A Response to the Council of Bishops Report
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.- Romans 8:38-39
Like many others, we have eagerly awaited the report from the Council of Bishops’ most recent meeting to discern a way through the UMC’s present impasse on the inclusion of LGBTQAI+ people. Some of us were able to be present in Chicago while the bishops reviewed the work of the Commission on a Way Forward, specifically the three plans it proposes for the future of the UMC. We were grateful for the bishops’ willingness to engage us in conversation, and to lead us in prayer. During closing worship, we were humbled to join with them in Holy Communion, during which time we shared our hopes and fears. Indeed, we caught a glimpse of how truly inclusive the UMC can be. But this glimpse was of a future, and not a present, reality. Even as we, LGBTQAI+ clergy, shared in the sacramental meal together, we recognized that none of the models discussed by the bishops fully embraces the lives and ministry of LGBTQAI+ people.
In their report, the Council of Bishops recommended the “One Church Plan”, which will allow for “the contextualization of the language about human sexuality” across the denomination. We are concerned about what this means for our LGBTQAI+ siblings both in the United States and around the world, because, as so often is the case, this plan places the weight of unity on the backs of our siblings in the locales where LGBTQAI+ people are most vulnerable. We fear that this proposal continues, and potentially increases harm. The sacred worth of all human beings can never be contextualized.
Additionally, we are concerned that the Council of Bishops released all three proposed plans from the Commission on the Way Forward in its report. Especially troubling is the Council’s affirmation that “the Connectional Conference Plan and Traditionalist Plan (hold) values that are important to the life and the work of the church.” To what values does the Council refer? The ambiguity of this statement gives credibility to schism and exclusion that are at the very heart of the Connectional Conference Plan and the Traditionalist Plan, respectively. The inclusion of a plan that condemns and targets LGBTQAI+ people, without a counterbalancing plan that affirms the full participation of LGBTQAI+ people, is a painful reminder of how far away the church is from embracing all of God’s children.
This said, we continue to affirm and celebrate that the “One Church Plan” recommended by the Council of Bishops will abolish the harmful language in the Book of Discipline. As we have said before, abolishing this harmful language is just one step in the long journey toward becoming the Beloved Community. We continue to affirm and celebrate the lives of LGBTQAI+ people. We continue to serve as LGBTQAI+ people who have been called to ordained ministry in this imperfect United Methodist Church, trusting that even now, God may be moving all of us onward to perfection.
In the hope of the risen Christ,
The faithful members of the United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus