Same-sex exclusion dividing United Methodist Church

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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The congregation of North United Methodist Church has let the world know where it stands.

Rainbow-painted doors with the words “God’s doors are open to all” are displayed on the side lawn of the church, 3808 N. Meridian St. 

“This church is committed to continuing its witness for inclusion regardless of what the denomination does,” said Darren Cushman-Wood, senior pastor of the church. 

The United Methodist Church has about 200,000 members in Indiana. The national governing body of the United Methodist Church voted in late February to not allow same-sex marriage or LGBTQ clergy. In church circles, it is called the “traditional plan.” 

Dick Nye, a layman of Good Shepherd United Methodist Church on the south side of Indianapolis, said, “My interpretation of the Scripture, and a lot of other folks’, is that the Scripture says that is just not compatible with the way we believe our lives should be lived.” 

Is this the end of the United Methodist Church as we know it today?

Senior pastor Cushman-Wood said, “Yes, in so far as, regardless of what the particular polity that takes place, this is going to change us forever.” 

Layman Nye said, “There is no way that we can continue under one umbrella with this much divide in a pretty basic thing. That’s OK, as painful as it may be, to have to say to some of our brothers and sisters in the Lord we just don’t see eye to eye on this.”

So what could the new church look like? 

Senior pastor Cushman-Wood said, “What I hope for is there will be a new form of Methodism and, at North, we believe, and I fully support this, is the new form of Methodism is going to practice full inclusion of LGBTQ believers in its leadership, in its membership.” 

Another vote of the governing body of the United Methodist Church will occur at its next general conference in Minneapolis in 2020.

Statement

Bishop Julius C. Trimble of the United Methodist Church issued this statement Monday, March 11, after the story aired: 

A Church that is open to all people and values the stories, gifts, talents, and witness of its members and families. A Church characterized by affirmation that God’s grace is available to all and diversity is to be celebrated not feared. A Church where people together experience Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another as Christ has loved and accepted us. A United Methodist Church in Indiana that is in ministry with and for all people.

To United Methodists who are LGBTQI+, to our brothers, sisters, siblings, friends, families, churches, communities, and supporters, I want to convey our love and support for you and for a Church where our welcome is not hollow and our commitment to full inclusion is more than aspirational. Your sacred worth and personhood is not determined by church votes in a denomination too long divided on matters of human sexuality. The movement of God and the human rights of Hoosiers who chose to worship and do ministry in The United Methodist Church cannot be held hostage by votes at a General Conference or the wide chasm between those who read the Bible and see condemnation and others who read the Bible and see grace.

At the recent General Conference in St. Louis, the Traditional Plan was passed that retains language in the United Methodist Discipline that conveys a hurtful message of exclusion with proposed penalties for pastors and bishops and obstacles for persons who are LGBTQ+ to answer their call to ministry in our Church. Our actions as a Church have caused anger, hurt, and opened a door of discouragement when so many thousands of people were anticipating a Way Forward for diversity of perspective and all persons to worship under the big tent of United Methodism. I am deeply pained and sorry for the harm we have done, and the fact that our attempt as a Church to resolve a long-standing division has left us no less divided.

Our actions again have made you feel talked about and not listened to or seen through the eyes of Jesus.

Many persons have expressed they will not leave their church because it is a place of welcome and vital ministry for you. Some persons have expressed their pain as though a dagger has been stabbed in their hope for change. Some of you are considering whether you will stay in The United Methodist Church. I respect your feelings and your desire to live with integrity and not with a qualified welcome or what may feel like empty words of love.

I want to end this letter by quoting words from Pastor Rudy Rasmus book, “Love Period, When All Else Fails,” who will be preaching the opening at our 2019 Annual Conference. Pastor Rudy has taught me and thousands that we all need love with a period; we need spiritual friends, guides and counselors. Most of all, we need Jesus Christ…

Pastor Rudy says, “The L in love stands for liberation.” Our Church needs to be liberated from this singular focus on the marginalization of part of the Body.“ Our love has the potential to be unlimited, even revolutionary, if we allow the flow of God’s love to surge through our words, actions, and attitudes.” We have experienced a setback on our way forward. “There is always a stone standing in the way of the power of love.”

This is a time of crisis in The United Methodist Church. Crisis and heartache can be a launching place for the drafting of a new narrative for our Conference and pouring witness as United Methodists.

Let’s write a new story where we don’t have to hide our old signs that say, Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Doors. A Church at its best where people who don’t always agree can worship together and live fully as a missional movement in Indiana and beyond.

Do not be discouraged, answer Gods call and bring renewal with justice and a place for all.

I am not leaving, and I ask you to help bring change to the Church we love for the sake of Christ Whom we follow.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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