Bishop Mark Webb
324 University Avenue 3rd Floor
Syracuse, NY 13210
Dear Bishop Webb,
It was a pleasure to meet you at the last prayer service at University Church in August. We spoke outside the church discovering our connections to the Wyoming Conference. My husband was a minister in that conference. It was very gracious of you to lead us in prayer before you met with my minister, Rev. Stephen Heiss.
I am a 76 year old woman who has been a member of the United Methodist Church since I was 12. I never felt that I had to absolutely believe a certain set of rules to be accepted. It was simple. Believe in God and follow Jesus teachings. Because of many wonderful people I have met along the way, I realized that God pretty much wants us to work things through for ourselves. The Bible constantly tells us in so many ways that it is not for us to judge others, that we are to examine our own lives for what’s missing and not try to find what others may be lacking. We are to be compassionate, kind, loving and accepting of others without judgment. This is a work in progress for most of us, but I’m afraid that our United Methodist Church has been left behind. I don’t see searching. I don’t see seeking. I don’t see unconditional love. I see us telling people that they are unworthy. Where is that in the gospel? Isn’t the gospel supposed to be good news? Aren’t we supposed to be telling them that? The “good news of Jesus Christ”? Why would they want to be part of something that denigrates people?
We are light years away from the society that Jesus ministered to, in terms of science and biology. Our Tabernacle church has looked for understanding on the issue of homosexuality for years. We have had classes and read books. We have had discussions. One class that really helped me open my eyes to the reality of it all was one in which a mother of a gay male told us what he said to her. He said, “Why would I choose to be gay? I want to be like everybody else.” Before that I didn’t judge, but I didn’t really get it. After that I did.
It’s time that our United Methodist Church stood up to the real meaning of the gospel and to our motto, “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors”. That is a powerful projection of who we ought to be and the direction we should be going in, which is all inclusive.
I know that you have only so much power in this situation before your job, career and rest of your life could also be greatly altered. What is the price that you are willing to pay in order to follow Jesus? Only you can answer that. Is there a way to save both you and Steve? Can you in your heart condemn him for what he is doing and serve him up to the powers that be? Can you just dismiss him with a wink and say don’t do it any more? Or can you also take a stand for justice and work in the direction of changing our United Methodist Church’s stand on homosexuality? I think you know what I hope.
Jesus came to free us from the laws that bog us down and keep us from being the kind of people he knew we could be.
Jesus broke the rules all the time!
Betty A. Stanton
Enc: Editorial from the Press and Sun-Bulletin, September 16, 2013