Thursday, September 19, 2013

letter 76

Bishop Mark Webb
Upper New York Annual Conference
324 University Avenue, 3rd floor
Syracuse, NY 13210

September 18, 2013

Dear Bishop Webb,

I am writing in regard to your ongoing discernment in seeking a “just resolution” in the case of Rev. Stephen Heiss.  I urge you to use the authority afforded to you as Bishop to speak prophetic truth into the life of our conference and denomination by dropping the charges brought against Rev. Heiss.

I have read the many letters sent to you on this issue, made public through the reconciling ministries network.  Each make arguments for this cause; some cite and exegete scripture, some cite and exegete Wesleyan theology, sill others cite and exegete the Book of Discipline to support our position.  Instead of repeating what has been said, I will make only a simple appeal from conviction and yearning for justice I feel in my heart.

I took ordination vows this past June. I stood, triumphant and beaming, as you put a red stole around my neck and said those holy words “yoked to Christ for life, and life eternal”. As one “yoked to Christ for life and life eternal” I am compelled to speak to this issue.  I took my vows and received my stole in full knowledge of the systematic discrimination against the LGBTQ community within our denomination.  It was not an easy decision.  Even as I sat in my seat waiting to come forward I labored under the guilt that I was able to accept my calling as an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church while others remain excluded from accepting their call because of sexual orientation.  I chose, ultimately, to take my vows and accept the call to ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church in part because I feel strongly that God has called me to be a prophetic voice on this issue within the covenant of the ordained.  In a denomination that understands and manifests the radically inclusive love and grace of Jesus Christ with a fully open communion table, I cling to the belief that we will eventually repent of our sinful discrimination and narrow interpretation of scripture on the matter of homosexuality just as we have done with the full inclusion of women into the connection.  Until the day when all are included in the fellowship, leadership, and are able to enter into marriage covenant according to their God given call, I will speak God’s truth of radical inclusion against the institution of systematic exclusion of this demographic expressed in our polity.

I understand your position is complicated.  I also understand that the particular issue of Rev. Stephen Heiss represents a larger issue of homosexuality in the United Methodist Church.  I do not know you well, but from my brief encounters with you over the past year I have experienced you to be a wise, humble, and discerning servant of Jesus Christ. I am proud to call you my Bishop, and trust the direction you are leading our conference. I know that you take your ordination vows as seriously as I do and are seeking earnestly to discern the will of God.  I pray God’s wisdom, courage, mercy, and justice for you in your discernment.

In Christ,
Rev. Colleen Preuninger
United Methodist Ecumenical Chaplain, Syracuse University

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