Bishop Mark Webb
Upper New York Episcopal Area
The United Methodist Church
324 University Ave., 3rd Floor
Syracuse, NY 13210
Dear Bishop Webb:
Recently I read an editorial by Leonard Pitts on "NALT (Not All Like That) Christians". “NATL Christians” are those of us who apologize for the un-Christ-like words or actions of other Christians by assuring the person who was ill-treated that we are not all like that person who was un-Christ-like. Pitts points out that while it is good of us to offer our supportive apology, we will not change anything if we do not confront or overtly act to counter the doer of the un-Christ-like deed.
Bishop Webb, I have been an active Methodist from my early childhood in the nineteen fifties. I believe in the Christ I learned about from the Methodist church and from the reading of my Bible … that Christ loved all persons, that Christ sought the human dignity of all persons. In the 1980s, I became aware of some of the United Methodist Church's policies regarding homosexual persons. I attended and spoke at one of the "listening posts" on homosexuality, organized by the General Conference-appointed “Committee to Study Homosexuality.” I participated in studies of homosexuality as presented by the Church. Then I was patient with the Church, often apologizing for the Church’s stance on gay persons. I believed that if church members had more knowledge about these persons, the policies would change.
As a health care professional I had encountered many persons who were gay, lesbian or bisexual. As is often the case in health care, they educated me on the emotional and social effects of society’s attitudes toward them. Fortunately, American society as a whole has become more open and accepting. New York State, among others, has legalized same sex marriages. Sadly, while many of us who attend United Methodist congregations have grown in our openness and love for these persons, the General Church has not progressed in its policies.
This inability of the United Methodist Church to move forward in love, as demonstrated in particular by the denial of marriage blessings, concerns me greatly. Clergy who perform same-sex marriages are still being charged for violating a policy that is, in the eyes of many members, unjust, unloving, and unchristian. I include myself in that list of many. I am no-longer willing to apologize for the Church’s policies. I am eager to take action to change them.
I am aware that the Rev. Stephen Heiss is currently in dialogue with your office. It is my prayer that Christ's love will guide you through the organizational rules and expectations you face as they collide with the human needs for love and acceptance that the Rev. Heiss and other pastors face daily.