Lay, clergy call for ‘reconciliation and justice’

Lay, clergy call for ‘reconciliation and justice’

March 20, 2019

Over 1100 Iowa United Methodist lay and clergy have signed a statement committing “ourselves and our churches to the necessary and ongoing work of reconciliation and justice.”  The statement is a “witness to the grace of God that is available to all persons.”
 
Crafted in “this moment [of] repentance,” according to Rev. Anna Blaedel, a co-author of the statement, the 89 original signers believe that “there is so much work to do to learn and unlearn…if we have a faithful future together.”
 
The supporters of the document, who are “clergy and laity who are self-avowed and LGBTQIA [who] have experienced the violence inflicted by the church and continue to be harmed… [and] laity and clergy who are straight, confess to the harm that we have caused and been complicit in.”  The hope for all of the signers is that “this statement [will be] the first step in the ongoing work of reconciling ourselves and our church with God’s love.”
 
Written in response to a statement from the Appointive Cabinet of the Iowa Conference in which they “confess and grieve that great harm has been and continues to be done,” the statement from lay and clergy “is not for them [the Appointive Cabinet] to lead but for faithful United Methodists in Iowa to follow the call of the Gospel and to learn from the wisdom and insights of queer persons,” said Rev. Tyler Schwaller.  
 
“We want the system to…[dismantle] unjust systems and courageously and faithfully” seek justice, Blaedel said.

1100 signers' covenant

The over 1100 signers “covenant to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves, even, and especially, when they present themselves in our beloved church.”
 
According to Rev. Nate Nims, “The special called General Conference was disappointing,” something lamented by the signers who feel “The United Methodist Church took multiple, aggressive, vindictive steps backward” at the worldwide denominational assembly.  “It’s becoming clear” to Nims and “more and more of us that our current legislative system will not be a way forward, so instead of waiting for change, we will find a new way forward together.”  The document’s supporters agree, noting, “we must find a better way forward and covenant to be in just, loving, and grace-filled ministries whose impact and importance cannot be legislated away.”
 
The “Statement from Iowa United Methodist Laity & Clergy to the Bishop & Appointive Cabinet” was written by a group of people to “give everyone, laity and clergy, a chance to be involved,” Nims said.  In an effort to “create a movement for justice in our church…this statement paves the way to further engagement and change…and this is the first step we are taking together for the future of our church.” 
 
This first step, for Blaedel, “is a strong and collective refusal from Iowa United Methodists to resist the policies, practices, and procedures that are currently being used to punish and persecute…‘self-avowed, practicing’ LGBTQIA siblings who refuse to hide, or be ruled by fear.”
 
The witness

Witnessing to the “prevenient grace that is with and for all persons,” the signers
  • “Refuse to accept the harmful and unholy United Methodist stance that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching”
  • “Admit that our congregations, filled with diverse laity and clergy, are seeking to witness to the grace of God”
  • “Will no longer abide by the restrictions the Book of Discipline has placed on the inclusion of LGBTQIA people in the full life of The United Methodist Church”
  • “As clergy…will take the authority to perform marriages, with respect to our consciences”
  • “Implore the District Committees on Ordained Ministry and the Iowa Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry to recommend qualified candidates for ministry, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity”
  • “Encourage the Bishop to dismiss charges against LGBTQIA clergy”
  • “Encourage the Bishop to use her authority to consecrate, commission, and recognize the call of all qualified and elected candidates for ministry…without regard for sexual orientation or gender identity”
 
The increase from 89 original signers, lay and clergy, to nearly 1000 has taken place in just a few days.  Asked about the change the statement could bring about, Nims said, “I hope our churches, laity, and clergy, will be empowered and encouraged to know that their ministry with and for LGBTQIA persons is good news.”  He believes “everyone has a place at God’s table, and our church needs to welcome our LGBTQIA kin with grace.  Christ calls us to love God and one another, and together, in a more just and inclusive church, we will keep striving towards perfection in love.”