Silence is Not an Option

I have written and preached on the topic of our United Methodist official position regarding LGBT persons, weddings, clergy, and ordination many times. There have been a few days when I wonder if I have done that too much. I have pondered what the saturation point is especially when one may be preaching to the choir so to speak. And at the same time, when voices go silent things do not change.

I am blessed to be able to serve in a community of faith that is a Reconciling Congregation and open to full involvement of all of God’s children. However, as we all know our United Methodist Denomination as a whole is far from where we here at College Hill would hope and dare to dream they be. For though we are open, we are limited in our openness by the current negative, unjust, and restrictive language in our United Methodist Discipline which prevents our clergy from being fully in ministry with LGBT persons and prevents LGBT persons from being in ordained ministry with us.

Many if not all of you have heard the recent news of the church trial of a UM clergy person who was found guilty of performing a same gender marriage ceremony for his gay son. The sentence imposed was a thirty day suspension and at the end of those thirty days will be required to promise to uphold the Discipline in its entirety including a promise to never perform a same gender marriage again. If he does not he will be required to surrender his credentials as a UM Elder.

Unfortunately, though I realize the verdict and sentence requirement are within the bounds of our rules and laws of the church, I believe our UM church got this wrong. It is seems one more step in the wrong direction. I believe such a trial is an abuse; belittling and rejecting of faithful LGBT members of our United Methodist Church. It is unjust and not inclusive as our Discipline calls us to be. We are not a denomination with Open Doors, Open Hearts, and Open Minds, not anywhere close.

Trials, guilty verdicts, and sentencing do not belong in a community of faith, especially when the community is not of one mind regarding the inclusion of our LGBT friends, family, and colleagues. There is once again much talk about coming to the table for holy conferencing, conversation, discernment, and prayer in hopes of finding resolution.

I may be wandering out on a limb here but I am going to say it anyway. We have done holy conferencing, conversed, discerned, and prayed about this for over forty years. I believe we have talked about it long enough. It is time to be honest as a denomination and move to the right side of not only history, but to the right side of the love and grace of God in Christ. Jesus turned away no one, and the ones he chastised were the religious leaders of his time who excluded, took advantage of, and rejected others. It is wrong now.

My heart says we need to find a way to live together with this division and embrace a way of peace that honors all. But it seems to me, rather than seeking a way of peace and compassion, there are those who prefer division and exclusion more than cooperation and invitation. Maybe it is time the denomination find a way to amicably divide. That would not be my preference, but perhaps it is inevitable.

As I have struggled with this most recent trial I have realized I need to do more. I need to speak more. I need to be, as our church’s vision states, Wiser, Bolder, and More Graceful. As a result I reworked a statement and blog I had written into an open letter to the bishops of our denomination expressing my heartache and belief that we need to remove the restrictive language from our Discipline. But mostly, we need to stop these trials that do nothing but deepen the wounds that are already laid open.

As I pondered my letter I decided, after reading responses to the trial by our own members here at CHUM, that perhaps we can do something together, as a community of faith that is weary of the hurt, pain, and exclusion of our official UM statements. As a result I have modified my letter into a letter from our church. I would like to offer it for approval at our Annual Church Conference Monday evening at 7:00pm in the fellowship hall. I would offer it for your approval and make it available to be signed by as many as would support this call for a moratorium on these trials, verdicts, and sentences regarding clergy performing same gender marriages.

If you would like to express your support of this letter to be sent to our Council of Bishops I invite you to be present for our Church Conference Monday and stand in solidarity with Rev. Frank Schaefer and all those clergy who are currently or may face the travesty of another church trial. I look forward to seeing you Monday evening at 7:00pm. If you would like to come for the potluck dinner it begins at 6:30pm. An opportunity to sign on will also be available in the church office next week for you and the community to sign next week. If supported by the our Church Conference the letter will be forwarded to the Council the 1st of December.

Below is a copy of the letter. Thank you College Hill for being who you are, your wisdom, boldness, grace, and love inspires me on a daily basis.

