Magazine article The Christian Century

A Letter to the People of the United Methodist Church

Magazine article The Christian Century

A Letter to the People of the United Methodist Church

Article excerpt

A Letter to the People of The United Methodist Church,

The space for this open letter was donated by The Iliff School of Theology

The recent decision of the United Methodist Judicial Council condoning the exclusion of gay and lesbian members is contrary to historic biblical and theological understandings of what it means to be a member of the church of Jesus Christ. We stand with the denomination's bishops, who declared "homosexuality is not a barrier" to church membership. As theological educators responsible for assisting the church in the preparation of pastors and other Christian leaders, particularly in The United Methodist Church, we respectfully request an immediate reversal of this action, lest the witness and service of the Body of Christ be further harmed.

Theologically, the very being of the church requires the inclusion of God's people at every level of the church. Inclusiveness is not a theological option or simply beneficial. The "koinonia" fellowship of the Holy Spirit is violated when some Christian believers are excluded, stigmatized, and suffer discrimination because of the church's teachings and actions. The church is not the church of Jesus Christ when it excludes persons from membership and leadership by categories, evaluating persons on a basis other than faith, character, and commitment.

Inclusiveness is a precondition for being the "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church" that we proclaim in the Nicene Creed and affirm in Article XIII of United Methodism's Articles of Religion. This mandate of ecclesiological inclusiveness is embedded in Article IV of United Methodism's "Constitution" and reinforced throughout the Discipline.

United Methodism rejects a theology and practice of exclusion, having learned from painful personal and historic struggles of segregation, disunity, and brokenness that the Gospel of Christ has an inclusive heart. The sins of stigmatization and discrimination are immoral actions and attitudes contrary to the Word of God in Jesus Christ. Wherever and whenever it occurs, it causes personal and social harm, and does great damage to the church as well. Furthermore, the Social Principles of the denomination clearly state "that God's grace is available to all, and we will seek to live together in Christian community" imploring "families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends."

We call upon all pastors and church members to reject the mistaken teachings of ecclesiological exclusion and ask the Judicial Council to swiftly remedy their ruling which severely undermines the nature, mission and ministry of the church.

* Deok-Weon Ahn, Assistant Professor of Worship and Preaching, Drew Theological School

* Antony Alumkal, Assistant Professor of Sociology of Religion, The Iliff School of Theology

* Edward Antonio, Associate Professor of Theology and Social Theory, Diversity Officer, The Iliff School of Theology

* Phil Amerson, President, Claremont School of Theology

* Wesley Ariarajah, Professor of Ecumenical Theology, Drew Theological School

* Maxine Clarke Beach, Vice President and Dean, Drew Theological School

* Bruce Birch, Dean and Miller Professor of Biblical Theology, Wesley Theological Seminary

* Kathleen Black, Gerald Kennedy Chair of Homiletics and Liturgics, Claremont School of Theology

* Louis Bloede, Director Emeritus of Ministerial Studies, The Iliff School of Theology

* Carole Bohn, Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology and Religion, Boston University School of Theology

* Tom Boomershine, G. Ernest Thomas Professor of Christianity and Communication, United Theological Seminary

* Donald Bossart, Associate Professor of Interpersonal Ministries, retired, The Iliff School of Theology

* Alejandro Botta, Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University

* Katherine Brown, Director, STM Program, ESOL Coordinator, Drew Theological School

* W. …

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