Minnesota’s Inclusive Methodists
I write today as a straight pastor in the United Methodist Church. For 40+ years, the UMC has been in a battle over language in our doctrine that discriminates against LGBTQ+ people and their allies. In February, things came to a head—delegates to our global governing body voted to strengthen this doctrine. In a moment we thought we might take a step toward inclusion, we took deeper steps toward exclusion. The harm was and is deep and fierce and real.
Fifteen years ago, I agreed with that language. But the more I read the story of Jesus, the more I saw a man breaking the constraints of culture wide open. I saw a man giving his life to making sure people understand their innate belovedness of God and condemning any religious structure that got in the way. I cast aside the handful of Bible verses that appear to condemn non-heteronormative identities for the Gospel of Jesus Christ—in so doing I found my own liberation.
My work has led me toward this simple but earth-shaking truth: You, just as you are, are a beloved child of God in whom God is well pleased. This is the “good news”, the “Gospel.” Suffice it to say that when my denomination voted to strengthen doctrine which says otherwise, I and other inclusive Methodists across the nation were devastated.
But from the ashes of our global body’s battle in February, voices within Minnesota (and across the nation) began to rise. Led primarily by a new movement simply titled Minnesota Methodists, a new and boldly inclusive vision for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the UMC was passed by an 85% margin in June, leading us to step fully into our baptismal vow to “resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.”
I know many in the LGBTQ+ community have given up on church. I hear that. I have deep respect for that. But I also know many have not. To everybody I just want to say, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the harm my denomination and the Christian church has caused you and others. I’m sorry for the harm I have caused. And I hope and pray that you find healing and safe communities in which to live your life and your spirituality, whatever it may be.
Regardless of where the global governing body may go, Minnesota Methodists know where we’re going—to a place where the borders and boundaries of the kingdom (or kindom) of God are broken wide open. I am hopeful that, at least in Minnesota, Methodist churches can be places where people’s identities are celebrated, protected, and nourished, and that no matter how we identify, we can find spiritual connection, healing, and growth there.
May the love and grace of the spirit dwell within you wherever you may find yourself and give you life. Peace. Shalom. Salaam.