A Just Resolution Reached in the Rev. Cynthia Meyer Complaint

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On August 1, the parties involved in the complaint against Rev. Cynthia Meyer met to have conversation about the possibility of a just resolution. The parties worked for 12 hours and made a good-faith effort to find common ground. At the end of the day came to the following agreement:

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Rev. Cynthia Meyer’s Statement of Faithful Witness and Hopeful Resolution

“After 25 years of leadership in the United Methodist Church, I recently chose to do what some may deem unthinkable: I came out as a lesbian to my small-town Kansas congregation.

The disconnect between my gay identity and my church’s policies has distressed me for many years. I’ve long recognized and now assert that it’s past time for the denomination to change. It’s my time to share my story as a part of that change.

By treating lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer members as “less than,” the United Methodist Church turns faithful people into victims rather than celebrating all as beloved children made in the image of God. The church has lost countless gifted members and leaders by not valuing the sacred worth in everyone.”

I wrote these words in January 2016, for publication in conjunction with the sermon I preached to my Edgerton, Kansas United Methodist congregation on Epiphany Sunday, January 3. A charge was filed against me for violating the Book of Discipline, asserting that I am “a self-avowed practicing homosexual.” None of my actions or statements have met the standard required for charges or punishment on these grounds. Nonetheless, as required, I have participated fully in all processes required following the charge, including efforts toward just resolution, a hearing with the Great Plains Conference Committee on Investigation, and finally the lengthy, intense process facilitated by JustPeace, which has resulted in the attached agreement.

When I spoke my truth in January, my hopes were many, including that of joining with other bold spirits in advocating for the UMC to better follow the way of Jesus, the ways of justice, love and full inclusion, particularly for those often marginalized, judged, and harmed. I acted, then and now, out of love for and commitment to the United Methodist Church. I’m honored to have joined in action with so many faithful UMs striving for the betterment of the church they love, even as it excludes them, fails to live into the covenant made to them in baptism, denies them the right of holding their weddings in UM church sanctuaries and forbids their open service as clergy.

These injustices continue, because the 2016 UM General Conference chose not to remove discriminatory policies and practices from its Book of Discipline. The denomination is now in a liminal moment, filled with possibility. Even as I accept this agreement, recognizing it as a resolution to the charge against me, not a just response, I move ahead in hope. I hope that the UMC, through a fully representative, inclusive commission, then a focused General Conference, will intentionally, prayerfully remove all discriminatory language and practice from its Book of Discipline. Then the Church may welcome the gifts of all who are called and gifted for ministry and all members may receive all the graces and services of the church, including marriage in their sanctuaries, performed by their UM clergy.

I continue to live in hope, even as I seek new ways to live out at least part of my calling, while I am forbidden for administering the sacraments and other duties and ministries of ordained elders.

As we ended our thirteen hours of conversation and negotiation on August 1, I added this to my notes from the day: “I’ve signed away my right to live out my calling – to be most fully who God has called me to be – I hope only for a time. My heart is broken, yet I trust that God will work through even this for good. Through this small act of reconciliation, this act of hopeful love, may greater reconciliation come in the UMC. Harm continues to be done, even through this agreement. This doesn’t get us to justice, but perhaps it bends the arc just a bit closer.” I pray it may be so.

Read More at The Great Plans Conference UMC.

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Cynthia’s response to the resolution was as follows:

“I am heartbroken, as I agree to give up the right to serve in ministry as an Elder in The United Methodist Church for an undetermined time. Even as I agree to this resolution, I assert that it is not just and furthers the harm inflicted, not just on me, but on all LGBTQ persons in the church. Again we are told, ‘you aren’t equal; you aren’t good enough; you aren’t of enough sacred worth to serve as an ordained leader in your church.’ I pray the commission and the denomination as a whole may strive toward a more faithful following of Jesus, who overturned oppression, called the outcast, and welcomed all to be fed and to feed, to be loved and to lead and serve.”

Matt Berryman responded for Reconciling Ministries Network:

As the commission on A Way Forward is assembled this fall, the harm done to Rev. Cynthia Meyer and all queer, trans, and allied United Methodists over the last 44 years will be hovering over every conversation and decision, awaiting accountability. From Gene Leggett in 1971, to Beth Stroud in 2005, to Rev. Cynthia Meyer today, the church has veered from its gospel mission by using a book meant to outline our common purpose as a tool of destruction in the lives of LGBTQ people. The Spirit has been working on the wayward United Methodist Church by awakening more and more individuals and communities to the expansive love of God, but this has come with great cost, especially to individuals like Rev. Meyer.

