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More Than 1,200 Religious Leaders Speak Out in Support of United Methodist LGBTQI Clergy
May 18, 2016—More than a week ago, 111 United Methodist clergy and candidates released a “love letter” in which they came out to their denomination as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and intersex people. Despite the fact that the United Methodist Church’s (UMC) Book of Discipline bans the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals, they released their letter on the eve of the UMC’s quadrennial General Conference, placing their ministry and livelihood at risk.
Since then, there has been an outpouring of support for United Methodist LGBTQI clergy and candidates both from within and outside of the United Methodist Church.
This Monday, the Religious Institute released a statement in support of LGBTQI United Methodist clergy from more than 65 national religious leaders outside of the UMC— including heads of denominations, presidents of seminaries, deans of divinity schools, theologians, activists, and leaders of religious organizations. That same day, the Religious Institute opened the statement for all religious leaders outside of the United Methodist Church to sign.
Since Monday, more that 1,200 religious leaders—across faith traditions—have signed the statement of support.
The statement of support celebrates the 111 United Methodist LGBTQI clergy, affirms the call of LGBTQI people to ministry, and prays for a world where sexual and gender diversity are understood as a blessing.
Marie Alford-Harkey, president and CEO of the Religious Institute, described the response to the statement. “The outpouring of support has been extremely powerful. In just over two days, more than a thousand clergy and religious leaders have spoken unequivocally to these LGBTQI United Methodist clergy and candidates saying, ‘We support you. We affirm your call to ministry. We honor the gifts you bring to faith communities as religious leaders. We stand for sexual justice alongside you. We love you.’”
Describing her rationale for signing the statement of support, Bishop Yvette Flunder of the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries said, “I personally know many of these beloved Sisters and Brothers as we have worked together on many justice issues. Their sexual orientation was not a secret, it was institutionally suppressed. These proven leaders are some of the best and brightest scholars, pastors and justice warriors in the UMC. They have been faithful. Please be faithful to them.”
Mary E. Hunt, Co-Director of the Women’s Alliance for Theology Ethics and Ritual (WATER), also celebrated the witness of United Methodist LGBTQI clergy and candidates. “The witness of LGBTIQ United Methodists and their allies is a beacon for people of all faiths. We are attracted to their integrity, inspired by their selflessness, and motivated to join their struggle. Now is the time to move forward together, shoulder to shoulder for a just world,” Hunt said.
The statement of support will remain open for religious leaders outside of the UMC to sign until further notice.
The Religious Institute (www.religiousinstitute.org), based in Westport, CT, is a nonprofit, multifaith organization dedicated to advocating for sexual health, education and justice in faith communities and society. More than 8,500 clergy, seminary presidents and deans, religious scholars and other religious leaders representing more than 50 faith traditions are part of the Religious Institute’s national religious leaders network.