General Statement in Response to General Conference 2019 from the Undersigned People of the Virginia Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church
March 26, 2019 — One month after its conclusion, in less than 12 hours more than 500 Virginia Conference Laity, Clergy, and Retired Clergy have signed a Statement in Response to General Conference 2019. The statement highlights the lament for “continued discrimination and exclusion of LGBTQIA+ people from the full life of our church” and commits “to working for a changed church that fully reflects God’s love and longing for all people.” The full statement can be found below with the option to add your name to the undersigned
In honor of the ministry we share and in lament over the continued discrimination and exclusion of LGBTQIA+ people from the full life of our church, we, the undersigned clergy and laity of the Virginia Annual Conference, commit ourselves to working for a changed church that fully reflects God’s love and longing for all people.
Recognizing we have broken Wesley’s first General Rule to “do no harm” and also that God’s profligate grace enables us to repent and to reconcile broken relationships, as God is reconciling all of creation to God’s self (2 Corinthians 5: 18-19), we are called to proclaim our dissent and our belief.
We refuse to uphold any exclusionary provisions against LGBTQIA+ Christians. We reject the notion that the lives of LGBTQIA+ people are “incompatible” with Christian discipleship. The God we know in Christ Jesus astounded and annoyed people by eating with those deemed sinners in his day (Luke 19:1-10), by offering God’s grace and healing at times considered inopportune (Mark 3:1-6), and by accepting comfort and love even when it interrupted the proceedings or offended the faithful (Luke 7:36-50). As faithful followers of Christ our Lord, we strive to be as connected to and invested in our communities as Jesus was in his.
Our love and understanding of scripture, our reliance on the breadth and depth of Christian tradition, our prayerful reflection on our lived experience, and our God-given reason, all conspire with the Holy Spirit to breathe new life and understanding into old debates. We affirm the diversity of sexual orientations and gender expressions that God has created and called good (Genesis 1:26-31) and we commit ourselves to live faithfully out of this understanding, especially in this uncertain time.
Call to Ministry
Because we are living into obedience to our baptismal vows to “accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves,”
Because we baptize everyone without regard to their sexual orientation or gender/gender identity/gender expression, and
Because the call to licensed, commissioned, or ordained ministry flows from the waters of baptism,
We therefore recognize, nurture, welcome, mentor, and celebrate everyone called by God into the fullness of licensed, commissioned, or ordained ministry.
We urge our Board of Ordained Ministry, District Committees on Ministry, and local congregations to recommend qualified candidates for ministry, without respect to their gender/gender identity/gender expression or sexual orientation, and to refrain from using criteria that exclude persons solely on this basis. When called to serve on these committees ourselves, we will support candidates and make our recommendations in this manner.
Because scripture teaches us that we are all created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28a), bestowed with the good and holy gift of sexuality (Song of Songs 4), and created to live in covenantal relationship with God and one another (John 13:34-35), and
Because, as with the call to ministry, marriage vows flow from the waters of baptism and because marriage is a means of grace,
We are also called to recognize, affirm, and celebrate the covenant of marriage between any two persons who meet the commitments and standards for marriage, regardless of their gender/gender identity/gender expression or sexual orientation. We cannot deny the covenant of marriage to committed, same-sex couples.
Until our church changes its discriminatory stance regarding LGBTQIA+ weddings, we commit to upholding the same standards for all weddings.*
Because we expect clergy to dedicate themselves to “the highest ideals of Christian life” (Discipline, par. 304), it is not acceptable to insist on mandatory sentences with respect to a narrow range of sexual conduct, while affording our bishop discretion with respect to most aspects of clergy ethics and clergy sexual conduct, and
Because to do so strips the bishop of authority and discernment and limits outcome possibilities which, in turn, precludes a just resolution,
We refuse to convict our colleagues for extending the grace of marriage to committed couples or for any charges related to LGBTQIA+ inclusion.
Additionally, because the call to ordained ministry is a call on the whole of our lives, extending beyond our years under appointment, and
Because those of us who are retired clergy are no less faithful than our actively serving colleagues to the example of Christ, the persuasion of the Holy Spirit, and the call to serve God and God’s people,
In support of and alongside our active colleagues, we will not accept interim appointments or otherwise fill in for pastors who are removed from their appointments for any charges related to LGBTQIA+ inclusion.
Because, as baptized Christians, we are all ministers, this call extends to laity as well.
We will work with our churches toward full inclusion in all facets of our life together.
We will support clergy in this commitment and partner with them to extend the grace of marriage to all people.
We will support all qualified persons who express a call to ministry and welcome LGBTQIA+ ministers who are appointed to our faith communities.
When called to serve on Staff-Parish Relations Committees, District Committees on Ministry, or the Board of Ordained Ministry, we will support candidates for ministry and clergy appointed to our congregations, without respect to their sexual orientation or gender/gender identity/gender expression.
We hear God calling all disciples to greater faithfulness in the midst of this time of pain and lament. At Christ’s invitation, we continue gathering around the wide-open Communion table as one family, seeking to grow closer and more faithful to Christ our Lord and to live in love and peace with all of our neighbors (Matthew 22:34-30; Luke 10:25-37). So fed, we commit ourselves here to the next steps in our journey.
*How spiritual leaders carry out these standards is left up to their individual conscience. Similarly, each spiritual leader is responsible for faithfully applying them.