There is no doubt that the resolution released today is anything but just. Until the anti-LGBTQ policies of the Book of Discipline are removed, the onus will unjustly remain on queer people and our allies to bear the burden of an institution weighted against the full participation of LGBTQ people in the life of the church. And yet, the departure from an expected trial is just one of many signs pointing towards change that is well overdue.

You can read the full statement from Reconciling Ministries Network’s executive director, Matt Berryman, here.

UMReporter Staff

This story was posted by a staff member of The United Methodist Reporter. For over 160 years The United Methodist Reporter has been helping the people called Methodist to tell their stories. If you have stories that you think need to be told, please let us know at editor@circuitwritermedia.com

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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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Bill Baker
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Bill Baker

The Resolution is not just. Our rules are our rules. If this person who by her own admission has willfully violated our Discipline then she should be dismissed. If not our Discipline is a joke. If she is not dismissed outright, why should anyone obey the Discipline? I understand that the rules may change, but until they do, they must be followed. There cannot be different applications of the Discipline for different people. That is unjust. It is apparent that division is inevitable. A cursory reading of the comments here evidence this. Perhaps instead of rehashing the debate, we should… Read more »

eric pone
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eric pone

But would you then not also agree that until we determine to enforce the whole of the Discipline we are not enforcing it. We have rules against drug usage, alchohol, ill health and obesity, smoking, and divorce. We have general rules against premarital and extramarital sex and yet……these pastors are in appointments serving and we never hear Good News or any other so called Evangelical asking for mass trials and purging of these pastors who have in the life of the church caused much more damage What about Pastors with insane levels of school and personal debt. Wesley spoke to… Read more »

Wes Andrews
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Wes Andrews

The Bishops who reject the BOD should be charged and removed from their office. A solution is not just if it rejects Scripture and also the will of the delegates who represent General Conference.

Kevin
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Kevin

Not certain I would call this a resolution. She is put in limbo until after next GC where she will either be put on trial or back in the pulpit depending upon the outcome of the next GC. Not exactly a final decision.

Floyd L.
Guest
Floyd L.

Exactly. At best, the Meyer issue has only been put “on hold”, until the next GC — and it’s already clear that the gay and liberal forces aren’t waiting for any more GC’s anyway. They want the UMC to surrender to them, period.

Nor do they have any intentions of abiding by any Bibles or BoD’s. They serve and prioritize “Gay”, not “God. “

Floyd L.
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Floyd L.

The fact remains that Meyer is ONLY on leave (regarding the rank of clergy), with a $37K automatic kitty given to her despite her direct public defiance of both the Bible and her own Book Of Discipline. (I don’t begrudge her the money, for these are BAD economic times, and soon to get far worse. But ask yourself this: how many SECULAR employers would give away $37K to you and me, if we openly and publicly opposed the employers’ written policy manuals? Hmm?) Anyway, Meyer is only on leave, and she can be brought back as a pastor if the… Read more »

Mike Thomas
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This is not a just resolution. It is a perpetuation of ignorance and hatred that is contrary to the teachings of Jesus. That language should never have been added to the Book of Discipline and it should be removed as soon as possible.

Daniel
Guest
Daniel

Since Jesus said ““Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” I am having trouble understanding your assertion that this case is contrary to the teachings of Jesus.

Eric Pone
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Eric Pone

Ok just because its in the Gospels doesn’t make it just, right, or God’s intent. The church is going to die either way. Either Liberals and Moderates will leave or the Evangelicals will leave but the UMC is a goner either way. Well….at least we maintained Discipline. Now if we could only “Just Resolution” smokers, divorcees, those who fornicate, use porn, drinkers, drug users, and pastors who have debt loads that embarrass their calling out as well. Afterall the Discipline also bans this behavior as well. Oh this is different? Hypocrites!

Daniel
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Daniel

On the face of it, it seems like you’re saying the Bible is not binding on any behavior exhibited by humanity. I would be interested to hear about what you believe the Bible’s purpose is.

Daniel Wagle
Guest

Where did Eric say that “the Bible is not binding on any behavior exhibited by humanity?” It seems to me that he is saying that many persons pick and choose from the Bible which behavior they are going to condemn. For instance, many conservative Christians are now very accepting of divorce, yet they are very unbending in their condemnation of homosexual persons.

