These are days of much hurt and sorrow for our sisters and brothers in the United Methodist Church. With the failure of the One Church Plan and approval of the Traditional Plan, a majority of delegates to the 2019 General Conference has said unequivocally that baptism is an insufficient qualification for the full exercise of membership in the Church. I regret this path was chosen because the wounds of this struggle will not soon be healed, if ever. My heart is always made heavy when the body of Christ bears the marks of the lack of human imagination and penchant for limiting the workings of grace in this broken world.
As president of Chicago Theological Seminary, let me state unequivocally that we remain committed to the celebration of the full expression of non-predatory human sexuality that is a witness to God’s many splendored handiworks. CTS stands firmly in the tradition of the United Church of Christ which holds that baptism is the only qualification for ordination and that fitness then becomes the area in which the wisdom of the Church and the faithful is operative. Standing in this tradition, we reject the notion that one can honor the dignity of all of God’s children while casting out some because of a feature of their birth. As we make clear in our Statement of Mission and Commitments:
“We are committed, in a world governed by the presumption of heterosexual expression, to challenge homophobia, to celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other individuals within the spectrum of human sex and sexuality, and to develop leadership to encourage faith communities to become more open and affirming.”
We offer our support to those who have been wounded and left bereft by the decisions of the 2019 General Conference of the United Methodist Church. Having come across these same waters several decades ago, we know the pain and its power to bring all things related to the Church into question; even the presence of the Spirit’s power. Having come this way we, I, know without question that in these moments when it seems that the powers of exclusion are triumphant, the need for God to have friends and the Gospel have witness who will be a bright light of hope and grace are never more urgent.
To our LGBTQIA sisters and brothers in the United Methodist Church, we pray that you will remain encouraged and be that light. To other allies in this struggle for the soul of the Church, we pray you strength that will not waiver as we stand with our sisters and brothers. To those called in Christ’s name, who have yet to be born, we ask your forgiveness for our weakness and for the frailty of the Church’s witness to God’s abundant grace; while we pray you carry on this struggle so that the Church in every age will have those who shine brightly the light of hope.