Monday, September 16, 2013

letter 39

September 15, 2013
Bishop Mark Webb
324 University Avenue,3rd Floor
Syracuse, NY, 13210

Dear Bishop Webb,
I am writing in support of the Rev. Steve Heiss as you two embark on a journey that I believe is Spirit filled and Christ-led. I think we both agree that his is a thoughtful, prayer-filled effort to bring the best of the Christian faith to all of God’s children. I also think I’m safe in saying that in this case, the Book of Discipline falls well short of that effort.  I recognize that this is a difficult situation, and that the Book of Discipline does not afford much discretion in its application. I also recognize that it is a political document that has chosen to affirm the sacred worth of all, including gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgendered individuals while at the same time condemning us as incompatible with the teachings that profess that worth.
I am not a lifelong Methodist, but came to my congregation 15 years ago when I finally realized that I could no longer be a “cafeteria Catholic.” I appreciated the social justice passion demonstrated by so many in my new church, and loved the fact that women could be ordained and were considered equal in every way. I also appreciated that the church was welcoming of all, including those of differing abilities, lifestyles and sexual orientations. The message was consistent, and I think reflected the message of Jesus – God loves all God’s children, God’s grace is available to all, and you will not be turned away no matter who you are.  Imagine my profound disappointment as I learned that the official denominational position still condemns gay people as flawed humanity who must change in order to be considered part of God’s family. Since that time I’ve encountered many wonderful people whose goal is to ensure that God’s love is readily and visibly apparent to all. It was through these activities that I met Steve Heiss;  I am honored to know him and humbled by his strength of conviction.   
When I attended Annual Conference this year I was struck by your grace and the depth of your character; I appreciated even more that you reached out to those who were gathering in support of Steve when you first met with him.  I pray that as you search for a “just resolution” to this situation you consider not only what the Discipline says but also the movement of the Holy Spirit in the world. I believe that now, through this situation and others that are occurring throughout the Connection, we are being led to a more inclusive place governed not by the fear of doing something wrong (the Law) but by the Love that knows no bounds.
With wishes for Christ’s peace,

Michele Cole
First United Methodist Church, Schenectady

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