A Church that is open to all people and values the stories, gifts, talents, and witness of its members and families. A Church characterized by affirmation that God’s grace is available to all and diversity is to be celebrated not feared. A Church where people together experience Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another as Christ has loved and accepted us. A United Methodist Church in Indiana that is in ministry with and for all people.
To United Methodists who are LGBTQI+, to our brothers, sisters, siblings, friends, families, churches, communities, and supporters, I want to convey our love and support for you and for a Church where our welcome is not hollow and our commitment to full inclusion is more than aspirational. Your sacred worth and personhood is not determined by church votes in a denomination too long divided on matters of human sexuality. The movement of God and the human rights of Hoosiers who chose to worship and do ministry in The United Methodist Church cannot be held hostage by votes at a General Conference or the wide chasm between those who read the Bible and see condemnation and others who read the Bible and see grace.
At the recent General Conference in St. Louis, the Traditional Plan was passed that retains language in the United Methodist Discipline that conveys a hurtful message of exclusion with proposed penalties for pastors and bishops and obstacles for persons who are LGBTQ+ to answer their call to ministry in our Church. Our actions as a Church have caused anger, hurt, and opened a door of discouragement when so many thousands of people were anticipating a Way Forward for a diversity of perspective and all persons to worship under the big tent of United Methodism. I am deeply pained and sorry for the harm we have done, and the fact that our attempt as a Church to resolve a long-standing division has left us no less divided.
Our actions again have made you feel talked about and not listened to or seen through the eyes of Jesus.
Many persons have expressed they will not leave their church because it is a place of welcome and vital ministry for you. Some persons have expressed their pain as though a dagger has been stabbed in their hope for change. Some of you are considering whether you will stay in The United Methodist Church. I respect your feelings and your desire to live with integrity and not with a qualified welcome or what may feel like empty words of love.
I want to end this letter by quoting words from Pastor Rudy Rasmus’ book, “Love Period, When All Else Fails,” who will be preaching the opening at our 2019 Annual Conference. Pastor Rudy has taught me and thousands that we all need love with a period; we need spiritual friends, guides and counselors. Most of all, we need Jesus Christ…
Pastor Rudy says, “The L in love stands for liberation.” Our Church needs to be liberated from this singular focus on the marginalization of part of the Body. “Our love has the potential to be unlimited, even revolutionary if we allow the flow of God’s love to surge through our words, actions, and attitudes.” We have experienced a setback on our way forward. “There is always a stone standing in the way of the power of love.”
This is a time of crisis in The United Methodist Church. Crisis and heartache can be a launching place for the drafting of a new narrative for our Conference and pouring witness as United Methodists.
Let’s write a new story where we don’t have to hide our old signs that say, Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Doors. A Church at its best where people who don’t always agree can worship together and live fully as a missional movement in Indiana and beyond.
Do not be discouraged, answer God’s call and bring renewal with justice and a place for all.
I am not leaving, and I ask you to help bring change to the Church we love for the sake of Christ Whom we follow.
Bishop Julius C. Trimble