A UMC Elder presides over Holy Communion (Pic: Dr. Gregory S. Neal)
A hundred and eleven United Methodist pastors, deacons, elders and candidates for the ministry have come out in protest against their church’s ban on gay clergy.
The church leaders announced their sexual orientation and gender identity in an online “love letter” to the United Methodist Church (UMC), ahead of its General Conference in Portland, Oregon.
They wrote that the church has “required that we not bring our full selves to ministry, that we hide from view our sexual orientations and gender identities.”
The gay clergy members said they decided to come out to show that “the ‘LGBTQI issue’ is not one that can be resolved through restrictive legislation but instead by seeing that all persons are made in the image of God and welcomed into the community of faith.”
They further explained that they also came out “to provide hope for LGBTQI young people in hostile UMC churches. These young people are more at risk for suicide than their peers, in part, because of the condemnation they hear from the pulpits and pews of their churches.
“We seek to create a pathway of hope into ministry for them, even when the church has tried to shut its doors on them, or overtly or indirectly condoned the persecution of LGBTQI persons.”
The pastors said that despite their rejection they would continue to love the church even if they are “told to simply leave”.
They wrote: “LGBTQI people and their families exist in every church in every continent of this denomination. They are seeking to remain in faithful relationship with you, even when you refuse, because they know God’s tender mercies and great faithfulness.”
The letter was posted on the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) website, which received so much traffic in response that it crashed. The clergy members now face possibly being defrocked as a result of their coming out.
The UMC is among the largest protestant denominations in the USA, with around 9 million adherents.
It officially consider “the practice of homosexuality (to be) incompatible with Christian teaching” and has ruled that “self-avowed practising homosexuals” cannot be ordained as pastors.
In September last year, African bishops of the UMC called on the church to acknowledge that there is “no scriptural basis for acceptance [of homosexuality and LGBT people] in Christian worship”.