You may have seen last week that the Commission on a Way Forward invited different United Methodist constituent groups to provide feedback to guide their work. Fossil Free UMC was among the groups to receive the following question:
“Describe your constituency’s preferred future for our denomination regarding the nature, conditions and extent of the inclusion of LGBTQ people within the Church.”
Through conversation with our advocates, Fossil Free UMC developed and submitted the following response:
God calls the church to deep and meaningful engagement on creation care. As a global denomination, The United Methodist Church has a heightened responsibility to Christians around the world to bear witness to the devastation that climate change is wreaking on the most vulnerable people and places. From our very beginnings we have understood a calling to care for the environment. John Wesley preached: “The care of the earth is entrusted to us. We are the “channels of God’s blessings to the other creatures and to the earth itself” (Works 2:440). Though the church has spoken out against environmental harm, we have yet to reach our full potential in the work for climate justice. Our Fossil Free UMC community envisions a church that puts those words into action, a church whose core identity relies on the stewardship of the earth and all living things.
The community of Fossil Free UMC approaches the question posed by the commission from differing perspectives. We represent every jurisdiction and a spectrum of theological beliefs. Though we are not of one mind, we are united in concern for our world. Therefore, our response is grounded in our value of creation care and our vision for a United Methodist Church with capacity for the greatest impact worldwide.
We believe that care of God’s creation includes caring for all of God’s people. In 2009 the Bishops’ Call to Hope and Action stated “We cannot help the world until we change our way of being in it.” This is true for our ways of being with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) children of God. We call the church to affirm the breadth and depth of the ways in which our LGBTQ siblings reflect God’s image. Inspired by the 1972 statement* that began the first General Conference conversations about LGBTQ United Methodists, we believe that LGBTQ people, no less than others, are persons of sacred worth. LGBTQ people need--and also provide--the ministry and guidance of the church, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. Further, we insist that all people are entitled to human and civil rights.
We have seen the legislative breakdown of the past several quadrennia and heard the concerns of our siblings, particularly those from Africa. Over the last 50 years, language has been added to the Book of Discipline restricting ministry and movement of the spirit. We envision holding together the diverse fabric of our denomination by returning to a pre-1972 approach that allows local leaders to practice contextual ministry. We yearn for a United Methodist connection that honors Wesleyan tradition, including ministry responsive to the needs and values of each community.
We seek an end to punitive actions toward LGBTQ clergy and toward clergy who refuse to exclude people based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Up to now, the legislative process has failed to foster meaningful theological reflection and reconciliation around human gender and sexuality. We yearn for a space apart from the current legislative process to continue meaningful conversation.
We believe the United Methodist Church has the strength to remain together through this night and see daybreak as one. United, our global church can best respond to both the staggering scope of climate change, and God’s boundless vision for creation. Our diversity of culture and belief gives us resilience to struggle together for the global changes in infrastructure and lifestyle required to face climate change. And because we as Fossil Free UMC know firsthand that Christian unity can transcend diversity, we work and hope for a church that will not only survive but thrive as one body united in Christ, community, and care for creation.