Post submitted by Rev Dr Denise Donnell, HRC Faith Organizer
On Saturday, the United Methodist Church (UMC) decided to declare the appointment of openly lesbian Bishop Karen Oliveto illegal. Oliveto’s appointment was challenged earlier this year by the South Central Jurisdiction of the Church.
As an ordained itinerant elder in the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church, who advocates specifically for people of faith who are LGBTQ in sacred spaces, I was shocked and appalled by this decision.
As a Black woman, I am baffled at the audacity of members of oppressed populations to oppress others.
As an ordained itinerant elder, I am embarrassed that some of my colleagues stand on God's word to exclude God's people from God's church.
As a United Methodist, my soul grieves at the number of people to whom we deny access to the Cross because they are different from us.
As a community pastor, however, I am hopeful. To every LGBTQ United Methodist person of faith and allies, be encouraged. We are standing on the right side of history. In the days ahead, hold on to these words, also attributed to the apostle Paul:
"We have this treasure from God, but we are only like clay jars that hold the treasure. This is to show that the amazing power we have is from God, not from us. We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. We often don’t know what to do, but we don’t give up. We are persecuted, but God does not leave us. We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed" (2 Corinthians 4:7-9, ERV).
LGBTQ religious leaders deserve the recognition of their peers, and the opportunity to lead the faithful in the same way non-LGBTQ leaders do. The Western Jurisdiction of the Church saw fit to recognize, elevate and celebrate Bishop Oliveto. The UMC would have been best served by honoring their congregants’ decision.
People look to their faith as a source of guidance and inspiration -- and LGBTQ people are no different. HRC Foundation’s Religion and Faith Program is working to create a world where nobody is forced to choose between who they are, whom they love and what they believe. Learn more at www.hrc.org/explore/topic/religion-faith.