In the continuing work of marriage equality, Highlands United Methodist Church is engaged with two other Denver area United Methodist Churches- Christ Church and Cameron. Their pastors and I are aware that this prophetic ministry requires conversation. Our bishop, Rev. Elaine Stanovsky, and our Superintendent, Rev. Steve Goodier, encouraged us to write a letter to our colleagues to further dialogue. Here is what we wrote:
Clergy Colleagues of the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference,
A few weeks ago, Cameron, Christ Church (Denver), and Highlands United Methodist Churches placed an ad in Westword Magazine stating our congregation’s support of marriage equality, our willingness to offer space for same-gender ceremonies, and clergy willing to perform said ceremonies. In this month’s edition of OutFront Colorado, another version of the ad is running. You will find a link to the ads below.
Each church diligently, faithfully, and intentionally discerned this decision. Each church stands committed to the ministry of reconciling the full inclusion of the LGBTQ community within The United Methodist Church. Each church spent months dialoguing about the theological task and impact of our actions. And all three church bodies approved, by Charge or Church Conference vote, to open their sanctuaries to same-gender ceremonies. The ads in Westword and OutFront are our prophetic statement of hope and invitation. These ads “embody the teachings of Jesus” to “build the body of Christ as a caring and giving community, extending the ministry of Christ to the world” (¶3402.2d).
As churches and clergy we believe the church’s stance of an “incompatible” personhood is theologically in conflict and deviates from the theological belief that all “are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God” (¶161F). Further, we believe this incompatible statement causes brokenness, shame, and harm to our sisters and brothers who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered. We are striving to eliminate barriers that limit the good news of God’s grace and Jesus’ message of love and compassion.
As clergy committed to a covenant of direct, straightforward, and transparent ministry we notified our District Superintendent, Steve Goodier, and Bishop Stanovsky regarding these ads. The Bishop invited us to set a “context for this conversation”, which would allow for direct-dialogue between us as colleagues and connectional communities within the RMAC. Finally, we were asked to set a frame for how we believe we are living into the mission of the church and the clergy covenant.
We believe we are upholding our ordination vow of “leading the people of God to faith in Jesus Christ, to participate in the life and work of the community, and to seek peace, justice, and freedom for all people.”
We believe our actions are consistent with our vow at ordination to, “defend the UMC against all doctrines contrary to God’s Holy Word”. And the vows made at baptism, “to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves”.
We believe the United Methodist Church does not need to split over differing beliefs about homosexuality. Rather, we believe in holy conferencing, honest dialogue, and the power of God’s grace.
Please find our contact information below and know we are open to discuss our process, our polity, and our personal commitment to “be in ministry with and for all people” (¶161F). We recognize we are not all of the same mind on this issue, but believe we can love alike out of the diversity of opinions.
Rev. Jessica Rooks, Rev. Eric Strader, Rev. Bradley Laurvick