United Methodist Young Clergywomen respond to the Wesleyan Covenant Association

On Thursday, March 2, 2017, United Methodist clergy around the connection received an email from John Rogers on behalf of the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) with a message from the Rev. Madeline Carrasco Henners and an invitation to a conference called “We Believe in the Church.”

As United Methodist young clergywomen, many of us have come together to say, yes, we do believe in the Church. And yes, we believe that God is good, and that the Bible is true, and that promises should be kept--- all assertions made by the WCA in this email. That does not mean we can support the Wesleyan Covenant Association. The WCA claims to advocate on behalf of those who believe that God is good, the Bible is true, and that promises should be kept. They do not speak for us.

We believe in the Church, both the Church universal and The United Methodist Church. We have found much beauty in the denomination that nurtured us in our faith, supported us in the process to become elders and deacons, and licensed, commissioned, and/or ordained us. The Church is the Body of Christ. Unfortunately, Christ’s body is still broken in this world, and the Church, insofar as it is a human institution, is fallible and in need of redemption. Next year, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the creation of The United Methodist Church, which ended the structural segregation that legally separated Black churches, pastors, and bishops from white churches, pastors, and bishops. That segregation is a sin in our history. The church continues to sin whenever it divides people from one another or prioritizes death-dealing human authority over the life-giving authority of the Holy Spirit.

We believe that God is good. God created us in God’s image--- all of us in the diversity of our abilities, in the diversity of our races, and in the diversity of our genders and sexualities. In The United Methodist Church we do not rebaptize because we know God does not make mistakes. We also believe wholeheartedly in grace -- prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace. This grace is what we respond to as a community on behalf of a baby at baptism, knowing that whoever this baby grows to be they are loved and valued by God who created them and called them "good." This grace is what holds us accountable in our Christian walk going forward. This grace is what keeps us from thinking we can limit God's continuing work in the church and the world.

We believe that the Bible is true. Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Gospels are a witness to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and scripture tells the story of our ancestors of faith in their struggles and triumphs. But we do not believe that God still prohibits eating shellfish (Leviticus 11:9-12) or insisted on the deaths of the Canaanites (see for instance Deuteronomy 20:16-18). When we read in the Epistles that women should stay silent in church (1 Corinthians 14:34) or that slaves should obey their earthly masters (Ephesians 6:5, 1 Peter 2:18), we also know that God calls women to preach in our churches and for Christians everywhere to work to stop slavery and human trafficking. We bring our whole selves when we read scripture, including our tradition, reason, and experience. So when we disagree with a passage from Romans by asserting that homosexuality is not shameful or unnatural, it isn’t because we don’t believe the Bible is true. Instead, we do so in a way that is faithful to the whole of scripture from Genesis to Revelation and to God’s continued revelation through the Spirit working in us today.  

We believe in keeping our promises. The most important promises that we have ever made are those in our baptismal vows: to renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of our sin; to accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves; and to confess Jesus Christ as our Savior, put our whole trust in Christ’s grace, and serve Christ as Lord in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races. We cannot keep these baptismal vows without naming the injustice and oppression experienced by LGBTQIA+ Christians in this Church which Christ has opened.

All of our other promises flow out of these baptismal vows. This means that we strive to ever more closely align church practice, doctrine, and polity with our identity as baptized members of the Body of Christ. We promise to modify the The United Methodist Book of Discipline when we believe that it is in conflict with God's will and with the promises we make, first to God, and then to one another and the Church.

The WCA insists that rejecting the Book of Discipline’s position on marriage and ordination of people who are “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” is a deliberate break of our promise.

Not all of the clergy who sign this statement are willing to officiate weddings for same-sex partners, nor are they in Annual Conferences that ordain LGBTQIA+ persons. However, we all believe that the Book of Discipline needs to be changed, and we see that as faithfully keeping our ordination promises to study, preach, maintain, and support our church doctrines, government, and polity. As we continue to answer Wesley’s historic questions, we expect that as individuals and as a denomination, God is still working on perfecting us in love. We are earnestly striving after it in this life. If there was never an attempt to change the Book of Discipline by a minority of people, then we would never have sent laity to General Conference, de-segregated the denomination, elected divorced clergy as bishops in the United States, nor ordained women. Many women were ordained years before the church codified it--- even John Wesley himself relied on women preachers in the Methodist movement. Elizabeth Strawbridge converted the first people to Methodism at her kitchen table. To make a promise to uphold the Book of Discipline doesn't mean we can't strive to make it closer to the way we understand God wants us to live. After all, as Wesleyans, we believe we are going on to perfection.

