Monday, September 12, 2016
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Thanks to our prayers and protests, our church has taken a baby step forward in ending the discrimination against LGBTQ persons. I thank each of you for the part you played in working to see this happen. “The Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others.” (I Cor. 12:7). I have been honored to work together with you in the past year to bring change to our church. We have each contributed our part to God’s kingdom work.
The final two weeks of my 175 day Tent Witness were spent at the Convention Center in Portland. They were two of the best weeks of my life. I had the opportunity to witness to hundreds of delegates as they walked down the sidewalk toward the main doors. I used my daughter Sarah and Ali’s wedding album to tell my story. I said, “This is a picture of my daughter and her wife. I just want our church to treat them like everyone else.” Many told me about their prayers for our church to move toward full inclusion.
Rev. Frank Schaefer and his son Tim joined me on National Tent Night on May 13. We gathered in the afternoon with about 75 people. We talked about the symbolic witness of the Tent. We celebrated that many across the country would be sleeping outside on that night in front of their own houses and churches. Frank led us in praying for our church and the General Conference.
I appreciated meeting many members of the Love Prevails organization at General Conference. They were very helpful to my advocacy work. In addition, they led some wonderful times of education, worship and protest throughout the days of the Conference. I learned so much from them.
May 18th, 2016 was an historic day for our church. What a privilege to be in the room when Bishop Ough shared the Bishop’s report and later when the General Conference approved it. As Matt Berryman from RMN said, “This historic action by the Council of Bishops represents a significant institutional shift in the direction of inclusion and equality. It is just a beginning…”
I have returned back to the bed of my bride of 38 years. I am thankful for Lori’s patience and support. I am also thankful for the many saints of God I’ve met or talked with or communicated by Facebook in the past year. What a privilege to have connected with you. My life is forever richer.
I am stepping back from advocacy work to focus on my wife in the coming year. We are taking a gap year of travel. I encourage you to stay involved through Reconciling Ministry Network and Love Prevails.
Don’t lose hope or become cynical. Remember that God’s kingdom is coming. If God can raise His Son from death to eternal life, God can raise up His Church to open their doors and welcome all.
Thursday, April 28, 2016
I apologize to my daughter and her wife
Sarah and Ali, I’m sorry for my thirty – three years of silence. I’ve been in ministry for 35 years now. I’ve been silent for all but the last two years. I did not speak up on behalf of LGBTQ persons. I did not publicly challenge the discrimination of our church. I acknowledge my sins of omission.
My eyes have been opened in the past two years as I’ve heard story after story of people who have been hurt by the discriminatory policies of the United Methodist Church. I’m ashamed that I “crossed by on the other side of the road” for 33 years. I chose not to get involved. I ask for your forgiveness.
These past few months I’ve met people directly affected by the discrimination. I met Jimmy Creech, whose ministerial credentials were permanently removed in 1999 because he officiated at a service for a gay couple. I met Rev. Cynthia Meyer who is facing a church trial and her removal as a United Methodist pastor because she acknowledged she is gay. I’ve met pastors who are still in the closet in fear of what would happen if they came out. I’ve met LGBTQ folk who are responding to God’s call to ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church, but unsure of their future.
Sarah and Ali, I’ve heard you talk about your struggle to find a church home because of the church’s discrimination. You’ve told me about the struggles you’ve personally faced by churches and Christians. I’ve heard your stories of people who have felt compelled to take their own lives because of the shame brought to them by the church for being LGBTQ. Lord, help us…
I’m thankful for courageous spokespersons in our denomination who have not been silent. I’m thankful for Dorothee Benz and MIND. I’m thankful for Amy DeLong and Love Prevails. I’m thankful for Matt Berryman and RMN. I’m thankful for Chett Pritchett and MFSA. I’m thankful for Adam Hamilton and Steve Harper and so many more.
To all LGBTQ persons: I apologize and repent for my silence and my sins of omission. One small way I have been expressing my turning to a new life (repentance) is the Tent Witness symbolizing how our church’s policy pushes LGBTQ persons outside its doors. I’ve been sleeping in the tent for over 150 nights and will continue to do so through General Conference. I invite others to join Rev. Frank Schaefer and myself in sleeping outside on National Tent Night on Friday, May 13th. (Others can sleep outside their house or church) Together we can say to General Conference delegates, “It’s time to end the silence, end the war and end the discrimination in the United Methodist Church.”
Thursday, April 21, 2016
Rev. Frank Schaefer and Rev. Mike Tupper invite everyone to the National Tent Night on Friday, May 13th. Gather your friends and family. Put up a tent in front of your house, your church, your Wesley Foundation or join us at the United Methodist General Conference in Portland.
Sleep outside on May 13 to symbolize how the present policies of the United Methodist Church are pushing LGBTQ people outside. Together we can send a message to the delegates at General Conference that we want the doors of our church open to all, including the LGBTQ community. It’s time to stop the discrimination. It’s time to stop the harm.
Pray on May 13 for our General Conference delegates who are meeting over the next week. Pray for the Spirit of God to give them discernment in how to bring God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Pray they will end the war in our denomination against the LGBTQ community and bring peace with justice.
One of the Old Testament holiday feasts that is still celebrated by Jews is Sukkot. It’s also called the Feast of Booths or Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23 34-44). Sukkot is the plural of sukkah, which is a temporary dwelling. It’s to represent the fragile shelters used by the Israelites during their 40 years of wandering in the desert wilderness. Jews today create these structures during the Sukkot holiday and spend time in them, even sleeping overnight in them. They are like modern day tents.
