Thursday, September 19, 2013

letter 68

September 18, 2013

Bishop Mark Webb
Upper New York Episcopal Area 

The United Methodist Church 
324 University Ave., 3rd Floor 
Syracuse, NY 13210

Dear Bishop Webb:

I am writing this letter in support of Rev. Stephen Heiss as goes through this “just resolution” action after he acknowledged officiating at several same-sex marriages. I have known Steve since I was first appointed in the Wyoming Annual Conference in 1987, and consider him to be one of the most grace-filled pastors I know.

I happen to be the daughter and granddaughter of three Methodist pastors. I grew up in Oregon, where my father served in the Oregon, Idaho, and Oregon-Idaho Annual Conferences. My grandfather and grandmother both served in the Northern New York Conference (my grandmother was one of two women who were the first women to be ordained in that conference). There have been other Methodist pastors in the family as well; a great uncle, a cousin of my mother’s, and even a second great-grandfather. I am well-rooted in the Methodist tradition!

I married a young man who became a United Methodist pastor in the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference, and we had two wonderful daughters. Later we became divorced, and he later remarried – you guessed it – a United Methodist pastor.

My daughters are even more well-rooted in the Methodist tradition than I am!

My daughters, Trish and Nina, gained a step-sister, V., a fine young woman. V. received a call to ministry. She professed this call to the bishop of her annual conference, who stood by the stance of the Discipline of the United Methodist Church. V. was turned away from her call to the ordained ministry.

Not to be dissuaded from the call placed upon her life by God, V. completed her
seminary training, left the United Methodist Church, and was ordained in another denomination. She now serves in a vital ministry, became married to a wonderful woman, and they now have a beautiful baby girl who will be raised as a cousin to my own beautiful granddaughter, born to Trish and her husband earlier this year.

Trish and Nina themselves have, at various times, worked for the United Methodist Church, at both the local church and the annual conference levels. One of them considered ordained ministry for a time.

BUT - due to the fact that their step-sister was turned away from the United Methodist Church, both my daughters have pretty much turned away from it, as well. Their attitude is, “We will not have a part of a church that has rejected someone we love.”
Three women – all with firm grounding in the faith and church – turned and turning away.

Because of the church’s response, not to hate – but to the love of persons deemed unacceptable. Where is Jesus’s commandment to “Love one another as I have loved you” in all this?

I know that this issue is very difficult. But I am concerned about the future of our denomination. Young people more and more are accepting of persons of the same gender loving one another, and our society is changing rapidly on this issue.

Will we remain closed? Where will we be in twenty, thirty, fifty years?

If we remain on our present path, I suspect that we will have fewer and fewer young people.

I pray for you and the decisions you must make, and I pray for our denomination. 

Very sincerely,

Rev. Ann S. Blair
(This letter is endorsed by my daughters, Trish M. Cannon and Nina M. Smith.) 

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