In powerful testimonials, the active United Methodist bishops of the Western Jurisdiction explain why they have taken the bold step of pledging Safe Harbor for LGBTQ+ United Methodist Clergy and candidates, and for those officiating at same-sex weddings.
To learn more and to sign to support the bishops’ declaration, visit: http://bit.ly/safe-harbor-umc
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Bishop Karen Oliveto:
We who are LGBTQ United Methodists, who have heard Jesus’ call to follow him and have heard that call is to ordained ministry; we’ve been examined carefully by our local churches, by our district committees on ordained ministries, by our boards of ordained ministries, by the district superintendents we’ve worked under, by the churches we have served, the staff-parish relations, and our bishops.
And we now live in fear that how we serve isn’t good enough because of who we are.
The Western Jurisdiction’s bishops are inviting all of our colleague bishops as well as all United Methodists to stand and support with us as we commit to sharing the abundant love of Jesus — the deep grace, generous grace of God — with all people, especially LGBTQ United Methodists, as they realize that there is a home, there is a safe harbor, there is a place for you in the body of Christ.
Bishop Grant Hagiya:
I met a military chaplain on a visit, visiting all our Asian-based military chaplains. The young man wanted to speak and we talked. We developed a mentoring relationship and through the years he told me about his experience in telling his family who did not know this [that he was gay]. They are a conservative family and so he was really worried. He did that and afterward, his dad said, “So what’s this important news you have to tell us?”
His mom said, “We love you and will always love you. This changes nothing.”
And a sister said, “And you didn’t think we knew this already?”
The story is about grace and what it means to be in a family of love and acceptance. That’s the way the church should be; a place of divine love and acceptance and nothing will stand between that and the love of God.
So, this is the reason why this is so important. The thousands of people who face the same circumstance and may not have that same type of acceptance with their family. They should have it with the church of Jesus Christ, and especially The United Methodist Church.
Bishop Elaine Stanovsky:
There are LGBTQ clergy in our church right now who are preparing sermons for Sunday, who are offering Bible study, visiting sick people in the hospital. They may be at home, making breakfast for their kids and their spouse. By and large, these folks have grown up in the church, they’ve been loved by the church, they’ve learned that God loves them in the church, they’ve received a call to ministry.
And they’ve been examined and approved for ministry, and ordained, and appointed — and they serve under persecution.
There was a time when I had to ask myself, how will I as a bishop share the risk that these faithful folk experience in our church? And I came to the decision that I just couldn’t bring myself, — I was unwilling and unable to bring forward complaints against them — to put them through an arduous task, to continue the persecution.
And so, I’ve decided not to process those complaints so that they can be engaged in their ministries and their lives with joy and without the threat of damage.
Bishop Minerva Carcaño:
The time has come for us to take a stand of conscience. We have for too long as United Methodists lived under our own unjust laws that discriminate against our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. They are our church members. They are our family members. They are our siblings.
They are our neighbors in every community around the world where we serve, that are yearning for safe harbor somewhere under God’s great vision of an inclusive world, a world where all of us are recognized as the children of God, each one of us made uniquely in God’s image.
It’s been too long. It’s time to step up and live into God’s hope and God’s vision, a vision of inclusion of all God’s children.
Bishop Robert Hoshibata:
Chief among the many reasons why we are supporting the Safe Harbor Declaration is a statement that we were renouncing the spiritual forces of wickedness, rejecting the evil powers of this world, repenting of our sin, and accepting the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.
Those words are very familiar to us. They are words that we use, we hear, when we engage in that holy time, the sacrament of baptism.
I remember when a family came to me in preparation for baptism and that person asked me, “if my little baby is lesbian, would The United Methodist Church still accept her? My answer to that family was this: We believe as a people of God that God loves all people and that in this time of baptism where we are initiated into Christ’s Church, we become a member of the family of God. That’s without question and to say anything other than that or to deny that person leadership or acceptance in our churches, whether it’s in our pews are in our pulpits, is to participate in injustice.
I cannot abide living my life of faith participating in that injustice and evil. And so, for that reason, I join my voice with my colleagues in the Safe Harbor Declaration.
God loves all people, invites all of us into God’s church, and invites all of you to do the same.
Video filmed and edited by the Rev. David Valera, PNW Executive Director of Connectional Ministries.