Methodist Bishops on LGBT people: 2000 years later and we are still failing

UMC panel
Photo by Harry Leake, United Methodist Communications United Methodist leaders discuss the church and homosexuality during a webcast on Nov. 1 on Oklahoma City. Pictured from left are the Rev. Amy Valdez Barker, Neil Alexander and Bishops Gregory V. Palmer, Hope Morgan Ward, Melvin G. Talbert, Kenneth H. Carter, J. Michael Lowry and Rosemarie Wenner.

LGBT people are bombarded daily with hate from some Christians all but drowning out the conversations that the larger church is holding about gender expression and sexuality. Those of us, who are Christians suffer incredible mental anguish often leaving our churches behind. Those of us, who are agnostic see it as further evidence adding to their contention that there is no higher deity.

How could their be a loving god when all we hear about is hate from Christians?

God loves you my transgender family

So it’s critical that we know the work that mainstream Christian groups are doing to bring their churches into line with Christ’s teachings. One such conversation was held by the United Methodist Church last month as reported on by the UMC News:

How does The United Methodist Church live with integrity amid sexuality debate?

A video submitted by a mother whose gay son died by suicide after facing condemnation in the church was one of four personal stories viewed and discussed by a panel on sexuality in The United Methodist Church.

The mother’s video sparked the most vehement reaction from the panel of six bishops and the head of the denomination’s publishing house during the Nov. 1 live webcast, which was viewed by about 450 people around the world. The webcast was the second of three interactive, online discussions around human sexuality planned by the denomination’s Connectional Table, which coordinates the denomination’s ministry and resources.

The discussions have centered mainly on United Methodists’ differing views of how best to minister with LGBTQ individuals. The initials stand for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning.

In the video, Julie Wood recounted how her son, William Benjamin “Ben” Wood, was deeply involved in his church until a new youth minister arrived. One night before a mission trip, the youth minister pressured each of the youth in Ben’s presence to say they were uncomfortable being around him. The youth minister told the youth “Ben is going to hell” and that he was unworthy and not a representative of Christ. He did not go on the mission trip. He took his life years later as college student.

“We’ll never know how much of an impact this traumatizing time at youth had on his decision to end his pain. But I know he never set foot back into a church,” Wood said in the video.

Bishop Kenneth Carter said Wood’s experience was a “failure not only at the denominational level but also at the local level where people become disciples and experience grace.”

“The incompatibility language is not helping us in our mission. People hear that as if it were spoken with a megaphone and they don’t hear our words of grace,” Carter added, referring to language in The Book of Discipline that says the practice of homosexuality “is incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Retired Bishop Melvin G. Talbert said he decided to stand against church law on homosexuality in part because of learning of suicides such as Ben’s.

Bishop Gregory V. Palmer apologized to Wood on behalf of the denomination.

Bishop J. Michael Lowry said, “Shame is not a tool or weapon to use against anyone.”

Wood told United Methodist News Service she did not want to identify the congregation because the incident was “not characteristic” of the congregation. The youth pastor involved is no longer at the congregation or part of the denomination.

Pamela Lightsey of the Boston University of Theology and queer woman of color was a Methodist panelist at the Christian Conferencing on Human Sexuality. She spoke from her heart, the bible, life experiences calling out the continued oppression of LGBT people by the church.

You can watch the Pamela Lightsey speak in the video by clicking here, but it’s also important to watch the video in its entirety here if you are so inclined.

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But no, there are no free passes given to those who claim exclusivity while practicing discrimination.

Pamela Lightsey tweeted….

John 17 the passage so often refered to by the Bishops gives clear evidence of the intention of many in the church. It gives me hope. Now they must translate that love into action by fully embracing all. All means all.

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Kelli, Busey is managing editor at Planet Transgender


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