The LGBTQ community has been wandering for the past 44 years in the desert-wilderness of the United Methodist Church. We symbolize that by sleeping overnight in a tent on May 13th. We do this while praying that the General Conference delegates lead us into the Promised Land where the doors of our church are open to all people.
Join us at #NationalTentNight and Facebook event: National Tent Night.
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
The Covenantal Unity Plan (CUP) proposed by Dr. Bill Arnold is more likely to escalate the 44 year civil war in the United Methodist Church over LGBTQ inclusion than to lessen it. This General Conference legislation would enact severe mandatory sentences for pastors who officiate at same gender weddings. Many clergy would face immediate dismissal and loss of their credentials. This would only lead to greater conflict in our denomination.
Dr. Arnold is a professor at multi-denominational Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. I’ll be bringing my Tent Witness to the Asbury campus on Friday, April 15 to protest discrimination in our church and Dr. Arnold’s CUP proposal. I’ve been sleeping outside in a tent for the past 140 nights to symbolize how our church is pushing LGBTQ persons outside into the cold.
I will be directly affected if the CUP legislation is approved. I officiated at the same gender wedding for my daughter Sarah and Ali (pictured) in 2014. Last summer I officiated at the wedding of Rev. Hutchison, a gay pastor forced to resign from serving his United Methodist church. Because I officiated at two same gender weddings, I would lose my ministerial credentials and never be able to pastor in the United Methodist Church.
I love the United Methodist Church and have been faithfully serving the church as a pastor for 35 years. I’ve appreciated the theological diversity in our “Big Tent”. Unfortunately, the CUP legislation authored by Dr. Arnold’s would lead our church away from this. Instead, it would lead to four more years of a more intensified civil war. As I often say, “Lord, help us.”
Saturday, February 20, 2016
The death of Harper Lee and the South Carolina primary point us to a singular message: It’s time for our bishops and church leaders to speak out for LGBTQ persons. Silence will lead to continued discrimination.
Harper Lee portrays Atticus Finch in two different ways in her books. The Atticus Finch in the newly published, “Go Set a Watchman” is silent and complicit in the face of the increasing racism around him. The Atticus Finch of “To Kill a Mockingbird” boldly stands up against racism telling Scout, “Before I can live with other folks, I have to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” Which Atticus Finch will our church leaders choose to emulate as we approach General Conference?
The news of the South Carolina primary last weekend featured the governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley. Last summer Gov. Haley demonstrated the effect that a bold stand can make for legislative change. Following the Charleston murders, she broke her silence regarding the Confederate flag. She took the political risk and moral high road by boldly calling for the Confederate flag to be taken down. Just like our bishops, she had no authority to take action. But her voice encouraged the legislature to quickly vote to remove the Confederate flag from the State House.
I recognize the difficult dilemma that Bishops find themselves in these days. They are committed to their covenant with each other and their covenant to their denomination. Many are working behind the scenes and out of the public eye to help LGBTQ persons. I understand and appreciate all of that… But
As we approach General Conference, the public silence of our bishops and church leaders will lead directly to the General Conference choosing to make no change in our Book of Discipline this year. That will mean a continuation of the 44 year war against gays. That will mean the continuation of discrimination in the official policy of our church.
Sixteen years ago, 15 bishops decided to make a bold stand for LGBTQ persons. Isn’t it time for another bold stand – in the spirit of Atticus Finch and Nikki Haley? …in the Spirit of God?
Thursday, February 4, 2016
The sign said: Silence equals Death. It was from thirty years ago when our nation’s leaders didn’t want to get involved in addressing the challenges of AIDS. Their silence led to lack of information and funding, which resulted in death to many.
Today in our denomination, silence equals discrimination. Most of our Bishops and church leaders are silent in responding to our church’s position on homosexuality and the LGBTQ community. I believe their silence will result in continued discriminatory policies in our Book of Discipline. Their absence of leadership around these critical issues will lead to 2016 General Conference decisions that will continue to harm LGBTQ persons.
I had the privilege of talking about this with Bishop Jung a week ago. He and his wife were so gracious to invite me out for dinner. I was staying that night in front of the Wisconsin Conference Office on the sixtieth day of my Tent Witness. He shared me with the challenge of holding in tension the covenant he has with the other Bishops in upholding the Book of Discipline and God’s covenant with him. Bishop Jung helped me see the dilemma that Bishops and church leaders face these days.
Jesus faced a similar dilemma with the religious leaders of his day. They wanted him to be silent in the face of the discrimination and oppression of outsiders like Samaritans, lepers, tax collectors, and other outcasts. Jesus indicated his covenant with God had priority over whatever covenant he might have with the Jewish leaders. Jesus was not silent in his promotion of justice for the outsider.
A few weeks ago at a RMN event in Illinois, Bishop Carcano told the story about the 15 bishops who boldly took a stand at the 2000 General Conference for LGBTQ persons. She told about the consequences she personally experienced for supporting those Bishops.
It’s time for another bold stand by our Bishops and church leaders. It’s time to end the silence. It’s time to speak out for an end to the discrimination.
My daughter is lying by the side of the road. Sarah has been beaten up by a church that won’t bless her marriage and won’t let her serve in ministry. It’s time for Bishops and church leaders to go to her side, instead of walking by on the other side.
It’s time for those of us in the pews and pulpits to tell our leaders: silence equals discrimination. They will listen when we send our e-mails and Facebook messages and letters to their offices. They will listen when we tell them: It’s time to speak up. Our church and General Conference will listen when we unite together and say out loud: No more discrimination.