Daniel
Guest
Daniel

Hopefully no one is condemning people just because they experience same sex attraction, although Jesus did say that sexual lust for another not one’s husband or wife is tantamount to committing the act. Be that as it may, you are quite correct that we do not get to pick and choose which moral laws we get to follow and which we get to disregard. IMHO, sexual sin falls into an important category because of the damage it causes to the parties involved and others. St. Paul spoke about it as a sin against our own bodies. It’s important because the… Read more »

Daniel Wagle
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Daniel Wagle

When Jesus spoke of lust, he only meant the lust of a man for a woman, not the love of a man for a man, nor the love of a woman for a woman. Interestingly, the Greek word used for “lust” or epithymia is the same word used for “covet,” so it probably means the desire of a man for another man’s wife, probably not just the heterosexual desire for an unmarried unbetrothed woman, but rather for a woman who belonged to someone else. In fact, part of the 10th commandment in Exodus 20:17 and Deuteronomy 5:21 was not to… Read more »

Daniel
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Daniel

Interesting points and I cede to your greater knowledge of Greek, but there is no place in scripture that affirms same sex sexual relations and there are passages that speak against it. I think our discussion shows that the divide over human sexuality in the contemporary Christian church will not be resolved by more discussion. I believe that a large part of the UMC problem is that more than 50% of UMC pastors are no longer Christian (do not affirm the historical creeds of the church and many who affirm universalism) and an even greater proportion of recent UMC seminary… Read more »

Daniel Wagle
Guest

I really don’t understand how what Jesus said about divorce is really a teaching against gay marriage, but NOT divorce. Nowadays, most Evangelicals support Donald Trump for President, even though he has been married 3 times. The way I understand this is that people should keep their covenants and their promises, which of course which include their marriage covenant. The point is NOT that we cannot make a covenant with someone of the same gender. Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved David as his own soul in 1 Samuel 18:3. Ruth “cleaved” or “Dabaq” to Naomi in… Read more »

Daniel
Guest
Daniel

I agree with you. It speaks to the design of marriage as between one man and one woman for life, except in specific circumstances as outlined in the Gospels.

Jim Wagner
Guest
Jim Wagner

The resolution is not just. Further, after 44+ years of wrangling it’s delusional to think that any amount of hope, holy conferencing or discernment is going to change things. The LGBTQA community in the UMC are second class. No matter how many annual conferences ignore The Book of Discipline, when the sun comes up tomorrow they will still be second class.

Rev William L Bartholomew
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Rev William L Bartholomew

September 1992 a rumor arose that I was gay. I was an elder serving in the East Ohio Annual Conference. Bishop Bolton asked that I come to his office. Through two hours of interrogation he decided, though I never admitted anything, that I was a self-avowed practicing homosexual, though I did not say yes or no. He discontinued my appointment and demanded that my credentials be delivered to him the next day. I was ordered to clean out my church study within 24 hours and was forbidden to sleep in the parsonage, though my belongings could stay there for 30… Read more »

Eric Pone
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Eric Pone

This is just an afterthought. The paying off of the pastor with $37k to make her in essence “go away” seems very similar to what the priests in the temple did to Judas. Its interesting that no one has ever given real time to the pain and agony that is created when we pay to make problems “go away” versus achieving a solution where both sides leave whole. There is something that feels inherently evil in this and it really cheapens ordaination and cheapens all pastors who wear the stole. It drives the hurtful places deeper and I don’t see… Read more »

Richard F Hicks
Guest
Richard F Hicks

“ . . . I’ve signed away my right to live out my calling – . . . ” WRONG! “Your” calling is the same calling that all humans have: To serve the last, the least, the lost. No part of that calling requires ordination, a microphone, or the spotlight. Twenty-one years ago the UM elders of Kansas said that I was unfit, dangerous, and kicked me out with orders not to speak to anyone in the local churches I was leaving. Now I’m a multi-millionaire who is free to serve the last, the least, the lost at an UM… Read more »

eric pone
Guest
eric pone

Actually she has signed away her calling. She has been pulled away from the administration of the elements. She is in essence not holy enough to administer them in the UMC she loves. She is licensed she can marry outside of the Church and perform funerals and even preach outside of the Church. But within the Church she has been stripped bare of her voice and her vote Her efforts to obtain ordaination have been ripped from her. Maybe that means nothing to you but as one who who got fed up and left the process it is sickening to… Read more »

John JP Patterson
Guest
John JP Patterson

Is it time for the “American” United Methodist Church? “The recent decision of the United Methodist Church to defer a decision on the role of LGBT people in the church is a desperate attempt to avoid schism in the bitterly divided denomination. It is not likely to succeed. “It is clear that the traditionalists are frustrated with what they see as the lawlessness of the reformers and that the reformers are no longer willing to honor patently homophobic language and policy within the denomination. Since efforts to reach a compromise have repeatedly been thwarted by conservatives, progressives have resorted to… Read more »

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