Bishop Mark Webb September 30, 2013
Upper New York Conference
United Methodist Church
324 University Ave., 3rd Floor
Syracuse, NY 13210
Dear Bishop Webb,
I grew up in Vestal United Methodist Church and spent a lot of time at Sky Lake. While I no longer live in the Upper New York Conference nor do I know Rev. Steve Heiss personally, I do greatly care about the United Methodist Church and the cause Rev. Heiss has taken up.
My experiences at Vestal UMC and Sky Lake greatly influenced my spiritual development. There, we spent a lot of time talking about the stories of Jesus which illustrated his concern for everyone and especially those who were marginalized most by society (be it politically, economically, or spiritually). The image of Jesus who no doubt knew the personal risk he was taking by calling out those that used rules to justify their exclusion or marginalization of others greatly appealed to me. The world Jesus was fighting for is one which I also desire and is ultimately why I decided Christianity was for me.
It is therefore greatly troubling to me to see the United Methodist Church using rules based largely on selective readings of specific Bible verses without regard to context as a reason to discriminate against some of my neighbors. As you know, there is no discussion in the Bible about two people of the same gender living in a loving and committed relationship. At our most recent General Conference, the decision to continue discriminatory rules was made, despite the scientific consensus that homosexuality is not a choice or “lifestyle.” This decision makes it clear to me that as a church we aren’t living up to Jesus’ call to stand with those being marginalized by society. Furthermore, our rules and actions are used by outsiders as moral basis to justify their own actions.
As a church we can choose to foster a community of “open hearts, open minds, and open doors,” or we can choose to discriminate. We can choose to act in ways that those most in need of Jesus’ message would view as being sincere about our motto, or we can choose to act in ways that would cause them question our integrity as a church and whether they really would be welcomed into our community.
I pray for you during this challenging time. I pray that you choose to lead our church on a path to being one that challenges us to love and encourage all of our neighbors as ourselves without condition.