September 17, 2013
Bishop Mark Webb
324 University Avenue, 3rd Floor
Syracuse, NY 13210
Dear Bishop Webb:
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, Love made flesh. It took me several days to compose this letter for there is so much I could say, so many stories I could share. I needed to take a few moments to sort my thoughts, discern my heart, and commune with the Spirit. It was in that time of prayer and conversation with God that I finally found focus.
My call to ordained ministry is completely centered on serving the community of faith, one that strives to reflect the walk of Jesus in its everyday mission and ministry. I received my call to ordained ministry at the age of five, while in vacation bible school where we were studying the book of Acts. My teacher that day was telling us the story of Peter and Cornelius—and shared with us Peter’s revelation, “I now know that God truly shows no partiality…” and I knew. I knew without doubt that I was going to be a pastor and I was going to serve a church with no partiality. I was just five so I didn’t realize how much work that would take. I didn’t know about the racial injustices, the gender injustices, the economic injustices, the orientation injustices and others occurring in the church. At five all I saw was a community of people who loved one another the way that God loves us.
My call has not changed. Learning about the church’s sins of exclusion and segregation only strengthened the pull on my life to create inclusion and welcome. It burns within me, the desire to declare with Peter’s boldness, “I now know that God’s church truly shows no partiality.” I believe the United Methodist Church can be that community of faith. We can be that people where all are welcomed, where minds, hearts and doors are truly open. We can embody the Christ who came to proclaim “good news to the poor, release to captives, …to let the oppressed go free.”
Currently the United Methodist Church doesn’t want me to follow my calling. I can serve the community of faith, but with stipulations. I am not permitted to lead the church into the vision of no partiality. I am instructed to leave some oppressed, some captive. In a state where marriage is a right for all couples, I am to deny those rights for some within their church home. I cannot. I will not abandon my call in favor of institutional church polity. I burn to create the church of no partiality. My heart is not just strangely warmed, it is ignited. I will follow where Jesus leads.
Please, do the same. Dismiss the complaint against Rev. Steve Heiss. Let’s take another step toward no partiality.
Your Sister in Christ,
Teressa M. Sivers