"When we are harmed, the Church is harmed" - LGBT Methodists Confront Church Bullying

Advocates for LGBT inclusion in the United Methodist Church lovingly confronted the dismissive and hurtful words, actions, and attitudes of anti-LGBT delegates at the General Conference. The United Methodist Church is gathering for their once-every-four-year meeting in Tampa, Florida.

Retired bishops and African-American church leaders joined voices to call for the inclusion of LGBT people in the United Methodist Church, while advocates for full inclusion addressed the anti-LGBT statements and actions of conference delegates.

Bishops Sharon Zimmerman Rader, one of 36 bishops who called for the church to change its policy of LGBT exclusion, offered a bold vision of inclusion. “I want to join Jesus in praying the doors of The United Methodist Church will be opened and rules and prohibitions will be cast away.  Jesus loves all the children; and his love can set the church free.”

“I’ve been nurtured by the church in my own personal life and well-being. I love the church. But there is another reality in all this. I’m a lesbian woman. I’m a black lesbian woman,” said Dr. Lightsey, Associate Dean at Boston University School of Theology. She highlighted the importance of hearing support for inclusion from both the bishops’ statement and African-American faith leaders in the United Methodist Church. “There are black people in America who do support the ordination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons, and there are black persons in the United Methodist Church who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.”

Later, during the Thursday evening plenary, Mark Miller, a delegate and openly gay man, brought the concerns of the LGBT people who were subjected to harmful words and actions at the General Conference during these “holy conversations.” As he rose to speak, the other LGBT delegates gathered around as a visible sign of solidarity.

See Mark's witness, starting at the 51:00 mark.

Mark’s witness generated a “Stand with Mark” campaign which quickly went viral on Twitter (#standwithmark). Most of the comments on Twitter supported  Mark, and called for the United Methodist Church to oppose bullying words and actions.

In the closing worship service, under a healing theme, Bishop Robert Hoshibata preached on “Love Heals.” He said that he wanted “the church to include all, whomever they love” and offered prayer for those who have felt bullied.

Supporters for full inclusion left worship early to stand in silent protest. According to the United Methodist News Service, there were over 300 people standing in silent vigil outside worship. Delegates walked past the demonstration, a visible reminder that LGBT people are still an active part of the church, despite exclusionary policies. The United Methodist News Service provided a photo essay of the witness

GLAAD is on the ground in Tampa, working with the Love Your Neighbor campaign, a common witness for the moral equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender United Methodists. GLAAD supports the United Methodists who are working to make their church more inclusive of LGBT people. Use the Love Your Neighbor home kit to follow the action at the United Methodist Church General Convention, through May 4.