May 24, 2016
Re: UMC Membership
Bishop Ward, Rev. Fairley and Rev. Minnick,
I write this today after listening to the UMC General Conference 2016 as often I as I could the past two weeks, along with following the feeds on Twitter on a nearly pathological scale during the same amount of time. My feelings on what was or was not accomplished at General Conference 2016 will probably seem simplistic at best. I know that the issues that were before this conference were many, much larger and of greater scale than I could imagine and that the few issues that were of greatest concern to me possibly did not warrant as much attention from the body of the conference as I feel they should have received. My greatest hope however since the 2012 General Conference was that the language in the Book of Discipline regarding homosexuality and thus the attitude of the United Methodist Church would be altered to the point where everyone would not only be welcomed to the Table, but would actually have a Place at the Table. This has not happened. Non-acceptance of LGBT individuals as they are, as God made them, without allowing them to openly express who they are, is not acceptable to me. My hope for the UMC was that it would truly be transformative into the Body of Christ in the world by first acknowledging the harm that the UMC has done in the past to the LGBT community and secondly, move forward with open arms to embrace ALL of God’s children equally. I’m sure there are those that feel that is what the UMC is doing. I however, along with a large number of others, do not. I have not been a Methodist for that long although my father was a Methodist his entire life. My mother was Baptist and I was raised Southern Baptist but left that Church in my late teens due to the intolerance I was seeing around the denomination. I steered clear of organized Christianity for most of my life after that until finding Pleasant Grove UMC. The ministry and sense of community I found there truly did become a part of my family. PGUMC saw me through what was easily the worst period of my life. Since General Conference 2012 I have had many conversations with my minister about the direction of the UMC. Through hope, commitment and prayer, I pledged to see it through to the 2016 General Conference. During the last four years I videoed a message to the Connectional Table in 2014 about “Why should I stay in the UMC?”; I contacted the Reconciling Ministries Network to become a member of one; I sent letters and emails of protest during trials of Pastors who I felt were actually following through on being Disciples of Christ by ministering to the LGBT community. Most recently, I emailed Bishop Ward to please make a statement about North Carolina’s HB2 legislation. I have remained faithful to my pledge to see it through to General Conference 2016. But the UMCGC came and is now over. All votes on human sexuality were deferred and the Council of Bishops suggested that the topic be referred to a special commission to review & discuss the language in the Book of Discipline with regard to human sexuality. After 40+ years of struggling to be heard and waiting, the UMC is now asking the LGBT community to wait until 2018 or 2019. Nothing substantive changed. They entertained motions this time, but in the end did what has always been done, deferred to later. The UMC once again has chosen unity over justice and equality. Holding together a denomination is more important than living into the teachings of Christ. It is time. It is time for me to admit that I cannot in good conscience remain a member of the United Methodist Church as it is at this time. It is time for me to respectfully request that my name be stricken from the membership rolls of the United Methodist Church. Given that the UMC lost more than 52,000 members in 2015, it is realistic to say that judging by the outrage over this General Conference, the number for 2016 will be even greater. My absence will just be one but I know I’m not the only one.
I pray that the UMC will one day live into my understanding of the teachings of Christ and the vision of John Wesley. I am but one lay person. I leave the Methodist Church with a heavy heart. I know that I will always be welcome at Pleasant Grove UMC regardless of my membership or any future church/denomination affiliation.
Thank you for your time. I will continue to hold you in my prayers.
I did receive a response from my minister expressing appreciation for the email. He went on to say "Of course I am saddened by the entire situation but I can understand your need to look elsewhere for a community in which you are welcomed wholeheartedly for who you are--period." He is a wonderful and caring man and pastor. Thank you Jay.