Therefore, we urge the Wesleyan Covenant Association to be mindful in the ways it claims Christian and Wesleyan language as its own to use in convicting those who disagree with the WCA’s purpose and beliefs. To claim, for instance, that your organization was created to maintain the “church’s good order” seems to exclude the possibility that any interpretations of The United Methodist Book of Discipline which contradict your own could be acknowledged as having worth. In particular, we believe the term “covenant” is a complex concept and cannot be reduced to one organization’s standards. A covenant is an agreement not simply between two human parties, but also between humans and God. Above and beyond our baptismal vows, those who are ordained promise to God to pattern our lives according to the teachings of Christ; to exercise authority in leading the people; to participate in the life and work of the community; to seek peace, justice and freedom for all people; and to defend the church against doctrines contrary to God’s Holy Word, among others. In order to keep these parts of the covenant, disobedience to other parts have become necessary. We implore the WCA to discern with those with whom it disagrees a true covenant which can hold the tensions of God’s many people together instead of using the Church’s language to hold hostage our Wesleyan heritage.

We, the undersigned, are elders and deacons commissioned or ordained in The United Methodist Church, and we are licensed local pastors. We are young women under the age of 40. We may be a minority. But in a society that is so polarized between left and right, rural and urban, people of color and white people, gay, bisexual, and straight, trans and cisgender, we insist that the church model true dialogue. The Wesleyan Covenant Association’s rhetoric is an unfair and dishonest representation of the faithful United Methodists who disagree with them. We challenge them to talk with us, listen to us, and pray with us rather than making assumptions about our faith and how we live it in our ministries.  

Signed*

Rev. Shannon E. Sullivan, Baltimore Washington Annual Conference

Rev. Roslyn Lee, New York Annual Conference

Rev. Kaleigh Corbett, Greater New Jersey Annual Conference

Rev. Katie Z. Dawson, Iowa Annual Conference

Rev. Allie Scott, Wisconsin Annual Conference

Rev. Catherine Christman, West Michigan Annual Conference

Rev. Diane Kenaston, West Virginia Annual Conference

Rev. Katie McKay Simpson, Louisiana Annual Conference

Rev. Bromleigh McCleneghan, Northern Illinois Annual Conference

Rev. Sara E. Baron, Upper New York Annual Conference

Rev. Krista Paradiso, Northern Illinois Annual Conference

Rev. Sarah Pugh Montgomery, Virginia Annual Conference

Rev. Lorrin Radzik, West Ohio Annual Conference

Rev. Corey Turnpenny, Upper New York Annual Conference

Rev. Sarah Beck, Yellowstone Annual Conference

Rev. Melissa Meyers, Northern Illinois Annual Conference

Rev. Dr. Emily A. Peck-McClain, New York Annual Conference

Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Quick, Upper New York Annual Conference

Rev. Danyelle Ditmer, Indiana Annual Conference

Rev. Dr. Christina Wright, West Michigan Annual Conference

Rev. Carol Hill, Northern Illinois Annual Conference

Rev. Lora Andrews, Great Plains Annual Conference

Rev. Kerry Greenhill, New England Annual Conference

Rev. Julia Singleton, Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference

Rev. Janessa Chastain, Desert Southwest Annual Conference

Rev. Jennifer Hibben, Iowa Annual Conference

Rev. Sadie Stone, California-Nevada Annual Conference

Rev. Kristen Marshall, California-Nevada Annual Conference

Rev. Vicki Flippin, New York Annual Conference

Rev. Lauren Boyd, Rocky Mountain Annual Conference

Rev. Chelsey D. Hillyer, Missouri Annual Conference

Rev. Rebecca L. Laird, Upper New York Annual Conference

Rev. Allison Warren, Iowa Annual Conference

Rev. Krysta Rexrode Wolfe, West Virginia Annual Conference

Rev. Alexis Johnson, Iowa Annual Conference

Rev. Jessica L. Anschutz, New York Annual Conference

Rev. Allison K. Mark, California-Pacific Annual Conference

Rev. Alison V. Philip, Greater New Jersey Annual Conference

Rev. Katie Smith, West Ohio Annual Conference

Rev. Andrea Curry; West Ohio Annual Conference

Rev. Karen Hernandez, Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference

