This open letter is written and signed by over 115 United Methodist Clergywomen under age 40. We invited all concerned United Methodists to sign this letter and received an additional 967 signatures. You can sign here and read the letter below.
An Open Letter To the Bishop, Cabinet, the Board of Ordained Ministry, and the Clergy Session of the Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church:
We write to you to express the deep grief we share at the harm done by the 2022 Florida Annual Conference Clergy Session on June 9th in denying commissioning to 16 qualified candidates for elders’ and deacons’ orders based on the sexual orientation and gender identity of certain candidates. The evil, injustice, and oppression perpetrated by the Clergy Session stands in direct conflict with our baptismal vows to resist such forces “in whatever forms they present themselves.” We lament the trauma inflicted on those directly affected as well as the secondary trauma to all those present and those who witness from afar. We deplore the hostility demonstrated by a minority of voting members to the millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer persons around the world. These actions have wounded not just a few, but the entire body of Christ, and irreparably damaged our work and witness in the wider world.
The institutional power of clergy in The United Methodist Church must be used to come alongside those with less institutional power; among them, inquiring and certified candidates, and candidates for commissioning and ordination. Women remember well that it was only in 1956 when our God-given call to proclaim the Word was formally recognized, despite the witness of lives given in service to God such as Jarena Lee, Helenor Davison, Anna Howard Shaw, Anna Oliver, Lydia Sexton, and Eugenia St. John. As we remember centuries of institutional prejudice against women, we recognize similar injustice occurring today. By denying God’s gifts and graces for ministry in the lives of these sixteen candidates, the church once again shows the effect of ongoing discrimination against LGBTQIA+ people. We are clearly a long way away from learning what it means to embody Wesley’s first General Rule: “Do no harm.”
In this painful place, we do wish to take a moment to particularly affirm the work of God in the lives of the candidates who submitted themselves for examination and voting before the Board of Ordained Ministry and the Clergy Session in good conscience, only to meet hearts already hardened against them. We also affirm with gratitude the work of the BoOM and the majority of the Clergy Session in their decision to examine and affirm queer candidates for commissioning in the Florida Annual Conference. We affirm and give thanks for the local churches that have lifted up queer candidates for ministry, the district committees that certified them, and the ministry settings that have prepared to receive them as commissioned deacons and elders. We bear witness to the pain of many other queer people who have been quietly pushed out of the ordination process at the local church, district, and conference board of ordained ministry levels. This public rejection amplifies the everyday discrimination experienced by queer United Methodists called into licensed or ordained ministry.
We call on Bishop Carter and the appointive cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference to honor projected appointments, with full pay, benefits and pension, for this class of candidates for the coming year. Though this will not erase the injuries inflicted on the candidates, it will ensure that they will not suffer financial harm as a result of this unfaithful act that denies the calling of sixteen of God’s children. We also call upon the Florida Annual Conference to proactively reimburse counseling and spiritual direction and other mental health expenses incurred by clergy and candidates alike due to this traumatic experience.
We call upon clergy across the Connection to “take thou authority” by dismantling the evils of homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in every place and resisting the injustice and oppression that stems from these. As annual conferences meet throughout this year and in those to come, we implore them to uphold the dignity and calling of their candidates for commissioning and ordination. We encourage Boards of Ordained Ministry to recommend candidates for commissioning and ordination based solely on their divine calling and readiness for ministry regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Likewise, we pray that ordained clergy would affirm the work of their Conference Board and vote to receive them. Human-made divisions must not be a barrier to affirming God-given gifts of ministry or calls to ordained life.
We reaffirm our own commitment to LGBTQIA+ justice and inclusion and will work for a church where all people can grow as disciples of Jesus Christ. As part of that commitment, we invite all queer certified candidates – those who are #CalledOut or #HiddenFaithful – to join the United Methodist Queer Clergy group at https://www.umqcc.org. We also invite both queer clergywomen under 40, and candidates under 40 whose commissioning or ordination has been denied or delayed due to homophobia and transphobia, to join Young Clergy Women International at https://youngclergywomen.org/about/membership-ycwi/application-for-membership-ycwi/. Simply let us know you are applying for exceptional membership from the UMC in the “Documentation of Clergy Status” section, and we will welcome you into our worldwide community.
We call upon all United Methodists to reject the tactics of the separatists fighting to impoverish the leadership and financial viability of The United Methodist Church. If you have the financial means, we invite you to embrace and further the work of the Holy Spirit by supporting queer clergy development with financial gifts. Your gifts of time, talent, and treasure to reconciling ministries nationally and locally are deeply appreciated. We also encourage the establishment of funds with local foundations and seminaries specifically for queer seminarians, and/or direct aid as appropriate.
We join our voices with Mary of Nazareth and women throughout history who have sung, prayed, and lived the Magnificat. We have dedicated our lives to announcing good news. We believe in a time when the mighty are cast down and the humble lifted up, but the sword of injustice keeps piercing our hearts. We stand at the cross witnessing the breaking body of Christ. Will the church tend to the wounds it inflicts? Will we stop the harm, make amends, and follow the Spirit into a resurrected church?
Your siblings in Christ, the divine source of peace and justice,
The United Methodist Clergywomen Listed Below and other Concerned United Methodists across the Connection
For the full list of signatures, visit https://forms.gle/jVRBAs6FecSedE3P8