Saturday, June 9th in Corpus Christi, TX, the SWTX “Love Your Neighbor” Fellowship, comprised of members of MFSA, RMN and like-minded clergy and laity, worked together to ensure that safe spaces were available at our Annual Conference for LGBT members and allies. We also were there as a silent witness to the harm caused by our denomination during General Conference 2012.
Our new hero is Jeff Sturgeon, from Travis Park UMC in San Antonio, who stood during the afternoon business session and asked for a “Point of Privilege” (following Roberts Rules of Order, per AC policy). Bishop Dorff recognized him and allowed him 3 minutes to speak. While Jeff spoke, over a dozen other delegates gathered near to stand with him, including Rev Sid Hall (Trinity UMC Austin) and Rev John Elford (University UMC Austin). Here is the text of Jeff’s speech:
Jeff Sturgeon, Travis Park, San Antonio. I request a point of privilege.
Bishop Dorff, brothers and sisters of the annual conference… I stand before you as a United Methodist with a long history with the Church. My grandparents, parents and siblings are Methodist. My nieces and nephews are forming their own identities within the United Methodist Church. I graduated from a United Methodist related university. I have served my local church in many ways. This history has shaped who I am.
I stand before you hurting… smarting from pain, frustration and confusion that was General Conference 2012.
And I stand before you as a gay United Methodist.
I know my pain is not unique; many feel battered and bruised that yet again our General Conference has failed to advance to full inclusion in the church of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
This hurt comes from several directions:
It hurts me personally that because I am homosexual, the full life of the church is not available to me.
It hurts me that because I am in a same gender loving relationship, the value of that relationship can not be affirmed.
It hurts my family and friends to see the United Methodist Church respond to me in this way.
And it hurts the Church. It hurts the vitality of the church when GLBT members and their families leave the church. We can not create a culture of growth when certain people are excluded from that growth.
It hurts the church when we can’t even agree to disagree on divisive, hard issues and every one takes opposing sides. My friends have asked why I stay in the church. Quite frankly, I did leave. But God didn’t leave me alone and has continued to call, push, pull and shove me back into the fold.
And it hurts the mission of the church. We heard yesterday from Rev. Rendle that the culture around us has changed! The mission field has changed! And they are watching us. Those who are under thirty, see the church’s position and behavior as “mean-spirited”, not spirit lead.
I was inspired by Rev. Rendle’s use of the quote from St. Augustine that hope has two daughters, anger and courage. I cannot stay only in anger and neither can the church. We must, with God’s power and the example of Jesus, move forward in courage.
I know that the annual conference cannot change the policies of the United Methodist Church. But I know that each person here knows someone in your local church who is like my grandmother, my parents, my brother and sisters, my neices and nephews… like me because all of us are in your churches. How will you express God’s love? What will be your Christ-like response to my family and those like me? Thank you, Bishop