In an open letter to The United Methodist Church, 15 clergy members and clergy candidates came out Sunday as gay, lesbian, bisexual and queer — a bold act of defiance against a church that defrocks clergy for marrying same-sex couples or coming out.
“We are compelled now to speak out and tell the whole truth of who we are to the wider church,” they said in the letter. “Ministry requires honesty, courage, integrity.”
The letter comes just one week before The United Methodist Church, the second-largest Protestant denomination in the United States, holds its General Conference in Portland, where representatives will consider new rules allowing clergy to be openly-gay and perform same-sex weddings.
All 15 people who signed the open letter are members of the national church’s New York Conference, a region that encompasses New York City, Long Island and part of Connecticut. Methodist leaders in that jurisdiction have previously rebelled against the church’s policy by announcing they would not consider sexual orientation when evaluating candidates for clergy.
The policy states “self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”
The United Methodist Church is a global denomination, shrinking in the United States and growing in Africa, where same-sex marriage is largely out of the question.
This is the first time clergy and candidates have come out as a group, according to The United Methodist Church’s website.
Here’s a snippet from the open letter:
“Charges could be brought against me, but I will no longer lie about who I am in order to be in ministry. I pray for the day when we can all live as our authentic selves in the church,” Bruce Lamb said in a news release from the United Methodist Church.
Check back later this week for more details about the church’s upcoming General Conference in Portland.