By Jessica Brodie
In an effort to seek forgiveness for and show love after the actions taken at the called special session of General Conference held in St. Louis in February, more than 600 clergy and laity of the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church signed an Open Letter of Repentance recently.
The letter was written by several members of the Reconciling Ministries of South Carolina group, part of the Reconciling Ministries Network. The RMN is an organization seeking the inclusion of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in the policy and practices of the UMC.
As of press time, 645 people had signed the letter, which can be read in full at https://tinyurl.com/RMSC-openletter.
“At the 2019 called General Conference, the members of the body voted to uphold and reinforce language in our Book of Discipline that rejects LGBTQ+ persons’ inherent worth and their full inclusion into the life of The United Methodist Church,” the letter reads in part. “John Wesley, a founder of the Methodist movement, denotes three simple rules of Christian life: Do no harm; do all the good you can; attend to the ordinances of God. As heirs of these rules (Book of Discipline Para. 104), we United Methodists have failed to uphold them in our polity and practice and in our relationships with our LGBTQ+ siblings. We repent of our sin, recognizing that repentance involves both a request for forgiveness and a commitment to change.”
The letter asks for forgiveness for failing to uphold these three simple rules and commits to a number of things, including voting for delegates for General Conference 2020 who will support the needs of LGBTQ+ persons and advocate for a fully inclusive UMC, encourage LGBTQ+ leadership, speak against hatred and for full inclusion, model God’s love for all people, repent continually of sins against LGBTQ+ and end the years of exclusion and pain caused by the church.
The signers call for the conference’s Board of Ordained Ministry to do no harm in examining and lifting up candidates for ordination, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation; for congregations to do good by welcoming fully into the church our beloved LGBTQ+ siblings, including into church leadership and employment; for clergy to seek justice for all persons in the ordinances of the church, including the celebration of Christian marriage; and for Annual and General conferences to enact legislation to embody diversity.
“We hold to John Wesley’s hope for a church that loves alike, even when it does not always think alike,” the letter concludes. “We believe that such a church is only possible when all of God’s children are given seats at the table.”