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111 Methodist Ministers Come Out as Gay

inside of a church (Matt Apps via fotolia)111 pastors, deacons, elders and candidates for ministry came out as homosexual in a public letter earlier this week. In the open letter posted online, these individuals accused the Methodist church of not allowing them to "bring our full selves to ministry, that we hide from view our sexual orientations and gender identities." They concluded that "you cannot legislate against God's call," and thus are hoping their strength in numbers will create a policy change in the Methodist Church.

The large coming out contingent came one day before the United Methodist Church, numbering 8 million members in the U.S., convened its quadrennial General Conference in Portland, Oregon. For the next ten days, more than 800 international delegates will debate changes to church policy, including ones that seek to lift bans on practicing homosexual ministers and same-sex marriages. This is the first Methodist General Conference since the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage back in 2015.

"The 'LGBTQI issue' is not one that can be resolved through restrictive legislation but instead by seeing that all persons are made in the image of God and welcomed into the community of faith," the letter said. Though some have been welcomed, others have not. "While some of us have been lucky to serve in places where we could serve honestly and openly, there are others in places far more hostile. . . who do not receive the fullness of their pastor's gifts because a core part must remain hidden."

These LGBT ministers contend that their ministry is being hindered due to their hiding. No longer wanting to remain hidden, these individuals have vulnerably revealed themselves; now they are hoping church officials will be faithful to and accepting of them. "While we have sought to remain faithful to our call and covenant, you have not always remained faithful to us."

Monday's open letter followed a similar letter released by fifteen Methodist ministers in New York. These American groups are hoping to create a groundswell of support going into the conference. Such support seeks to cause the church to reflect the culture's celebration of homosexuality. However, they only account for a portion of the 800 delegates. Approximately forty percent of the delegates hail from overseas, where they tend to hold much more conservative and orthodox beliefs concerning sexual ethics.  

In the Methodist's Book of Discipline, all people are of "sacred worth" but the practice of homosexuality is "incompatible with Christian teaching." Concerning church leadership, the Book reads: "The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in the United Methodist Church."

The key and operative word is "practicing." The United Methodist Church is not asking LGBT individuals to hide; rather they are calling them to holiness. They have always been free to come out, but freely acting on those inclinations is not without consequence.

We all have fallen short, both homosexual and heterosexual alike (Romans 3:23). We are all broken in some form or fashion (Romans 3:10, Psalm 14). Dante called this the dark wood deep inside of all of us. Immanuel Kant said that we were made of crooked timber. And urban poet Andre 3000 said that we do sometimes stink. Our brokenness is a problem, and acting on our brokenness only exasperates the problem.

There is a problem, but God has provided a solution. His Son's sacrificial death forgives us and his Spirit's interceding work can strengthen us.  

One of the founders of Methodism, John Wesley, said it best: "Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? O be not weary of well doing!"

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