Rev. Elyse Ambrose, New York Annual Conference

Rev. Kate Floyd, North Georgia Annual Conference

Rev. Anjie Peek Woodworth, North Georgia Annual Conference

Rev. Tiffany Patterson, Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference

Rev. Erin Maddox McPhee, California-Pacific Annual Conference

Rev. Meridith Grandy, Desert Southwest Annual Conference

Rev. Kimberly S Ferrel, Upper New York Annual Conference

Rev. Anna Guillozet, West Ohio Annual Conference

Rev. Amanda Baker, Great Plains Annual Conference

Rev. Peggy Stempson, Dakotas Annual Conference

Rev. Tiffany Baker, Great Plains Annual Conference

Rev. Megan Stowe, New England Annual Conference

Rev. Megan Thompson, Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference

Rev. Sarah Heath, California Pacific Annual Conference

Rev. Mara Bailey, Iowa Annual Conference

Rev. Kimberly Montenegro, California Nevada Annual Conference

Rev. Lea A. Matthews, New York Annual Conference

Rev. Laura Rossbert, Rocky Mountain Annual Conference

Rev. Elizabeth Ingram Schindler, Pacific Northwest Annual Conference

Rev. Christina Perkins, Virginia Annual Conference

Rev. Melissa A. Rynders, Desert Southwest Annual Conference

Rev. Susan Chupungco, New York Annual Conference

Rev. Elizabeth Ruth Wright, Rio Texas Annual Conference

Rev. Lane Cotton Winn, Louisiana Annual Conference

Rev. Misty Howick, Desert Southwest Annual Conference

Rev. Allie Rosner Bass, Virginia Annual Conference

Rev. Winter Hamilton, Missouri Annual Conference

Rev. Emily L. Stirewalt, Missouri Annual Conference

Rev. Melanie Martin, Great Plains Annual Conference

Rev. Aimee Baxter, South Georgia Annual Conference

Rev. Kelly J Smith, Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference

Rev. Haley Robinson, Tennessee Annual Conference

Rev. Nicole Schwartz-Eck, Great Plains Annual Conference

Rev. Emma Donohew, Pacific Northwest Annual Conference

Rev. Jen Tyler, Dakotas Annual Conference

Rev. Stacey Rushing, North Georgia Annual Conference

Rev. Eilidh Lowery, Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference

Rev. Meredith Gudger-Raines, Pacific Northwest Annual Conference

Rev. Jessica Campbell, Greater New Jersey Annual Conference

Rev. Melissa Engel, Rocky Mountain Annual Conference

Rev. Bonnie McCubbin, Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference

Rev. Katie Woodard, Tennessee Annual Conference

Rev. Courtney McHill, Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference

Rev. Lorelei K. Toombs, Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference

Rev. Blair Tolbert, North Georgia Annual Conference

Rev. Nicole Anderson, Dakotas Annual Conference

Rev. Jenny Smith, Pacific Northwest Annual Conference

Rev. Christine Matthews, South Carolina Annual Conference

Pastor Dawn Skerritt, Yellowstone Annual Conference

Rev. Emily Kintzel, Rocky Mountain Annual Conference

Rev. Erin Racine, Tennessee Annual Conference

Rev. Mary Bohall, Northern Illinois Annual Conference

Rev. Cora Glass, Detroit Annual Conference

Rev. Colleen Hallagan Preuninger, Upper New York Annual Conference

Rev. Christy Fisher, Pacific Northwest Annual Conference

Rev. Megan Dean, Northern Illinois Annual Conference

Rev. Siobhan Sargent, New York Annual Conference

Rev. Dr. Colleen Windham-Hughes, California-Pacific Annual Conference

Rev. Tammy Scott, Northern Illinois Annual Conference

Rev Breanna Illéné, Wisconsin Annual Conference

Rev. Jessica Stenstrom, Greater New Jersey Annual Conference

Rev. Jessica Baldyga, Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference

