Sexuality debate begins with worship disagreement


The inclusion of LGBTQI people in the United Methodist Church has already been tested today, just hours before the opening worship service of the 2016 General Conference in Portland OR.

The Rev. Vicki Flippin said she was asked to bring a greeting from her context to welcome worshippers to this afternoon’s service at the Oregon Convention Center, but was told by worship leaders that she would have to omit language welcoming LGBTQI people.

Flippin is associate pastor at Church of the Village, a reconciling congregation in New York City, in Manhattan’s West Village neighborhood. Many LGBTQI people attend the church.

Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) shared her statement and video today on their Facebook page. Flippin’s experience comes on the heels of an ordination ceremony today to ordain Susan J. Laurie, an out lesbian, and a letter to The United Methodist Church from 111 LGBTQI religious leaders, also published by RMN.

Flippin released this excerpt of her greeting: “Whatever your gender identity or expression, whatever your sexual orientation, race, or nation, age, or station, you belong in God’s house, and I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ.“

The Rev. Laura Bartlett, the 2016 General Conference worship director, was asked about Flippin’s statement and said that she and Flippin had engaged in a long conversation about her request.

“We are trying to make our worship services as inclusive as possible,” Bartlett said, “but we believed singling out a particular group for mention means that others are excluded and we wanted to avoid that. We understood Vicki’s concerns, and were fully aware that she would make them public, but believed including her statement would ultimately take away from the worship experience.”

Flippin decided not to participate in opening worship. Instead, she served at queer-safe communion stations sponsored by Love Prevails. “I cannot in good conscience participate in a service that will not even pretend to welcome and include God’s LGBTQI children,” she said.

Paragraph 4 of the Book of Discipline, the denominational rule book states that “The United Methodist Church acknowledges that all persons are of sacred worth. All persons without regard to race, color, national origin, status, or economic condition, shall be eligible to attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments, upon baptism be admitted as baptized members, and upon taking vows declaring the Christian faith, become professing members in any local church in the connection.

Laura Harbert Allen, Managing Editor

Laura is an independent public radio and multimedia producer who makes stories in the documentary tradition. She served as communications director for the West Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church for seven years and has more than 20 years experience in public radio as an announcer, producer, program director, and general manager. She has also written about music for the Charleston Gazette-Mail, and done feature work for Wonderful West Virginia Magazine. Laura is married to the Rev. Jeff Allen. They live in Charleston, West Virginia.

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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What is a queer communion station?

Steve Caldwell

Rev. Bartlett rejected Rev. Flippin’s statement because she didn’t want a welcome statement in worship that singled anyone out. Everyone has a sexual orientation (heterosexual is an orientation). Everyone has a gender identity (cisgender persons have a gender identity that matches the gender assigned at birth). And everyone has a gender expression (men who are traditionally masculine and women who are traditionally feminine are also examples of gender expression). So … who is being “excluded” or “singled out” in the welcome statement Rev. Bartlett? It looks like your stated reason for rejecting Rev. Flippin’s statement isn’t consistent with the facts.… Read more »

Gene Hill
Gene Hill

So it’s going to be a very loooong General Conference. It will be a miracle if there is a light of liberal thought and inclusion with that start. I’m not sure it’s worth praying for the future of the church–there is little hope for reconciliation.

Gene Hill
Gene Hill

So the UMC is going to continue to be a homophobic church. And this is going to b a loooooong General Conference–little hope for the future.

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