ST. CLOUD, Minn. — The Minnesota Annual Conference approved a statement on Friday, May 30 asking Bishop Bruce Ough, members of the bishop’s cabinet, and the Board of Ordained ministry to disregard provisions in the “United Methodist Book of Discipline” (BOD) which “…continue to exclude and discriminate against those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ), as well as place barriers between them and our clergy persons seeking to minister to all.” The statement was approved by a hand vote at the annual conference session meeting at the River’s Edge Conference Center in St. Cloud, Minnesota which took place on May 28-30, 2014.
“We believe that we are approaching a critical crossroad and a tipping point for full inclusion of all persons in the life and ministry of our church,” the statement says.
The letter was submitted as a piece of legislation by a group that included a lay person, a pastor, and a committee from Christ United Methodist Church in Rochester. The letter was discussed and adopted by the members of the annual conference, an equal amount of clergy and lay persons from every congregation and district, numbering over 700 persons in total.
The letter states that Minnesota United Methodists will “…aspire to model Queen Esther’s courage and exercise Micah’s prophetic leadership and boldness in the following ways”:
- Declaring their belief that church trials are not appropriate for dealing with issues around GLBTQ and same-sex marriage issues, as well as discouraging United Methodists in Minnesota from filing complaints based on these issues.
- Welcoming those clergy who have been rejected in other annual conference for their ministries with GLBTQ persons.
- Witnessing to the entire United Methodist Church concerning the vital spirituality that comes from faithfully living into the Gospel’s call for radical hospitality.
There are currently 67,731 members of about 350 United Methodist churches in Minnesota.
Here is the full text of the letter:
To: Bishop Bruce Ough, Resident Bishop, Minnesota Annual Conference; Bishop’s Cabinet; and The Board of Ordained Ministry of the Minnesota Annual Conference
As lay and clergy of the Minnesota Annual Conference, we share with you our concerns and prayers, and we offer our support to you in these challenging times. We offer this statement of our beliefs and aspirations so that you may consider them as you exercise your responsibilities as leaders of our annual conference.
We believe that we should hold each other accountable to our public declaration that the Minnesota Annual Conference will do ministry unshackled by those rules inscribed in our Book of Discipline that continue to exclude and discriminate against those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ), as well as place barriers between them and our clergy persons seeking to minister to all.
We believe that we are approaching a critical crossroad and a tipping point for full inclusion of all persons in the life and ministry of our church. For such a time as this, we in the Minnesota Annual Conference aspire to model Queen Esther’s courage and exercise Micah’s prophetic leadership and boldness in the following ways:
1. We will do justice by declaring unequivocally our belief that church trials are not appropriate for clergy who are LGBTQ, or for clergy who have officiated or blessed the marriage of same-sex couples, or for instances where church buildings may be used for such ceremonies. We hope to see funds invested in ministry and mission rather than trials. We implore our colleagues not to bring such complaints. We implore you leaders responsible for processing such complaints to do all you can to avoid such trials as not in the best interests of successful ministry in Minnesota. We implore any juries which might be seated to consider the big picture and, if convictions are unavoidable, to assess penalties which are minimal and non-financial for the clergy person and pastoral and healing of the wider church body.
2. We will love kindness by welcoming into our conference those who have been turned away for their pastoral work with the LGBTQ community in other conferences. We implore our District Committees on Ordained Ministry and our conference Board of Ordained Ministry to be open to the gifts and graces of such persons to the fullest extent possible still consistent with your primary obligation to cultivate and qualify and recommend outstanding candidates for ministry in Minnesota.
3. We will walk humbly with God by witnessing to the entire United Methodist Church concerning the vital spirituality that comes from faithfully living into the Gospel’s call for radical hospitality. We urge our congregations engage in respectful conversations in which all perspectives are shared and mutually understood. We affirm that even clergy with different views—those who bless same-sex weddings and those who choose not to—do so from genuinely held beliefs equally rooted in their own Biblical understanding, and we respect the call and decisions of both types. We believe that no pastor should be rewarded nor criticized for their own decision to officiate or not to officiate same-sex marriages. We aspire for the Minnesota Annual Conference to model true reconciliation in word and action and hope by doing so it will be a positive and timely witness to the broader UMC.
We commit ourselves, in the spirit of reconciliation, not to abandon anyone who God loves—regardless of where we are on the journey toward loving and accepting all of God’s children. This requires moving beyond mere talk and indeed to concrete witness for love and against injustice despite the risks involved. Only then do we deliver ourselves humbly in the hands of God’s grace alone. We pledge to continue upholding the ministry of being reconciled with humanity and creation that God loves.
We invite you, leaders of our conference, to publicly declare your faithfulness to Jesus’ radical hospitality even where it is incompatible with discriminatory parts of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church. Please know that, in doing so, we are praying for you and will continue to support you.