The United Methodist Church is the largest of the US Mainline Protestant denominations, and has thus far resisted the clear movement to LGBT inclusion that us evident in the Lutheran and Presbyterian churches – but that is changing. The UCM has consistently rejected calls to end the bar on the ordination of openly LGBT clergy, but 33 retired bishops have called for the ban to be overturned, and recently a local voted to approve such ordinations – even though the decision can have no effect until the national body does the same thing. Approval for same sex church weddings has lagged further behind – but this week,some clergy have added to the pressure on this issue, too:
Seventy clergy with the United Methodist Church (UMC) in Minnesota have signed a statement saying that they would “offer the grace of the Church’s blessing” to same-sex couples, reported the United Methodist News Service.
Speaking during the UMC’s annual state denominational conference, the Rev. Bruce Robbins (left), pastor of the Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis, said that clergy groups had been meeting “who want to challenge parts of the United Methodist polity with which we disagree — that which relates to the lesbian, gay, transgender, and bisexual community and Christian marriage.” Robbins said the issue had gained importance with the “possibility of a constitutional amendment in the state of Minnesota” that would define marriage as only between a man and a woman.
The UMC News Service reported that although only about a dozen clergy members had initially joined Robbins in signing the statement he read during a clergy session on the afternoon of June 1, by that evening the number of signers had increased to about 40, and by June 3 a total of 70 Minnesota UMC clergy were apparently prepared to defy Scripture and their denomination’s by-laws and offer their blessings to homosexual unions.
“We are convinced by the witness of others and are compelled by Spirit and conscience to act,” the ministers declared in their signed statement. “We realize that our church’s discriminatory policies tarnish the witness of the church to the world, and we are complicit. We value our covenant relationships and ask everyone to hold the divided community of the United Methodist Church in prayer.”
via New American
There are several things that I find striking in the full statement (which I reproduce below). It is notable that this is described as a response to conscience and the prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is also notable that although this began as an initiative by a small group, others quickly allied themselves with it. But to my mind, the most interesting aspect of all is the one that is not referred to in the report above – that the ministers concerned find it necessary to “repent” for taking so long to act. Repentance, in Christian theology, is a response to sin. Traditionally, the Christian view was that the sin lay in homoerotic acts. But here, as with the English pastor who is currently engaged in a walk on repentance, there is recognition that the real sin lies not in these relationships, but in homophobia:
Equality for All in Christian Marriage
Minnesota Annual Conference 2011
We joyfully affirm that we will offer the grace of the Church’s blessing to any prepared couple desiring Christian marriage. We are convinced by the witness of others and are compelled by Spirit and conscience to act. We thank the many United Methodists who have already called for full equality and inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the life of the Church. We repent that it has taken us so long to act. We realize that our church’s discriminatory policies tarnish the witness of the Church to the world, and we are complicity. We value our covenant relationships and ask everyone to hold the divided community of the United Methodist Church in prayer.Any United Methodist person in Minnesota Conference who conducts Christian marriages is welcomed to sign. I have chosen to sign the Equality for All in Christian Marriage Statement and I belong to the Minnesota Annual Conference.
- Gay Clergy: Presbyterian Ratification a Tipping Point for LGBT Inclusion in Church
- Gay Clergy: In the United Methodist Church, the Push Is On!
- Methodist Church Billboard: “Being Gay is a Gift from God”
- Clergy Call for Justice & Equality 2011 (mlp.org)
- National Faith Leaders Lobby for LGBT Equality in Washington (mlp.org)
- DC Methodists Vote to Bless Marriage Equality (bilerico.com)