Post submitted by Rev. Dr. Denise Donnell, Senior Faith Organizer
Earlier this month, more than 75 local and visiting lay and clergy persons convened in Little Rock, Arkansas for a weekend “Embracing and Affirming LGBTQ Diversity and Inclusion within the Black Church.” HRC Arkansas and the Church Within a Church Movement presented the conference at the New Millennium Church. HRC Arkansas designed the flow for the three-day event, working to educate, celebrate and draw LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ people of faith together in covenantal relationship.
The guest speakers for the event were Bishop Tonyia Rawls, founding pastor of Sacred Souls Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina and Rev. Dennis Wiley, co-pastor of Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C.
Currently, "self-avowed, practicing" gay and lesbian persons cannot be ordained in The United Methodist Church. According to the Book of Discipline: "The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church." Although some regions still raise obstacles, gay and lesbian persons who take a vow of abstinence are eligible for ordination according to church law.
At the end of our time together, Rev. Gilbert Caldwell (retired United Methodist clergy) asked the gathering to endorse a statement calling on the United Methodist Church to end this discriminatory stance. The attendees resoundingly agreed and signed their names in support of this request.
The legislative branch of the United Methodist Church—the General Conference—meets every four years to set church policy. The General Conference will convene next month from May 10-20 in Portland, Oregon. Approximately 1,000 delegates (half lay leaders, half clergy) will gather to consider revisions to the Book of Resolutions, which makes pronouncements on social issues, and the Book of Discipline, which details church law. Decisions of the General Conference cannot be questioned until they are raised at its next convening.
For more information on how to become involved with HRC Arkansas, click here.
For more information about the United Methodist Church and the LGBTQ community, click here.
People look to their faith as a source of guidance and inspiration – and LGBTQ people and our family and friends are no different. The HRC 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 here.