Tuesday, September 17, 2013

letter 46

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

September 14, 2013

Dear Bishop Webb;

I wish to address the possible charges against Rev. Steve Heiss. First, we must ask ourselves “Do we worship God, or the Book of Discipline?” I came into the United Methodist Church in 1982. My particular congregation became a Reconciling Congregation in 1988, the first in Upstate New York. For many years I watched to see if any changes would take place in the UMC in regards to GLBTQ issues and the BOD. Sadly, these changes are few and merely tokens.

In 2001, the UMC launched its “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors” campaign. For us GLBTQ “individuals of sacred worth[1]” the doors remained closed. Apparently we are not worth very much, and are not equal, especially to certain African Bishops to whom the General Conference sees fit to kiss his ring (which is in his back pocket) and bow down before him. You obviously know that Africa does not need to follow the entire BOD because of cultural differences. Well, sir, we in the United States have cultural differences. DOMA is dead. Thirteen states allow gays and lesbians to marry. Other states are following suit. It is time to change.

The BOD states that the UMC “does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching[2].” But yet, the church is perfectly fine with divorce[3] even if Jesus did say “that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery[4].” If we believe this, then divorce surely is also “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

What now comes to question is what Bishop Melvin G. Talbert spoke about at the Reconciling Ministries Convocation held in Chevy Chase, MD, 2013: Biblical Obedience.  Bishop Talbert said “The challenge I to leave with you tonight is very simple, do the right thing. We need to do the things that God has called us to do despite what is written in the Book of Discipline.”

Change can only happen if we make it so. My husband and I were legally married on July 28, 2011 at our city hall here in Oneonta, NY. When we entered the chambers, we saw about 50 people from our congregation attending. Our particular parish accepts us fully. But the hearts, minds, and doors of the UMC remain closed to many other GLBTQ persons. We are not allowed to fully participate in the life of the church. Not until we rescind the hateful and hurtful words of the BOD, and when we can be fully ordained ministers will we truly have open hearts, open minds, open doors.

Bishop Webb, I urge you to accept Bishop Talbert’s challenge. Rev. Heiss officiated a covenant of love. If love is wrong in the UMC, then perhaps I am sitting in the wrong pew. You have a decision to make. General Conference, 2016 has a decision to make. Those decisions will affect the decisions of many GLBTQ United Methodists as to whether or not they remain members of the UMC. If you believe that we GLBTQ persons are “individuals of sacred worth,” then you will do the right thing. Which do you love more: God, or the Book of Discipline? We cannot serve two masters.


John C. Jurgensen

[1] BOD, ¶161 F.
[2] Ibid
[3] BOD, ¶161 C
[4] Matthew 19:9

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