East Ohio Statement for Clergy, Retired Clergy and Lay Persons in the UMC
In honor of the ministry we share and in lament over the continued discrimination and exclusion of LGBTQIA+ people from the full life of our church, we, the undersigned clergy and laity of the East Ohio Annual Conference, commit ourselves to working for a changed church that fully reflects God’s love and longing for all people. Recognizing the continued division in the church, we sign this document as individuals and not as representatives of the churches we serve or have served, or the churches where we hold our membership.

Recognizing we have broken Wesley’s first General Rule to “do no harm” and also that God’s profligate grace enables us to repent and to reconcile broken relationships, as God is reconciling all of creation to God’s self (2 Corinthians 5: 18-19), we are called to proclaim our dissent and our belief.

We refuse to uphold any exclusionary provisions against LGBTQIA+ Christians. We reject the notion that the lives of LGBTQIA+ people are “incompatible” with Christian discipleship. The God we know in Christ Jesus astounded and annoyed people by eating with those deemed sinners in his day (Luke 19:1-10), by offering God’s grace and healing at times considered inopportune (Mark 3:1-6), and by accepting comfort and love even when it interrupted the proceedings or offended the faithful (Luke 7:36-50). As faithful followers of Christ our Lord, we strive to be as connected to and invested in our communities as Jesus was in his.

Our love and understanding of scripture, our reliance on the breadth and depth of Christian tradition, our prayerful reflection on our lived experience, and our God-given reason, all conspire with the Holy Spirit to breathe new life and understanding into old debates. We affirm the diversity of sexual orientations and gender expressions that God has created and called good (Genesis 1:26-31) and we commit ourselves to live faithfully out of this understanding, especially in this uncertain time.

Call to Ministry
Because we are living into obedience to our baptismal vows to “accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves,”

Because we baptize everyone without regard to their sexual orientation or gender/gender identity/gender expression, and

Because the call to licensed, commissioned, or ordained ministry flows from the waters of baptism,

We therefore recognize, nurture, welcome, mentor, and celebrate everyone called by God into the fullness of licensed, commissioned, or ordained ministry.

We urge our Board of Ministry, District Committees of Ministry, and local congregations to recommend qualified candidates for ministry, without respect to their gender/gender identity/gender expression or sexual orientation, and to refrain from using criteria that exclude persons solely on this basis. When called to serve on these committees ourselves, we will support candidates and make our recommendations in this manner.

Marriage
Because scripture teaches us that we are all created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28a), bestowed with the good and holy gift of sexuality (Song of Songs 4), and created to live in covenantal relationship with God and one another (John 13:34-35), and

Because, as with the call to ministry, marriage vows flow from the waters of baptism and because marriage is a means of grace,

We are also called to recognize, affirm, and celebrate the covenant of marriage between any two persons who meet the commitments and standards for marriage, regardless of their gender/gender identity/gender expression or sexual orientation. We cannot deny the covenant of marriage to committed, same-sex couples.

Until our church changes its discriminatory stance regarding LGBTQIA+ weddings, we commit to upholding the same standards for all weddings that we as clergy choose to officiate. As spiritual leaders, we will apply these standards in concert with our calling and with prayer. We agree not to hold these weddings in our churches unless our churches agree to do so.

Clergy Ethics
Because we expect clergy to dedicate themselves to “the highest ideals of Christian life” (Discipline, par. 304), it is not acceptable to insist on mandatory sentences with respect to a narrow range of sexual conduct, while affording our bishop discretion with respect to most aspects of clergy ethics and clergy sexual conduct, and

Because to do so strips the bishop of authority and discernment and limits outcome possibilities which, in turn, precludes a just resolution,

We refuse to convict our colleagues for extending the grace of marriage to committed couples or for any charges related to LGBTQIA+ inclusion.

Retired Clergy
Additionally, because the call to ordained ministry is a call on the whole of our lives, extending beyond our years under appointment, and

Because those of us who are retired clergy are no less faithful than our actively serving colleagues to the example of Christ, the persuasion of the Holy Spirit, and the call to serve God and God’s people,

In support of and alongside our active colleagues, we will not accept interim appointments or otherwise fill in for pastors who are removed from their appointments for any charges related to LGBTQIA+ inclusion.

Laity
Because, as baptized Christians, we are all ministers, this call extends to laity as well.

We will work with our churches toward full inclusion in all facets of our life together.

We will support clergy in this commitment and partner with them to extend the grace of marriage to all people.

We will support all qualified persons who express a call to ministry and welcome LGBTQIA+ ministers who are appointed to our faith communities.

When called to serve on Staff-Parish Relations Committees, District Committees on Ministry, or the Board of Ministry, we will support candidates for ministry and clergy appointed to our congregations, without respect to their sexual orientation or gender/gender identity/gender expression.

