Magazine article The Christian Century

Methodist Official 'Comes out.'(Associate General Secretary Jeanne Audrey Powers of the United Methodist Church's General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns)

Magazine article The Christian Century

Methodist Official 'Comes out.'(Associate General Secretary Jeanne Audrey Powers of the United Methodist Church's General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns)

Article excerpt

Jean Audrey Powers, an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church and one of its best-known ecumenical leaders, announced July 7 that she is a lesbian. Powers is associate general secretary of the 8.6-million-member jenomination's General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns. A longtime advocate of women's rights, she is the highest-ranking United Methodist official to acknowledge that she is gay.

Powers described her action as "a political act" committed "as an act of resistance to false teachings that have contributed to heresy and homophobia within the church." In a statement Powers declared, "I have been a lesbian all my life. I've never known my identity as otherwise." While expressing dismay over "some of the actions of the United Methodist Conferences on a variety of matters, especially those affecting gay and lesbian persons," Powers said she believes that the Holy Spirit continues to nudge the church into faithfulness and self-correction." Powers maintained that her words were not an expression of "withdrawal" or "disillusionment" with the church but rather affirm that "the church is also a gift of God."

Current UMC rules bar the ordination of "self-avowed practocing homosexuals" and declare homosexuality "incompatible with Christian teaching." Under those rules, charges could be brought against Powers to force her out of her church positions. But Powers said she would not resign: "I do not intend to withdraw from the ministry or surrender my ordination papers. Neither will I indicate whether I am `practicing,' for I believe that no one has the right to know intimate details of any other person's loving sexual practices."

In the advance text of a sermon scheduled to be delivered July 15 in Minneapolis at the Reconciling Congregations Convocation, however, Powers said that during her years of ministry "certain friendships have grown into love relationships" and that she "was partnered for 17 years" but suffered through a "painful" experience which she described as divorce. Powers also revealed that in 1976 she "withdrew from an almost certain episcopal election" because she did not wish to live her life "under a magnifying glass" and because "without my partner, I could not have the king of life that I would need to sustain me dmugh difficult times." The RCC is a network of nearly 100 United Methodist churches that welcome openly gay and lesbian people.

In the sermon, seemingly designed to counter questions concerning her closeted life in the UMC, Powers lauded a "subversive strategy" designed to counter injustice within the church. According to Powers, the "heroic" Hebrew midwives who saved Moses from the pharaoh practiced such a strategy, as did those who resisted the Nazis. Powers situated her own actions throughout her ministry within the tradition of such resisters. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.