UNITED METHODIST CHURCH:
GAY-POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE GROUPS
Topics covered in this essay:
Affirmation: United Methodists for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns
organized the Reconciling Congregation Program in 1984. 1,2,3 As of 2000-NOV, it is a network
of 169 churches, 25 campus ministries, and 16,500 individuals and affinity
groups. which include persons of all sexual orientations. Some Reconciling Congregations intentionally include transgender persons as
well. They have joined with similar movements within
the Lutheran, Presbyterian, and United Church of Christ denominations. They jointly
publish a quarterly called "Open Hands"
St. Francis in the Foothills United Methodist Church in Tucson AZ, First United
Methodist of Germantown PA, and other United Methodist churches have conducted
multi-year "reconciliations" leading to total acceptance of persons of
all sexual orientations as members. James Preston, the National Outreach
explains that congregations devote time to "study and discernment" of
gay, lesbian and transsexual issues. This involves worship services, discussion groups and
other activities. They then vote on whether to become a Reconciling Congregation. As of
1997-JUL, there are 98 such congregations in the United States, including 6 campus
ministries. There are 4 Reconciling Conferences. In 1998-FEB, the number had grown to 165
congregations, ministries and agencies. This movement continues to expand, but still
represents only about 0.3% of the total number of UMC congregations.
Rev. Dr. Jeanne Knepper is co-coordinator of Affirmation. She founded Shalom
Ministries in 1993-JUL within the Metropolitan District of the Oregon-Idaho
Conference of the United Methodist Church. This is a ministry which focuses
on gays, lesbians, people on the social and economic edge, and those alienated from
religion. She said: "There is not an attempt to form a congregation. I
characterize it more as a spiritual MASH unit."
Covenant Relationships Network (CORNET) is a group advocating same-gender
covenant services/holy unions in the church. It was formed in 1997 by Rev. Dr.
Jeanne Knepper (co-coordinator of Affirmation) and other Methodists. They
the right of United Methodist clergy to celebrate holy unions between
gays and lesbians. CORNET
has been gathering signatures for "A Matter of Conscience" statement,
which would prohibit the 1996 addition to the Manual of Discipline against holy unions.
These are a group of 40 congregations, as of 1997-OCT. 37 are within the United
Methodist Church; one each is from Lutheran, Presbyterian and Uniting Church of
Australia denominations. They hold beliefs about homosexuality which are largely opposite
to the above. 5,6 They:
|Believe that homosexual activity is a sin; they do not mention homosexual orientation in
their mission statement.|
|Believe that the Holy Spirit can "transform the life of the homosexual"
(We are unsure whether they mean that the Holy Spirit can convert homosexual into a
heterosexual. They may simply mean that the Spirit can help a gay or lesbian accept a life
|Call the Church to repentance and healing for both its homophobic and accommodating
|Work towards healing homosexuals and their families.|
|Wish to integrate all repentant, redeemed persons (presumably those converted to
heterosexuality), as full, active, responsible, members of their congregations.|
Reparative counseling, which is intended to change a person's sexual orientation is
believed by most mental health professional
organizations to be ill advised. They recognize that an adult's sexual orientation is fixed and unchangeable. Transforming Congregations would agree
with the Reconciling Congregation on one point: that the denomination needs to eliminate
its homophobic beliefs and practices. Otherwise, they are poles apart.
The group was founded in 1988 by the Evangelical Renewal Fellowship of the California-Nevada
Annual Conference. In order to become a Transforming Congregation, a church must hold
a series of study sessions. They also are required to develop a program to try to help
transform homosexuals into either heterosexuals or celibates.
Shortly before charges were laid by the church against the Rev.
Dell, the Rev. Donald
Fado of St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Sacramento CA delivered a fiery sermon,
announcing his desire to lead a public gay or lesbian service "as an act of
ecclesiastical disobedience". He said "we must demonstrate to the
General Conference the folly of the exclusion." His wish came true.
Jeanne Barnett, 68, and Ellie Charlton, 63, asked to have their long term,
lesbian relationship recognized through a church ritual. Jeanne is the lay leader of the regional UMC conference and a retired state
unemployment administrator; Ellie serves on the UMC board. The Associated Press referred
to their service on 1999-JAN-16 at the Sacramento CA Convention Center as "a
civil rights demonstration." 7 The ceremony was
unusual in two aspects:
|There were 95 UMC minister officiating, (some sources
|The couple are lesbians who have lived together for 14 years. |
1200 guests turned were
present. 67 additional ministers sent letters indicating that they were there in spirit,
even though they could not be present in body. The "Sacramento 95" had earlier
stated: "We believe we are acting in the way in which Jesus Christ would
act." A personal account of the union service has been placed online by Rev.
Jagannath Prakash. 8
The ministers present chanted a blessing: "O God, our maker, we gladly
proclaim to the world that Jeanne and Ellie are loving partners together for life."
The Rev. Fado commented: "If anyone wants to file charges against us, this
is what the charges are for: praying this prayer...In our church, unfortunately, I'm
allowed to come into their home and bless their house, bless their car, bless their
tractor and even bless their dog, but I am not allowed to bless them."
