This week a special General Conference of the United Methodist Church voted to reaffirm and even to strengthen its opposition to same-sex marriage and to gay clergy. When the majority of delegates decided to pass the Traditional Plan, the denomination voted in favor of exclusion. Rev. Judy Zabel, a clergy delegate who serves Hennepin Avenue UMC in Minneapolis, said:
“Today we passed legislation at the General Conference 2019 that institutionalizes and codifies discrimination against LGBTQI individuals, and I’m feeling sad about that... I don’t think that is true to the core values of The United Methodist Church… I leave this General Conference feeling disappointed and really heartbroken and yet I feel that we have a calling to offer compassion in the world, and so our work is not yet finished.”
Similarly, Bishop Kenneth H. Carter, president of the Council of Bishops, said "It was our aspiration that we would find a way forward beyond our impasse. That was to try to really listen to people and listen to their values and understand them as people, rather than issues. I will simply say that we have to work to do. We did not accomplish that."
As an institution, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities serves United Methodist students seeking ordination through our M.Div. in Methodist Studies program. Methodist students, faculty, elders, and bishops are a vital part of our community, and we are holding you at this time: your pain, your disappointments, your fears about the future of the church, your witness to the tumult and potential fracture of your religious home. Indeed, we recognize that you stand in a storm of obfuscation, uncertain how you will continue to manifest the Body of Christ as a united community. May love continue to keep you grounded in the days to come.
And, as an institution, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities serves many LGBTQ students. LGBTQ pastors, students, faculty, and LGBTQ affirming churches are part of our community. We are saddened that, once again, a religious body has re-inscribed a posture of judgment and a policy of exclusion toward LGBTQ people.
To our LGBTQ friends in the United Methodist Church: You are beloved children of God. We recognize the incredible pain it causes when those in authority decide whether or not you belong, whether or not you should respond to a calling in religious leadership, whether you should affirm your holy love through the sacrament of marriage or be denied that right. The anger or pain or sadness you feel is true and valid, and we believe that the spirit that moves you to speak the word of God and to make the world a more just and inclusive space will not fade away. As Jesus promised, he will be with you always (Matthew 28:20).
We do not know exactly how the Traditional plan will go into effect nor what the body of the United Methodist Church will look like. Only time will tell. This is a profound moment, filled with pain and conflict but also--we must believe--with a better future awaiting. For many friends in our community, these last few days have been unbearable. The moral and spiritual challenges will not easily abate in the days to come. But as a seminary training LGBTQ and United Methodist students, we affirm that you belong here. You are necessary. You are loved.
“Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can floods drown it”
– Song of Songs 8:7