Monday, June 20, 2016

The Time Is Always Right to Do the Right Thing

Will Green and John Blackadar present the motion to the New England Conference

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
Galatians 3:28-29
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2

Last week our New England Conference of the United Methodist Church took an important and historic step by overwhelmingly affirming “An Action of Non-Conformity with the General Conference of the United Methodist Church.”

We declared, as a Conference, that we would no longer “conform or comply with the provisions of the Book of Discipline which discriminate against LGBTQIA persons.”

By that action, we are deciding to live into the Gospel with integrity and authenticity.

In the lectionary text for this past Sunday, Paul told the churches in Galatia that “There is no longer Jew nor Greek, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” And we would add to that list, “There is no longer gay or straight.”

In his introduction to Galatians, Eugene Peterson says, “When men and women get their hands on religion one, of the first things they often do is turn it into an instrument for controlling others, either putting or keeping them ‘in their place.’ The history of such religious manipulation and coercion is long and tedious.” 

But in his letter to the churches in Galatia, Paul declares an end to all of that. And he invites them to embrace the freedom of the Gospel for themselves and for others.

We have decided that Paul was right that we really are “one in Christ" Therefore, we will not be “conformed to this world.”

There is a good chance, some say it is a certainty, that the Judicial Council (especially given its new very conservative composition) will declare our resolution to be out of order.

That’s okay.

In an unjust system, justice is by definition “out of order.” It is always against the rules.

We have lived with injustice for too long.

In his closing remarks, Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar told the conference that “our inability to remove the discriminatory language from the Book of Discipline divides us and is a source of great pain. How can any child of God be incompatible with Christian teachings? He went on to quote Martin Luther King’s words, that “in the end we will remember, not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

“We need to do this,” he said, “because the world is looking for Christ in us.”

Thank you Bishop Devadhar, for your bold and prophetic leadership.

Thank you Will Green for making the motion and working tirelessly for full inclusion.

Thank you to the clergy who gave witness to their pain as gay pastors in the United Methodist Church.

And thank you to all of those who worked so hard in so many ways to make this happen.

As Dr. King said, "The time is always right to do the right thing."

The full text is printed below.


The New England Annual Conference as a body affirms our commitment to a fully inclusive church.  Therefore: 
The NEAC will not conform or comply with provisions of the Discipline which discriminate against LGBTQIA persons, including marriage (161.B), the incompatibility clause (161.F), ordination and appointments (304.3), homosexual unions (341.6), AC funding ban (613.19), GCFA funding ban (806.9), chargeable offenses pertaining to being "a self avowed practicing homosexual" or to officiating at weddings for couples regardless of the sex of the partners (2702.1b,d). 
The NEAC and its members will not participate in or conduct judicial procedures related to the Discipline's prohibitions against LGBTQIA persons. 
The NEAC insists that any benefits available to clergy and employees and their families are available to all clergy and employees and their families, regardless of the sexes or genders of the partners, and requires the District Superintendents to inform all clergy under their supervision of this right. 
The NEAC will realign its funding to reflect these commitments, using no reserve funds to pay for judicial procedures related to the Discipline's prohibitions against LGBTQIA persons, and instead requests the Connectional table and CCFA develop and fund programs of cultural competency, anti-racism, antiageism, anti-sexism, anti-oppression and anti-homophobia training at the conference and district levels, as well as for advocacy and implementation efforts related to the same.  

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