Image credit: “Beyond Time” by Rev. Alex da Silva Souto, Connecticut, USA.

Image credit: “Beyond Time” by Rev. Alex da Silva Souto, Connecticut, USA.

For Freedom We Have Been Set Free
Called Out to Advance PoC+Q+T Justice

August 2019

We believe in the Sacred possibilities of love enfleshed among us.
We believe that God has given us the power to resist evil, injustice, and oppression.
We believe that the Good News sets the captives free and tears the unjust powerful from their thrones.

To claim our freedom in Christ is to choose the way of liberation:
The way that seeks the wisdom of God at the fringes, among Persons of Color + Queer + Trans (PoC+Q+T) people. The way that refuses to barter anymore over anyone’s worth. The way that digs up destruction at its roots and finds our collective salvation in resurrection not in accommodation to evil. 

We are living amidst a global crisis of white supremacy, LGBTQIA+ hatred, patriarchy, and many other forces of destruction that contribute to the peril of the earth. When so much is at risk, we simply cannot condone or participate in any attempts at moral or theological neutrality on these pressing matters. It is sinfully insufficient to advocate for a modified UMC that is slightly less homophobic, fails to confront white supremacy and institutional racism, and preserves a myriad of other systemic injustices.

We are aghast at the re-branding of the One Church Plan (OCP) under the UMC-Next name. We are dismayed at the lack of repentance by moderates and progressives who touted the OCP and now dare to double-down on its platform: the UMC-Next Proposal, like its OCP predecessor, would again shift discrimination against LGBTQIA+ persons from the denominational level to the regional and local levels. We reject RMN’s dubious assertion that such a proposal treats everyone “fairly and equitably.”

While grateful for its historic role in affirming LGBTQIA+ persons in the UMC, we lament that since 2017, the leadership of Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) has become too compromised by moderation to offer prophetic leadership that envisions a fully-inclusive church. It is long past time to move beyond delayed reconciliation to liberation.

We are signaling what already is the case: the “left” is not homogenous, and the term “progressive/liberal” does not embody the fullness of those who are not traditionalists (conservatives) or centrists/moderates. There are those of us on the left who increasingly claim the term “liberationist” — those who strive for the collective liberation of PoC+Q+T persons and declare “progressive” as an inadequate descriptor for this moment. Progress is relative; liberation is an absolute. Mere progress participates in gradualism that whispers: “Be content that things are better today than yesterday” (Loved and Liberated: A Proclamation from Our Movement Forward Summit). We follow the Christ who liberated all of creation, who set us all free: Free to create alternative ways of living and loving together, free to celebrate our God-given identities and claim our inherent worth, free to say "no" to all forms of evil and oppression within and beyond the church, and free to live abundantly and with joy.

While we are reluctant to discuss “family business” in such a public way, we are left with no other choice, given that a number of progressive-identified organizations have repeatedly and intentionally excluded liberationists and voices of dissent and resistance that question the moderate tactics of establishment organizations. Our work, views, and presence have been actively discouraged and excluded from negotiations. While being lauded as partners in public, we must clarify our position: compromises and legislative strategies that prioritize pensions, property, and power were not acceptable before General Conference 2019. Neither are they acceptable now. They do not reflect our participation or partnership. With this open letter, therefore, we call out complicity, claim our liberationist voice and values, and create constructive alternatives to imagine and embody church.

For those passionate about justice and equity in The United Methodist Church, before us are open questions. Who will fiercely advocate for the full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ Christians — in an uncompromising manner? Who will fiercely declare a theologically-prophetic vision to guide the UMC in fully living out the love ethic of Jesus Christ? Who will fiercely pursue justice through an intersectional and anti-colonial framework committed to the dismantling of white supremacy, patriarchy, and cisgender-heteronormativity? 

We are accountable to the faith we proclaim and to communities on the margins, within and beyond the church. We first cast our lot with people, not institutions. We labor with and for one another — for all whose lives are diminished by the status quo — and commit to living responsibly in these days that demand more of us all. We long to partner with all who desire to grow in love that liberates. Our hope is plenty and relies not on the institution but in the Sacred potential living among us to practice, proclaim, and posture ourselves in the freedom of Christ. There is no turning back.



UM Forward + Love Prevails

Laci Lee Adams
Rev. M Barclay
Rev. Anna Blaedel
Joy Butler
Rev. Alex da Silva Souto
Rev. Amy DeLong
Deaconess Irene R. DeMaris
Rev. Elizabeth Evans
Elisa Gatz
Rev. Will Green
Rev. Kai Greer
Rev. Sue Laurie
Rev. Pamela Lightsey, Ph.D.
Pastor Laquaan Malachi
Marla Marcum
Rev. Sean McRoberts
Bill Mefford
Cameron Overton
Rev. Jonah Overton
Rev. Lois McCullen Parr
Laura Ralston
Rev. Wil Ranney
Rev. Tyler Schwaller, Th.D.
Rev. Althea Spencer Miller, Ph.D.
Mary Lou Taylor, Ph.D.
Julie Todd, Ph.D.
Brenda Smith White
Rev. Wesley White
Rev. Jay Williams, Ph.D.
Rev. Vicki Woods
Ravi Roelfs
Rev. Alka Lyall

Ian C. Urriola
Brenda Yurs
Rev. Jen Stuart
Rev. Walter Lockhart
Charis Zimmick
Zach Nell
Jaime Riefer
Rev. Stephen Tarr
Amory Peck
Jarell Wilson
Lamont Richie
Rev. Laura Young
Rev. Dr. David E. MacDonald
Christopher Brush
Steve Richie-Roberson
Rev. Sharon Moe
Betty Sayner
Rebekah Solar
Jessica Lanes
Julie Bruno
Rev. Jennifer Emert
Mara C Schwartz
Lynn A Montague
Pam Roes
Rev. Linda Butler
Umar M Williams
Pastor Marissa van der Valk
Joel P Sutton
Andrew Wehrheim
Rev. Sarah Harrison-McQueen
Rev. Dr. Jim Davis
Sean Crews
Nathan Self
Rev. Kevin Hudson
Regina Cheatum
Janet Grace Thomas
Rev. Kathryn J. Johnson
Rev. Nicole Anderson
Pastor Ross Johnson
Bridget Kelly
Pat Kelly
Rev. Matthew Mariani
Rev. Andrea Brown
Michael S. Coughlan
Rev. Cathy Weigand
Richard Bates
Rev. Jordan Harris
Brinna Kolitz Mdiv Candidate, Candidate for Ministry
Betty Blakney
Aaron Pazan
Colleen S.D. McRoberts
Ruby Blake
Pastor Nikki Young
Sue Klock
Crystal Collier
Rev. Kaleigh Tomich Corbett
Angela Nelson

The up-to-date list of signatures