Rev. Gabrielle Martone, Greater New Jersey Annual Conference

Rev. Paula Cripps-Vallejo, Iowa Annual Conference

Pastor Blair Trygstad Stowe, California-Pacific Annual Conference

Rev. Katie Stickney, Pacific Northwest Annual Conference

Rev. Hannah Terry, Texas Annual Conference

Rev. Kate Payton, Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference

Rev. Mary Dicken, Indiana Annual Conference

Pastor Stephanie Rice, California-Pacific Annual Conference

Rev. Evangeline Rand, Pacific Northwest Annual Conference

Rev. Akiko Miyake-Stoner, California-Nevada Annual Conference

Rev. Sara McManus, Dakotas Annual Conference

Rev. Amanda Rohrs, Greater New Jersey Annual Conference

Rev. Jessica Stonecypher, West Ohio Annual Conference

Rev. Shalom Agtarap, Pacific Northwest Annual Conference

Rev. Kristin Heiden, North Georgia Annual Conference

Rev. Elizabeth Murray, South Carolina Annual Conference

Rev. Paige Boyer, East Ohio Annual Conference

Rev. Emily Spearman Cannon, Great Plains Annual Conference

Rev. Lauren Lobenhofer, Virginia Annual Conference

Rev. Sharon L. S. Cook, Wisconsin Annual Conference

Rev. Jill Howard, Indiana Annual Conference

Rev. Julia Nielson, Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference

Rev. Britt Cox, Northern Illinois Annual Conference

Rev. Andrea Severson, Iowa Annual Conference

Rev. Laura-Allen Kerlin, South Carolina Annual Conference

Rev. Adrienne Fink, South Carolina Annual Conference

Pastor Laura Steele, Greater New Jersey Annual Conference

Rev. Patricia Rivenbark Watson, Baltimore Washington Annual Conference

Rev. Kris Krause Androsky, Wisconsin Annual Conference

Rev. Rachel Birkhahn-Rommelfanger, Northern Illinois Annual Conference

Rev. Jeanelle Nicolas Ablola, California-Nevada Annual Conference

Rev. Denise Kilgo-Martin, Western North Carolina Annual Conference

Rev. Katherine Tang, Desert Southwest Annual Conference

Rev. Richelle Goff, Upper New York Annual Conference

Rev. Janelle Kurtz, East Ohio Annual Conference

Rev. Carly Wicklund, South Carolina Annual Conference

Rev. Beth Elders, Missouri Annual Conference

Rev. Amy R.H. Slater, Great Plains Annual Conference

Rev. Marianne Wilson, West Ohio Annual Conference

Rev. Jessica Rooks, Rocky Mountain Annual Conference

Rev. Mariah Furness Tollgaard, Minnesota Annual Conference

Rev. Sarai Case, Desert Southwest Annual Conference

Rev. Jennifer Finley, Missouri Annual Conference

Rev. Mariah Hayden, Rocky Mountain Annual Conference

Rev. Jill Sander-Chali, Great Plains Annual Conference

Pastor Rebecca Cho, New England Annual Conference

Rev. Carissa Surber, Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference

Rev. Karli D. Pidgeon, Louisiana Annual Conference

Rev. Monica Guepet, Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference

Rev. Casey Ann Irwin, West Ohio Annual Conference

Rev. Anna Cho, Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference

Rev. Jessica Brendler Naulty, Greater New Jersey Annual Conference

Rev. Sarah Alexander, Detroit Annual Conference

Rev. April Gutierrez, Northern Illinois Annual Conference

Rev. Chrisie Reeves-Pendergrass, South Carolina Annual Conference

Rev. Sarah S. Howell, Western North Carolina Annual Conference

Rev. Jennifer Williamson, East Ohio Annual Conference

Pastor Taylor Gould, Pacific Northwest Annual Conference

Rev. April Coates , Oklahoma Annual Conference

Rev. Bridget Thornton, Florida Annual Conference

Rev. Rebecca Hjelle, Great Plains Annual Conference

Rev. Kara Eidson, Great Plains Annual Conference

Rev. Abby GM Auman, East Ohio Annual Conference

Rev. Rebecca Girrell, New England Annual Conference

Pastor Gayle Holden, New England Annual Conference

Rev. Alissa K. Bertsch Johnson, Pacific Northwest Annual Conference

