Here We Go: Methodist University Presidents Call for ‘Full Inclusion’ LGBT People in the Denomination

A copy of the Book of Discipline rests on a table during an oral hearing on May 22, 2018, in Evanston, Ill. The United Methodist Judicial Council, the denomination’s top court, heard arguments regarding a request from the Council of Bishops for a ruling on whether United Methodist organizations, clergy or lay members can submit petitions for the special General Conference in 2019. The hearing was part of the court’s May 22-25 special session. Photo by Kathleen Barry/UMNS

Ahead of next month’s special session on sexuality intended to resolve an issue that has dogged the United Methodist Church for decades, a group of affiliated college and university presidents issued a strong call for full inclusion of LGBTQ Christians.

The group, which represents presidents of 93 United Methodist-affiliated colleges and universities, urged the denomination to amend its policies and practices to recognize the “sacred worth” of people regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.

The three-paragraph statement won unanimous approval in a vote taken Friday (Jan. 4) by the National Association of Schools and Colleges of The United Methodist Church.

“We call upon the leaders of the United Methodist Church at this 2019 Called General Conference to honor the past and current practices of inclusion by amending their policies and practices to affirm full inclusion in the life and ministry of the United Methodist Church of all persons regardless of their race, ethnicity, creed, national origin, gender, gender identity/expression or sexual orientation,” the statement reads.

The 93 affiliated schools serve more than 260,000 students across the United States. They include large institutions such as American University, Boston University, Duke University and Emory University, as well as dozens of smaller schools such as Randolph College, Otterbein University and Greensboro College.

At issue is the denomination’s rulebook, the Book of Discipline, which bars “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from being ordained as ministers and forbids pastors from marrying them in the church.

The special session called for Feb. 23-26 in St. Louis is intended to resolve once and for all an issue that has divided the United Methodist Church despite repeated attempts to resolve it going back to the 1970s.

Last year, the denomination’s Council of Bishops endorsed a plan that would allow regional decision-making bodies called annual conferences to determine whether to ordain LGBTQ clergy and allow individual churches to vote whether to perform same-sex marriages in their buildings.

While the university presidents did not formally endorse that plan, they made it clear they want the language on homosexuality in the Book of Discipline stricken.

Scott D. Miller, president of Virginia Wesleyan
University. Photo courtesy of Virginia Wesleyan
University

“The presidents are really firm about full inclusion,” said Scott D. Miller, president of Virginia Wesleyan University and a board member of the National Association of Schools and Colleges of The United Methodist Church.

“It is my disappointment and the feeling of many of my colleagues that this has been one of the reasons contributing to a decline in membership and attendance,” Miller said. “The church has not stayed current with the people it serves.”

The statement on sexuality issued by the university presidents is their fourth in the past 13 years. In 2006, 2011 and 2013 the presidents drafted similar statements calling on the church to offer LGBTQ people full inclusion.

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Source: Religion News Service