This story is shared by Rev. Richard Bates who graduated from Brite Divinity School (TCU), served as Associate pastor in Del Rio, Windcrest UMC in San Antonio, and First UMC in Seguin. Rev. Bates attended and received Certification from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco (established by UM clergy), then returned to Austin where he had his own private counseling practice in the area of Human Sexuality. He has been retired since 2011 and is affiliated with University UMC in Austin, Texas.
Every four years the United Methodist Church loses membership, talent, and finances because the Church has not aligned its integrity with that of Jesus Christ…it has not reached out to be a truly inclusive denomination. Jesus made no exceptions when he talked about loving one’s neighbor. But this is not just about inclusion, it is about saving lives. According to The Trevor Project, suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people 10-24 years of age. LGBT youth are four times as likely, and questioning youth are three times as likely, to commit suicide as their straight peers.
By maintaining their existing position, the UMC perpetuates harm, exactly what John Wesley warned against…”Do no harm.” It is harmful, not only to LGBT people, to couples and clergy, but to the whole denomination because the church’s integrity is not aligned with that of the Gospel and Jesus Christ. How can we be the Church of Jesus Christ and continue to perpetuate this harm?
What is the Church (denomination) willing to do? We are at the same crossroads as the Methodist Episcopal Church was in the mid-1800s. One answer is that church trials only be for clergy who embezzle or who have sex with a minor as opposed to those who officiate at same sex weddings.
I no longer recognize the progressive and compassionate denomination in which I grew up. Since the Tampa General Conference, it has become a hate-filled and polarized denomination. Same-sex weddings will continue to happen and same-sex clergy will continue to serve. Many young people, for whom this is no longer an issue, see the UMC as a hypocritical institution and will have nothing to do with it. Is this really our legacy? For it certainly will be our demise.
In April 2016 the Rio Texas Annual Conference hosted online listening sessions about General Conference proposals open to all who registered. For the online listening session held on April 12th, conference constituents gave presentations regarding proposals of General Conference 2016 on the topic of “Human Sexuality and LGBTQI,” and time was allotted for questions from online participants. Five participants (previously registered through an application process open to all conference members) were granted a few minutes to share their stories. Four of the people who spoke are Reconciling United Methodists who believe in full inclusion for LGBTQ people in our church. They have agreed to have their transcripts shared here. This is the first in a four-part series.