Rev. Fred Phelps, a Baptist minister, and about a dozen protesters waved flashy signs that
read: "Brides of Satan" and "Methodist Fag Church."
Three women sang a hymn "God Hates Fags." Hundreds of individuals who
support equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians formed a circle to separate the
service from the Baptists.
Conservative Methodists, members of the Evangelical Renewal Fellowship, held a protest
rally at a nearby Sacramento church. They believe that the ceremony violated both Scripture and
Methodist law. In 1999-MAR, Bishop Melvin Talbert referred a complaint against the pastors
to church counsel. The logistics of recruiting almost 1200 jury members and conducting
68 or 95 trials proved to be formidable. The California-Nevada Conference decided on 2000-FEB-11 to not try the
In 1995, Martha Juillerat was a Presbyterian minister. She resigned her ordination at a
meeting of her fellow pastors in Kansas City, MO. Before resigning, she made a request of
other gay or lesbian ministers and ministerial candidates who have been denied ordination,
been forced to leave the church, or been required to keep their sexual orientation secret
as they remained ministers. She asked them to send her their stole. (A stole is a band of
cloth that ministers wear around their necks). She expected perhaps a dozen. She initially
received 80 stoles. She hang them around the room where she gave her farewell speech. "It
moved people to tears. It made it obvious that we weren't just talking about me. We were
talking about hundreds of folks who are denied the opportunity to openly serve their
Her collection has since grown to a "Shower of Stoles", totaling
almost 800 stoles from 13 different denominations. She displays them at annual
and regional meetings of various denominations, to promote discussion of
the ban on homosexual ordination. She commented: "Seeing the stoles is like seeing
the Vietnam Memorial or the AIDS quilt. It helps take this issue out of people's heads and
into their hearts. It makes it very real and very human and, to a certain extent,
de-politicizes the issue."
Ms. Juillerat felt the call to ministry as a teen. "The church meant the world
to me. I made a decision to follow the party line and be single and celibate. I guess what
I never anticipated was the terrible oppression of living a double life and of never
having anyone to share it." In 1986, she met a woman
at a support group for women clergy who would become her partner . They dated in secret. They invited only four friends
to their ceremony of holy union. For security, they had to cover the windows of the
church. Her partner had a serious bicycle accident in 1993 which nearly killed her. The
next day, Ms. Juillerat had to conduct a service without being able to tell anyone about the
incident. "After that, we decided we just could not stay hidden anymore. We
decided this was a sick way to live...Leaving the ministry was the hardest decision I ever
made in my life. I love to preach and I miss it terribly. But it was like the weight of
the world was being lifted off our shoulders. For my own sanity and peace of mind, I
needed to leave."
She took 340 stoles to a national convention of More Light churches; she took over 300
to the 1996 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA); almost 400 were
on hand at the 1997 Assembly. There was no place to
hang the display so she asked volunteers to wear them. "It became a way for people
to find a voice. I offered the option of people sending them to me anonymously. For those
people especially, it was the one opportunity they had of letting the church know that,
'Hey I'm out here.'" Rev. Bill Chadwick, co-pastor of St. Luke Presbyterian
Church in St. Paul said: "It was so moving to see all of them. I went around
looking at them by myself and just sobbed at the heartbreak of those who had received the
same sort of call from God that I did, but were unable to fulfill it."
"...we were able to present a
wonderful display at the General Conference (GC) that completely
surrounded the AMAR Coalition Resource and Hospitality Room across the
street from the Convention Center." During the summer of 2000,
they were scheduled to be displayed at nearly one dozen UMC regional conferences and at
several UMC congregations. 10
The Shower of Stoles is now a nonprofit organization with a board of directors.
- Temple United Methodist Church has an essay on the denomination's Reconciling
Congregation Program (RCP). This program helps individual congregations understand
sexual orientation. See: http://www.best.com/~ggould/tumc/rcp.html
- Reconciling Congregation Program has a web site at http://www.rcp.org
- Affirmation (United Methodists for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and transgender
Concerns) is a support group within the denomination. See: http://www.umaffirm.org/
- COvenant Relationships NETwork (CORNET) is a group advocating same-gender covenant
services/holy unions in the church. See: http://www.umaffirm.org/cornet/
- Dorothy Williams, "The Church Studies Homosexuality: Leaders Guide",
Cokesbury, Nashville, TN; (1994); Page 47.
- Transforming Congregations have a home page at: http://www.messiah.edu/hpages/facstaff/chase/h/
- R.N. Ostling, "Religion Today," AP news item, 1999-JAN-14 at: http://dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/ap/ap_us/
- Jagannath Prakash, "My praise report on the holy union in Sacramento.
Praise God!!," at: http://www.allfaith.com/LRMCC/
- A very complete analysis of the denomination's policies regarding homosexuality
can be found at David W. Perkins' site at: http://www.geocities.com/WestHollywood/4568/
- Martha Juillerat, "Shower
of Stoles hits the road with over 200 UM stoles," RCP Flashnet,
Reconciling Congregation Program, 2000-JUN-1.
Copyright © 1997 to 2000 incl. by Ontario Consultants on
Extracted from file hom_umc.htm on 2000-DEC-7
Last update: 2000-DEC-20
Author: B.A. Robinson