An increasing number of United Methodists are speaking out to change the policy banning LGBT ministers, and they are looking for more supporters to join them.
The language in question comes from the Book of Discipline, which sets policy, structure, and defines ministry for the church. Paragraph 304.3 states, “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.” According to those speaking out against it, this language serves as the basis for discrimination against LGBT ministers.
On January 31, 2011, thirty-six retired bishops of the United Methodist Church (UMC) released A Statement of Counsel to the Church, which called for the removal of paragraph 304.3. The statement affirms “the historic tests of ‘gifts and evidence of God’s grace’ for ordained ministry override any past or present temporal restrictions such as race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.” It also urges the church to “change the manner in which it relates to gay, lesbian, and [transgender] persons in official statements, judicial proceedings, and in congregational life.”
After this initial statement, more Methodist leaders have joined in. At its 44th Annual Meeting on February 25, Black Methodists for Church Renewal (BMCR) voted to endorse the retired bishops’ statement. However, amazingly little publicity has been given to the vote of support from BMCR. In fact, the vote is not even reported on BMCR’s own website.
Because of this lack of publicity, a group of nine African-American clergy and scholars within the UMC developed a statement of support for the removal of the anti-gay language from the Book of Discipline. The statement heightens the urgency, “We know that the Jesus who is ‘the center of our joy,’ is also the Jesus who has stood with Black Methodists both within society and Methodism, as we challenged those who restrict and restrain us. We will not stand on the sidelines as our church through its legislation denies LGBTQ persons, access to ordination as United Methodist clergy.”
The “Group of Nine” has issued a call for others to voice their support for the removal of Paragraph 304.3. Initially, they asked signers to be United Methodist people of color, but have now opened the petition to all who support the work of full participation. By putting persons of color "up front" on the petition, the group was able to issue a call to the church to change its discriminatory policy, as well as confront the incorrect notion that people of color do not support the LGBT community.
GLAAD continues to offer support for members of the UMC who are working for the full participation of LGBT people and encourages our members and followers to sign the petition. GLAAD strongly encourages people to add a comment that identifies you (religious tradition, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc.). By identifying yourself as a supporter of change within the UMC, you will help to change the religious voice concerning the lives of LGBT people.