An Open Letter to the College of Bishops in the South Central Jurisdiction
We are faithful United Methodists, clergy and lay, and members of churches throughout the South Central Jurisdiction (SCJ) over which you provide episcopal leadership. As we hold you and our beloved United Methodist Church in prayer, we write to express our collective heartbreak over the brokenness that prevails in these days leading up to General Conference 2019.
We feel called to share our particular disappointment in SCJ bishops who contributed to the writing of the Traditional Plan, and those who have publicly aligned themselves with the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA), an organization whose aim appears to be the purification of the UMC through vetting, exclusion, and/or schism. Seeing Bishop Jones’, Bishop Mueller’s, and Bishop Lowry’s names associated with the WCA, seeing them in attendance at WCA events, and celebrated as WCA leaders is a source of deep sadness. How is this in the best interest of the Church? How is this “serving all the people?" How is this not a betrayal of the unity of the Body of Christ?
The goals of the WCA, the Traditional Plan, and the Modified Traditional Plan are incompatible with our understanding of the gospel and do not represent a compromise or a way forward. They mandate the continuation of the isolation, exclusion, and harm currently imposed on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) members and have tremendous potential to create an even larger division within our denomination. We are further alarmed by the plans of some WCA members to leave the UMC even if their preferred plan is adopted.
We consider the status quo equally unacceptable. For the past forty-seven years, the status quo has discriminated against LGBTQ United Methodists. It is time for us as a Church to acknowledge the harm these policies have caused and make a change. The status quo alienates people in all regions and in all age groups, including young adults and families - LGBTQ and straight - who more and more frequently reject the UMC referring to us as “judgmental,” “hypocritical,” “irrelevant,” and “unloving.”
We struggle in a broken world that divides human beings into categories and restricts the rights of minority groups. We dream of a Church committed to transforming the world into a place that seeks equality and justice for all God’s children, especially those whose power has been systematically undermined and whose worth has been called into question. The time for such renewal has never been clearer; it is now.
We pray that General Conference delegates will follow the lead of the Holy Spirit and model holy conferencing in ways that will inspire our global connection and give birth to new and life-giving partnerships in ministry. It is our hope that we as a multicultural, multi-continental Church can rise above our disagreements with hearts of peace and grace. Our Church is enriched by our diversity and through that diversity we are able to more fully be the body of Christ for the world.
We depend upon and expect our episcopal leaders to guide the Church in the unity of the Spirit, and to inspire all United Methodists, through your words and your actions, to work together with honesty, integrity, fair and thoughtful collaboration, humility, and grace.
We pray that as you preside over General Conference 2019 you will remember our message to you. Each of us brings a story, and through listening with compassion and grace we are able to more fully experience God. Our collective story is still unfolding and we hope and pray it soon affirms the equality and sacred worth of LGBTQ people. We pray that, as a global Church, we will be able to remain united in our mission and, even in the midst of our disagreement, renew our commitment to making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
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