This is one of many statments from a press conference held by 82 retired clergy in the Cal-Nevada Conference.
- by Rev. Judith Bither -
Many of us have been trying to work within the structure of our denomination for 40 years to bring justice and full inclusion of our gay and lesbian church members, family and friends. The time for debating the interpretation of scripture or moral issues is long past.
In my vows for ordination 39 years ago I pledged to be in ministry to all of God’s children. Likewise I have asked those being baptized or joining the United Methodist Church: “Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?” Surely we as clergy can do no less.
Every church I’ve served over the years included gays and lesbians, or members with lesbian or gay children or grandchildren. My own two children withdrew their membership from the United Methodist Church in 2008 because the denomination continued acting out of fear rather than trust, responding with hate rather than love, refusing to live by their motto: Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors. The church of their childhood no longer represented their core values. It broke my heart, but I understood their choice.
Five years ago a church member with a gay son living in NYC brought me a bulletin from the United Methodist worship service she attended with her son. Across the top it read boldly: There will be no weddings performed in our church until all can be married in our church. Same sex marriages are now legal in the state of California and many of us will uphold our ordination vows by treating every couple as sacred before their Creator even if this act of ministry is in violation of our Book of Discipline. And we vow with members to “resist evil, injustice and oppression.” We can do no other.
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The Reverend Judith Bither, retired, served as pastor of St. Paul's United Methodist Church, Manteca, and First United Methodist Church, Reno. She is now residing in Placerville and a part of Placerville Federated Church.