Hundreds of Alabama Methodists sign letter of apology to LGBTQ+ community
Hundreds of pastors and members of the United Methodist Church in Alabama have signed on to a letter apologizing to LGBTQ+ people for the church’s official policy banning same-sex marriage and LGBTQ+ clergy.
The open letter is a rebuke of the UMC’s General Conference controversial vote earlier this year to affirm the church’s 1972 policy written in its Book of Discipline that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” The General Conference is the UMC’s top global governing body.
“We are grieved that our conference failed to do the right thing and apologize for the harm we have inflicted,” reads the letter addressed to “LGBTQ+ siblings.”
“We also wish to do more than apologize. We hope to deeply and loudly affirm your sacred worth, and we commit to seeking out your voices and leadership as we aim for a more grace-filled and grace-led denomination,” states the letter.
The letter was published online Aug. 8 with more than 500 signatures; there are now more than 700 people who have signed the letter.
The letter is not an official position taken by the North Alabama Conference of the UMC. At its June conference, members of the North Alabama Conference rejected issuing a formal public apology for the “harm done” by General Conference vote.
The letter was written by Eden Johnson, a member of the Birmingham First United Methodist Church, and Henry Gibson, the associate pastor of the Highlands United Methodist Church in Birmingham.
“We want to come together for them and we are heartbroken about this,” Johnson told CBS 42 in Alabama.
The UMC is the second largest mainline Protestant denomination with approximately 7 million members in the U.S. and nearly 6 million members in Africa, Asia and Europe.
For decades, the denomination has struggled with how to deal with homosexuality as progressive churches argue for full acceptance of LGBTQ+ people while conservative churches wield enough power keep anti-gay policies in effect.
The recent General Conference vote has put the denomination at risk of a schism between the two factions. More and more traditional and evangelical churches are coming together to fight any possibility of the UMC accepting same-sex marriage and LGBTQ+ clergy while progressive churches such as the ones in Alabama are taking public stances against the vote.
“A lot of us were mortified at the actions of the General Conference. It really was a call to action, a wake-up call,” Reggie Holder, a staff member at Highlands United Methodist Church in Birmingham, told Al.com.
The General Conference meets again next year, and UMC progressives say they are hopeful the church’s laws banning same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ+ clergy can be overturned.
An Apology & Love Letter to LGBTQ+ siblings
Dear LGBTQ+ Siblings,
You are created and loved by God. You are blessed, and you are a blessing. We believe in this truth because of the love and grace of God that Jesus Christ has offered all God’s children. For every time that someone in the church has hurt you because of who you are or who you love, we are deeply sorry; we hurt with you, and we are committed to pursuing God’s love and justice with you.
We are lay and clergy members of the North Alabama Conference of The United Methodist Church (UMC). This year we tried and failed to move our annual conference to apologize publicly for the harm that the 2019 General Conference of the UMC caused our church, our world, and particularly you, LGBTQ+ children of God. We are grieved that our conference failed to do the right thing and apologize for the harm we have inflicted. We also wish to do more than apologize. We hope to deeply and loudly affirm your sacred worth, and we commit to seeking out your voices and leadership as we aim for a more grace-filled and grace-led denomination.
You are created and loved by God. You are blessed, and you are a blessing. No one has to give you permission to be God’s child, to love, or to answer your call to ministry. These are gifts of God’s grace. Blessed are those who recognize the image of God in you. Blessed is the church that affirms and learns from your love. Blessed is the church that fully welcomes you into the ministry of Jesus Christ.
You are created and loved by God. You are blessed, and you are a blessing. As God’s family, our joys and our pains impact us all. We hurt when you hurt. We will celebrate when your worth and love are celebrated. We grieve our denomination’s failure to uphold our own Methodist standards of doing no harm and honoring the sacred, God-given worth of every individual, without qualification. It is not enough to blame the stubbornness of our denomination and slowness of our movement for change on the complexity of being a global body. The church has always been a global body, and throughout its history the Holy Spirit has fallen in new ways on new communities, growing the family of God’s grace and pressing all toward a more faithful walk with Christ. We should have done more to follow the movement of God’s Spirit, and we are sorry for our failure. We are sorry for the harm of General Conference 2019, but we are convinced it is not the last word for the people called Methodist. We believe the God of resurrection hope is still speaking.
You are created and loved by God. You are blessed, and you are a blessing. We recommit ourselves to do ministry and be the church driven by the core truth of Jesus’ love for you and for all. We commit to spread this good news and seek loving justice for all of God’s children until not only the church, but the whole world, recognize your full sacred worth and your love as gifts of God’s grace.
We have heard and will proclaim this good news: God created all. God loves all. The church is incomplete until it welcomes all.
In the Spirit of God’s all-inclusive grace,
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