An Open Letter to the Council of Bishops
of the United Methodist Church

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An Open Letter to the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church

An Open Letter to the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church
(in response to their pastoral letter of Nov. 2, 2005)

As an elderly Christian lesbian and transgender activist, I am grateful to you for affirming salvation by grace (not merit), for asserting the sacred worth of all persons, and for rebuking the Judicial Council for upholding a pastor's refusal of church membership to an openly partnered gay man. My local newspaper carried a double headline about the defrocking of a lesbian pastor and the rejection of the gay man's request for membership, leaving the impression the United Methodist church is a very frosty place for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people and those who love them. During my many years as an English professor at a state university, it was this sort of news clipping, brought to me by students who knew of my Christian faith, that was deeply embarrassing and impossible to defend.

So I am thankful that as Bishops of the Church, you have declared your belief that all persons are eligible to be professing members and participants in programs in a "community of hospitality." But for me, all this raises a disturbing moral dissonance. Hospitality, membership, participation, and community are highly egalitarian concepts. And your affirmation of people's sacred worth certainly implies that everybody is to be respected equally and offered equal access to all privileges, responsibilities, and positions within the church. Yet in The United Methodist Church, openly lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people are not eligible for either ordination or rituals of marriage, regardless of their qualifications and in many cases the stellar quality of their lives and relationships. How can such exclusion be justified within a "community of hospitality"?

Through the years I have met many deeply closeted lesbian and gay United Methodist pastors. The price they are forced to pay in order to maintain their credentials is stupendous. Why is the church the most egregiously unequal opportunity employer in an already unjust society? Wouldn't your concern for evangelism and social justice be enhanced by just behavior within your own sphere of influence?

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