Following is a letter read by Caroline Cramer and Abby Mendez at the 2019 Tennessee Annual Conference.
Dear Members of the Tennessee Annual Conference,
We are United Methodist LGBTQI+ youth and allies in the Tennessee Annual Conference. Some of us have been members of our United Methodist Churches since we were children and some have just joined us. While our walks of faith are different, we all have the same desire—a church that’s a place of love, where all people are truly welcome.
Jesus told his disciples and those to whom he preached, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Common English Bible Matthew. 22. 37-39). If we truly believe that everyone is born of God’s image, then it is our responsibility as Christians to show Jesus’s love to everyone equally. We cannot and should not hold back sharing our mission of making disciples for the transformation of the world. Love is love, and we should love those who express love differently than we do.
We understand there are passages in scripture that lead people to question affirming LGBTQI+ people in the church. In our Confirmation classes, we learned about the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, which teaches us to read the Bible with both reason and experience in mind. As we read these scriptures we recognize they must be held in tension with their context and with our experiences that all of us are beautifully and wonderfully made in the image of God.
We also recognize there are many things we do today that the Bible forbids. We welcome the uncircumcised; we give clergy rights to women; we allow remarriage after divorce; we allow those who are remarried to pursue a call to ministry. Our church has grown to accept all of these practices, yet has remained stagnant on human sexuality.
We need a church where all of us can be called to ministry. We need a church where all of us can look forward to being married in the sanctuaries where we’ve fallen in love with God by the pastors who have taught us to love God and love each other. We need a church where all of us are affirmed in the image of God and called into the priesthood of all believers. We need a church where we can invite all of our friends knowing they will be welcomed and affirmed. We need a church that we can be proud to tell our friends we are a part of instead of feeling like we have to hide it, or worse, feeling like we don’t belong. We need a church that celebrates the great diversity of people present in the UMC.
Many of us are deeply hurt by the passing of the Traditional Plan in St. Louis and the exclusive language in the Book of Discipline, but The United Methodist Church is so important to all of us, and we want to continue to build God’s kingdom together. We are committed to continue the mission of God’s gift of priceless love that we were taught at our baptisms. We hope and pray you will stand with us today and commit to making sure all are welcome and affirmed in The United Methodist Church.
Sincerely and in Christ’s love,
United Methodist LGBTQI+ youth and allies in the TN Conference