Update December 3, 2013 – I am overjoyed to report the Annual Church Conference of College Hill United Methodist Church in Wichita voted unanamously to send the letter below to our United Methodist Council of Bishops. The letter was mailed today along with over 150 signatures attached.

Peace and Light for Your Journey
Pastor Kent

An Open Letter to Our Bishops of The United Methodist Church

You have heard it said, “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.” [i]  But I say to you, “All persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God and that God’s grace is available to all.”[ii]

            You have heard it said, “Self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”[iii] You have also heard it said, “Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”[iv]

            But I say to you, “We live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ loved and accepted us.”[v] I say to you, “Churches and families do not reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends, for we are committed to be in ministry for and with all persons!”[vi]

            As illustrated above by the language of our own UM Book of Discipline, we at College Hill United Methodist Church believe The United Methodist Book of Discipline is far from clear on our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Queer colleagues, friends, and family. It is a conflicted document that makes a theological claim of grace and inclusion and a political statement of negative restrictions and exclusion.

            We implore our Bishops to call for a moratorium on all church charges and trials, such as the recent proceeding regarding Rev. Frank Schaefer, until our own book of doctrine, rule, and law is clear, consistent, and concise on how the clergy, lay, and church are to be in ministry for and with our LGBTQ colleagues, friends, and family.

            We believe this is a significant reason we are currently losing members of the UM Church as well as why many will not consider joining our increasingly declining denomination. We as a United Methodist Church here at College Hill believe it is time! It is time to remove this unjust and harmful language from our Discipline in 2016. It is time to move beyond this conflicted letter of law and side with grace and love and justice for ALL, where All Means All!  Please stop the charges, the trials, the harm, hurt, and rejecting of the children of God. Please.

Living and Serving in Love with Christ,
College Hill United Methodist Church
2930 E First Street North

Wichita, KS 67214


1 The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2012, The United Methodist Publishing House Nashville, Tennessee. Pg.111 Para. 161F.

2 The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2012, The United Methodist Publishing House Nashville, Tennessee. Pg.111 Para. 161F.

3 The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2012, The United Methodist Publishing House Nashville, Tennessee.

Pg. 220 Para. 304.3

4 The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2012, The United Methodist Publishing House Nashville, Tennessee.

Pg. 270 Para. 341.6

5 The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2012, The United Methodist Publishing House Nashville, Tennessee. Pg.111 Para. 161F

6The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2012, The United Methodist Publishing House Nashville, Tennessee. Pg.111 Para. 161F

Living and Serving in Love with Christ,
College Hill United Methodist Church
2930 E First Street North
Wichita, KS 67214

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2 Responses to “Silence is Not an Option”

  1. Mike Owings Says:

    I commend our pastor and those in the UMC who are striving to be the leaders Jesus has asked all if us to be and loving and caring for ALL!, and request our leaders acknowledge if we are to be true disciples if Christ, we must change the wording regarding us LGBT/Homosexuals as written in this book to read…The UMC no longer discriminates against any human being regardless of color, race, male or female, and sexual orientation (that’s between the individual and God). We will allow all people/humans who are in commited and loving relationships who seek to be married or join together from any UMC clergy with Gods blessing and can be joined in holy matrimony at any UMC. No more trials or threats to clergy who knows and is wanting to join two soul mates in marriage. Our Hearts, Minds, and Doors are truly and faithfully open to ALL”. May it be so and may it be soon.

    By becoming a true Christ centered and welcoming church for real…the growth and love of the UMC can and will grow.

    A Happily Married Gay man who would have loved to been married by his personal UMC pastor, surrounded by all of his immediate family and church family and his husbands family in the UMC we call home and have for the last 20 years. Please, please, open your eyes to the hurt and anguish UMC has done and continues doing and change the book if discipline.

    Mike Owings

  2. Beth love Says:

    Thanks for doing the right thing…..beth love united Methodist in dodge city Kansas.

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