These past six days I’ve been in St. Louis, gathered with United Methodists from across the world for a Special Session of our General Conference. The intent of this Special Session was to find a way forward from our current impasse regarding the full inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons in the life of our denomination. Rather than moving forward with the plan proposed by a vast majority of our bishops – and supported by a majority of delegates from the United States – the General Conference chose by a 53% majority to instead double-down on our current stance of excluding LGBTQ+ persons from the life of our Church. This week, the United Methodist Church once again got it wrong.
As Methodists, we are no strangers to lagging behind God’s long arc of the moral universe that bends towards justice. In the early days of American Methodism, we lagged behind God’s work in the abolitionist movement calling the Church and the country to account for its defense of slavery. In the early 1900’s, we lagged behind God’s work in Spirit-filled women who stepped up to fill pulpits and teach people about the love of Jesus, instead refusing to acknowledge the vital role of women in ministry. During the Civil Rights movement, we lagged behind God’s work desegregating communities of faith, instead choosing to structurally embed segregation into our denominational polity from 1939 to 1968 with the creation of the Central Jurisdiction. Since 1972, we have lagged behind God’s work among our LGBTQ+ siblings, refusing to acknowledge their gifts for ordained ministry and their lifelong commitments to one another that deeply mirror God’s covenantal love for us. Once more, in 2019, our denomination has gotten it wrong and fallen behind the long arc of God’s all-inclusive love.
To our LGBTQ+ members of this United Methodist family, I’m sorry. I’m sorry it has taken us so long to exchange our hearts of stone for hearts of flesh; I’m sorry for all the ways our denomination has explicitly and implicitly told you that because of who you are you aren’t worthy of God’s love; I’m sorry for the ways Scripture has been used as a weapon against you, rather than as a revealer of the God who knows you and loves you just as you are.
I want you to know that here, in this local community of God’s love-made-flesh called Pecan Street Mission, all people will always find a home. We are committed to being a community growing each day into the radically inclusive love of God that knows no boundaries, that cannot be legislated into punitive bonds. Here in this community, you are always welcome, you are always loved, you always belong.
I hope you will join this community of love in worship on Sunday mornings at 10:45 in Asbury Hall. We aren’t perfect, but we’re doing our best to love others just as God first loved us. Let us be about the holy work of proclaiming the good news of God’s love made flesh for all God’s children each and every day.