Faithfully Forward
We hear God calling all disciples to greater faithfulness in the midst of this time of pain and lament. At Christ’s invitation, we continue gathering around the wide-open Communion table as one family, seeking to grow closer and more faithful to Christ our Lord and to live in love and peace with all of our neighbors (Matthew 22:34-30; Luke 10:25-37). So fed, we commit ourselves here to the next steps in our journey.
Signed:
Rev. Dianne Tobey Covault
Rev. J. Paige Boyer
Rev. Jared Gadomski Littleton
Rev. Dan Bryant
Rev. Laura K. Jaissle
Pastor Shannon Trenton
Pastor Kelsey Jones Orosan
Rev. Allison LeBrun
Pastor James F. Szakacs
Rev. Matthew A. Laferty
Rev. Roger G. Talbott
Bill Watts
Joy T. Watts
Rev. Mariah Hayden
Rev. Debbie Gibbons
Ms. L.S. Quinn
Rev. Sharon Seyfarth Garner
Elaine Hermetet
Rev. Rollin Conway
Anne Conway
Rev. Ben Magee
Rev. Kris Patt
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
Vera Rebrovich
Pastor J. Harlen Rife
Rev. Beth A. McGuire
Rev Debbie Gibbons
Martha Mangan
Trevalynne Williams
Renee Leonard
Mary Soirefman
Linda Pillari
Elaine Byrd
Amy Wheatley
Elaine Byrd
Ruth Ann Looker
Alexis J Kim
Kay Hogg
Joanne M. Gillis
Thomas J. Gilbert
Marjorie Ruhl
David L. Kersten
Rev. John G. McLachlan
Sandra McLachlan
Susan Achberger
Judy Sockman
Marina B. Grant
Paula S. Schleihs
Rev. Lorrin Radzik
Sean Mangan
James D. Hogg
Richard Byrd
Jenny Gee
Danielle Gadomski Littleton
Rev. William McFadden
Martha McFadden
Judy Fox
Carol Gibb
Pat Simons
Chuck Simons
Nancy J. Gray
Rev. Anita Rayburn
Beth Doney
Loretta Harland
Estelle Covault
Karen Lee Morris
Sheila Martin
Lynn Parmentier
Rev. Thomas L. Douce
Glennis Covault
Jamie Capuzza, Ph.D.
Pastor Shane Russo
Mike Doney
Amy J Wheeler
John Wheeler
Rev. Jennifer Olin-Hitt
Debra Drew
Bonnie L. Bliss
Kim Pelsoczi
Rev. Kenneth Moody-Arndt
Denise McConahy
Julia O. Leifer
Thomas M. Pelsoczi
Nancy Latza
Daniel Cole
Rev. Norma J Bates
Martha Farnham Wason
Rev. Raymond J Kovach
Rev. Cynthia E. Theobald
Michael Caraffi
Molly Gillahan
Samantha Gunkelman
Amy Barr
Rev. Philip N. Wilden
Judy Everson-Huffman
Robin A Lewis
Deborah P. Gallagher
Beverly Beutler
Meghan Holden
Linda Crouch
Rev. Ruth C. Shannon
Karen M Novitsky
Katherine Pavick
Dyann Whaley
Rev. Tamara Francis Wilden
Lynda Coffin
Melanie Graham
Kathryn Klaber
Rev Nancy S Manner
Irwin T Wason M.D.
Bob Windle
Tamara Howell
Lynne Maragliano
Della Magee
Diane Ferri
Rev Paul Wilson
Rev. O. French Ball
Rev. Coralee Cox
Susan E. Doell
Rev. Michael J. O'Donnell
Kim Lewis
Rev. Patricia Christ
Janet Whitney
Debbie Bryant
Barbara L. Scott
Belinda St. Leger
Rev. Annette L. Dimond
Dee Spurlock
Liz Fredrick
Edward E. Hoar
Kenton Jarvis
Karen Myers
Rev. Paul White
Nell Taylor
Rev. Clark F Stein
Anne Croghan
Rev. Philip N. Wilden
Sandra Marinella
Victoria Mann
Rev. Barbara E. Stephens-Rich
Rebecca Wilden
Judith K Burchfield
Ruthann Strother
Emma Dixon
Donald Strother
Rev. Tina Nees
Barbara Swartz
Vicki Gardner Lefevre
Kathleen Miller
Joseph Pavick
Mark Wesley Moore
Linda Moore
Jennifer Villanueva Henkle
Jerrie Anna Metz
Dave Miller
Don McCallistet
Matthew O. Leifer
Spencer Short
Carol Brulotte
Laura Kunkel
Elizabeth Wilden
Phyllis Chelton
Barbara Morrison
Rev Thomas A. Snyder
Cheryl Smith
Judith Nedel
Kathy Black, Certified Lay Servant
Christina Fournier
Jane Thorkelson
Sally J. Casto
Rev. R. Michael Casto
Rev. Carrie Antczak
David W. Newhouse
Rev. Karen Drotar
Rev John D. Peterson
Julie Stuneck
Donna M. Steinmetz
James M Dietz
Michael Littleton
Inge Orendt
Rev. D. Lynn Snider
Anne Miller
Ann Krepps
Stacy Chaney-Blankenship
Stefanie Williams
Sean Flanery
Pastor Joshua Bender
Dana E. Schwendeman
Andrea Denton
Rev. Mark L. Steiger
Virginia Steiger
Janice Ballos
Rev. Cinda Foulkrod
Kelly Bericchia
Katie Woods
Lani Leuthvilay
Sue Chaney
Ms. Katherine B. Fuller
Reverend Karen Goldston
Denise Tarver
Brianna Craig
Kathy Littleton
Rev. Nancy A. F. Gibson
Paul V. Gorman, Jr.
Eleanore J. Lehto
Rev. Heidi Welch
Joan Ferris
Richard A. Pickles
Susan Richmond
Rev. Andrew Scott
Connie Hoffman
Dana Gisser
Jonathan Beckwith
Jan Kappenhagen
Becki Gisser
Laura Evangelista
Deborah Ingersoll
Brenda Cart
Dr. Liz Piatt
Lynn Cook
Nancy L. Reed
Buck Stultz (and for) Rev Dr Valerie W. Stultz
Anne E Fry
Aaron Cook

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