Rev. Adrienne Trevathan, Northern Illinois Annual Conference

Rev. Sarah R. Campbell, Florida Annual Conference

Rev. Michelle Mejia, Baltimore Washington Annual Conference

Rev. Katherine Lloyd, Kentucky Annual Conference

Rev. Sara E. Relaford, South Carolina Annual Conference

Rev. Kathleen R. Voigt, Northern Illinois Annual Conference

Rev. Chamberlyn Marks, North Carolina Annual Conference

Rev. Charissa Jaeger-Sanders, Florida Annual Conference

Rev. Sarah B. Miller, Florida Annual Conference

Rev. Kathy Randall Bryant, Western North Carolina Annual Conference

Rev. Maggie Gann, Missouri Annual Conference

Rev. Theresa S. Thames, Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference

Rev. Melissa Cooper, Florida Annual Conference

Rev. Claire Matheny, Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference

Rev. Jenny Cannon, Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference

Rev. Melissa Collier Gepford, Great Plains Annual Conference

Rev. Hilary Marchbanks, Rio Texas Annual Conference

Pastor Hannah M Loughman, Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference

Rev. Marianne Ozanne, Minnesota Annual Conference

Rev. Brooke Heerwald Steiner, Minnesota Annual Conference

Rev. Jean Elliott, Minnesota Annual Conference

Rev. Bess Perrier, Mississippi Annual Conference

Rev. Sarah Harrison-McQueen, Virginia Annual Conference

Rev. Laura Barkley, Northern Illinois Annual Conference

Rev. Megan Walther, Detroit Annual Conference

Rev. Yvi Martin, Missouri Annual Conference

Rev. Jennifer Anderson, Dakotas Annual Conference

Rev. Joey Ann Podhajsky, Iowa Annual Conference

Rev. Rosa Lee, Northern Illinois Annual Conference

Rev. Hannah Adair Bonner, Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference

Rev. Carolyn Marie Berry Carnes, Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference

Rev. Sarah Jo Adams-Wilson, Mississippi Annual Conference

Rev. Blair B. Setnor, North Georgia Annual Conference

Rev. Leah Rosso, Minnesota Annual Conference

Rev. April S Blaine, West Ohio Annual Conference

Rev. Paige Swaim-Presley, Mississippi Annual Conference

Rev. Ashley Prescott Barlow-Thompson, Great Plains Annual Conference

Rev. Amanda Gayle Reed, West Virginia Annual Conference

Rev. Rachel McIver Morey, Minnesota Annual Conference

Rev. Deborah Porras, Virginia Annual Conference

Rev. JoAnn R. Lampley, North Carolina Annual Conference

Rev. Megan L. Gray , South Carolina Annual Conference

Rev. Jamie Thompson, North Carolina Annual Conference

Rev. Laura Beach Byrch, Western North Carolina Annual Conference

Rev. Leah Challberg, Minnesota Annual Conference

Rev. Brittany Isaac, Northern Illinois Annual Conference

Rev. Tiffany Jo McDonald, Minnesota Annual Conference

Rev. Hyemin Na, Northern-Illinois Annual Conference

Rev. Marissa Sue Teauseau, Louisiana Annual Conference

Rev. Lauren Dunkle Dancey, Florida Annual Conference

Rev. Anais Hussian, Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference

Rev. Christina Hale, Texas Annual Conference

Rev. Molly K. Simpson, Central Texas Annual Conference

Rev. Holly Sortland, Dakotas Annual Conference

Rev. Kathy Nolasco, Florida Annual Conference

Rev. Ashley Morgan Kirk, Missouri Annual Conference

Rev. AnnaKate Rawles, Louisiana Annual Conference

Rev. Suhee Kim, New York Annual Conference

*And there are still others who wanted to sign but couldn't for fear of discrimination in their Annual Conferences.

If you are a United Methodist clergywoman under the age of 40, you are welcome to sign onto this statement as well by following the link here: https://goo.gl/forms/kzhVZXOFmAIfpqEs1. If you are not, you are welcome to write your own letter or let your colleagues who did sign know you support them.