TAMPA, Fla. -- Advocates for full inclusion in the United Methodist Church lovingly confronted the dismissive and hurtful words, actions and attitudes of delegates of the General Conference this week.
After 40 years of the exclusionary policies, the General Conference conducted only one hour of “holy conversation” on the subject of the inclusion of LGBT people on first day of the General Conference.
Many people reported experiencing hurtful words during these “holy conversations.” Members of the coalition working for full inclusion set the tone for the coming week by speaking out against demeaning words and actions against LGBT people.
During the Thursday evening plenary, Mark Miller, a delegate and openly gay man, brought the concerns of the coalition before the General Conference. As he rose to speak, allied delegates began to gather around as a visible sign of support.
The following is the text of Mark’s powerful witness:
"As an elected, credentialed member of this General Conference, I am offering my voice to say that the attempt at Holy Conversation about Human Sexuality yesterday was incomplete. The process failed because of a lack of leadership and oversight. It failed because there wasn’t any careful preparation that really respects people and takes this work seriously.
"So we are standing as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender delegates. Yesterday the United Methodist Church did us harm. When we are harmed, the church is harmed. We serve at every level of the church though no one will admit it. We were bullied, emotionally, spiritually and physically. And no one did anything. We were harmed by the lack of leadership by the bishops. We abide by Wesley’s rule of Do No Harm and that rule was broken.
"We are standing because we’re not going to wait for broken promises to fix themselves. We’ve learned that in this church waiting doesn’t work. So now we’re being proactive. It’s time for this church to live our resurrection faith. And I know that there are others delegates who are GLBT and delegates who have family members and colleagues who are GLBT. We invite you to stand with us at this moment. All means all. Stand. Stand, because we can do a lot better."
At Mark’s invitation, those in the audience stood at their seats. The Presiding Bishop ruled Mark’s witness out of order. His words generated a “Stand with Mark” campaign which quickly went viral on Twitter (#standwithmark). The comments on Twitter supported both Mark, and called for the United Methodist Church to oppose bullying words and actions.
In the closing worship healing service, preaching Bishop Robert Hoshibata preached on “Love Heals.” He reported that he wanted “the church to include all, whomever they love.” Supporters for full inclusion left worship early to stand in silent protest. According to one witness, there were over 200 people standing in silent vigil outside worship. Delegates walked past the demonstration, a visible reminder that LGBT people are still an active part of the church, despite exclusionary policies.
The General Conference is meeting in Tampa, Fla. until May 4 and will consider nearly 100 resolutions concerning the inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the United Methodist Church. The Love Your Neighbor campaign is a common witness for the moral equality of LGBT United Methodists.