September 16, 2013
Bishop Mark J. Webb
Upper New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church
324 University Avenue, 3rd floor
Syracuse NY 13210
Dear Bishop Webb,
I have met and talked with you a few times since being approved as a provisional candidate for ordained ministry. In those few encounters I have found you to be an extremely approachable and kind person. I find hope for our church and conference in the grace and kindness you embody however, my hope is shaken when I hear of the lack of grace being extended from your cabinet to Rev. Heiss (and others).
I don’t need to tell you what a great person Rev. Heiss is or what a huge loss it would be to his church and community if he was removed from service there. You’ve met him, you know all this.
I also don’t think I need to remind you of the parts of our Discipline and more importantly Holy Scriptures which would support his actions as welcoming all people into the life of the Church.
I would like to remind you however, that John Wesley struggled just as you are surely struggling. John Wesley was face with many women during his life who had expressed a sense of call and who possessed God-given gifts to preach and lead in the church. While Wesley never came out in full support of women’s ordination across the board, he did say he could not deny the call of God or the gifting of the Holy Spirit.
I also want to remind you that the Biblical understandings of homosexuality are very narrow. They focus almost solely on male sodomy as a war crime, child molestation, or worship of a false God. With this understanding it is easy to see why the prophets of the Bible would speak out against such acts. Nowhere in the Bible does it outlaw loving another person of the same sex. For the writers of the Bible, love was never part of the equation when it came to homosexuality. Nowhere in the Bible did it speak out against two people of the same sex seeking God’s blessing in committing their lives to one another.
I struggle with the idea that one specific rule in our Book of Discipline would be enforced at the cost of losing an amazing pastor and potentially the faith community he nurtures, especially when I consider the countless other “broken rules” that go unpunished every year. If we claim that we cannot pick and choose scriptures from the Bible then why are we picking and choosing which rules of the Discipline to enforce? Where is the grace? Where is the ability to let each person wrestle with and interpret scripture in his/her own way?
I pray that the same grace God extends to you (and us all) will be shown to Rev. Heiss. I pray for our church and conference that we might put aside differences of opinion on scriptural interpretation and focus on being the Church, welcoming all people into full participation. I pray that we make the necessary changes to do this before it is too late and we have lost all the young people who cannot believe we are still arguing about such issues.
Grace and Peace to you and your family in the name of Jesus Christ,
Pastor, Corey Tarreto