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

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

We invite other young United Methodist clergywomen, which we define as ordained, commissioned, or licensed and under 40, to sign this statement with us. It has been sent to the WCA already, but we are still accepting signatures.
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