From our Bishop:
November 3, 2005
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
I greet you in the loving name of Jesus.
I write to you from the Council of Bishops, who are meeting at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, October 30 – November 4, 2005. In response to the Judicial Council Decision #1032, the Council of Bishops has prayerfully written a pastoral letter to the Church. I support this letter wholeheartedly and want you to know my personal thoughts as well.
Many of you are in great pain, especially our church members and constituents who are gay, lesbian, trans-gendered and bisexual. As United Methodists we believe that Christ invites all persons to His church and His table without reservation or barrier. Sincere faith and a desire to seek and know Christ are the only criteria. As one who has known exclusion because of race and gender, I grieve for the man who was denied membership in the church. I am in prayer for our church that we may not see the erroneous action of one pastor as a license to deny membership based on individual and personal criteria.
I am asking that this episcopal pastoral letter be read in our congregations at worship on either Sunday, November 6 or November 13, 2005, as well as offered for bulletin inserts, church newsletters and study, as you are able in your diverse settings.
Let us continue to be faithful and not lose hope. God is with us.
Yours in peace,
Bishop Beverly J. Shamana
And this, from all the Bishops. ALL OF THEM.
This is the statement approved by the Council of Bishops on Nov. 2, 2005
A Pastoral Letter to the People of The United Methodist Church
From the Council of Bishops
By grace you have been saved through faith.
Grace to you from Jesus Christ who calls his church to welcome all people into the community of faith as it proclaims the Gospel. The Judicial Council, our denomination’s highest judicial authority, recently issued a decision regarding a pastor’s refusing a gay man’s request for membership in the church. In the case, this man was invited to join the choir at the United Methodist Church in the community. As he became more active in the choir and the church, he asked to transfer his membership from another denomination to The United Methodist Church. Because he is a practicing homosexual, the pastor refused to receive him into church membership. The Judicial Council upheld the pastor’s refusal of membership. While pastors have the responsibility to discern readiness for membership, homosexuality is not a barrier. With the Social Principles of The United Methodist Church we affirm: “that God’s grace is available to all, and we will seek to live together in Christian community. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.”(Para. 161g, 2004 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church) We also affirm our Wesleyan practice that pastors are accountable to the bishop, superintendent, and the clergy on matters of ministry and membership. The United Methodist Church is committed to making disciples of Jesus Christ with all people. We, the bishops of the Church, uphold and affirm that the General Conference has clearly spoken through the denomination’s Constitution on inclusiveness and justice for all as it relates to church membership: “The United Methodist Church acknowledges that all persons are of sacred worth. All persons without regard to race, color, national origin, status, or economic condition, shall be eligible to attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments, upon baptism be admitted as baptized members, and upon taking the vows declaring the Christian faith, become professing members in any local church in the connection.” (Article IV, Constitution of The United Methodist Church) We believe the ministry of the local church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is to help people accept and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We call upon all United Methodist pastors and laity to make every congregation a community of hospitality.
Nov. 2, 2005
Lake Junaluska, N.C.