A Post by Rev. Brandan Robertson and Rev. Rich McCullen
As we begin this new decade, the United Methodist Church has officially implemented what has been called “the traditional plan”, which seeks to exclude LGBTQ+ clergy from the life of the denomination. As we watch the faithful resistance of some many queer clergy and allies in these moments, we feel like now is the time for us to speak up about our own denominations position on LGBT+ inclusion. For those who do not know, we are currently commissioned and ordained pastors in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). While we are incredibly excited and grateful to be a part of a denomination that has, since its inception, held a posture of inclusion for all who claim the name of Christ regardless of their theological perspectives, we are also frankly distressed by the stance our denomination has taken on the topic of LGBT+ inclusion and intersectional justice.
As of 2020, The Christian Church (or DOC) has refused to change its denominational policy to be one that is fully affirming of sexual and gender minorities in the Church. The denomination has opted to allow individual regions and churches to decide whether or not they will affirm sexual and gender minorities, and continues to encourage church planting and revitalization led by nonaffirming pastors and leaders. While we understand that this sort of theological freedom is cherished as part of our history and tradition, when human lives and dignity are on the line a boundary line must be drawn.
To hold a posture that is so “open” that it includes those who do not affirm the full dignity and equality of any human being because of the way they have been created is an affront to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not a matter of orthodoxy or theological correctness at all, but a matter of human dignity and justice that reveals that our denomination, at its highest levels, is functioning out of fear instead of conviction, valuing so-called autonomy and unity over the fundamental dignity of human beings made in the image and likeness of God.
And while our denomination boldly claims that we are committed to inclusion, our actions reveal that we have an insufficient understanding of what it means to be truly inclusive. Until we are willing to take a bold and firm stance on the side of equality and embrace of all human beings—including sexual and gender minorities—we will continue to walk counter to the Spirit of God, which is calling all Christians toward greater inclusion and embrace, and we will continue to perpetuate irreparable harm toward sexual and gender minorities in DOC churches across North America.
As an openly LGBT+ ministers under the leadership of a fully inclusive Regional Minister, this is not a major problem for our ministry or the life of our congregations. But the regions that continue to plant, revitalize, and ordain nonaffirming ministers pose a real, tangible threat to individual LGBT+ people in those communities and damage the witness of our denomination. For, including and embracing human beings based on identity is not a matter of differing theological opinions, but a fundamental matter of human rights and justice.
To be a part of a DOC faith community, no one should have to justify the validity of any aspect of their identity as a human. If we continue to stand in unity with communities that marginalize and exclude sexual and gender minorities, we are, in fact, attacking the fundamental inclusion of every minority community in our denomination. For all liberation and justice is fundamentally connected, and until all people are fully embraced, no one is truly embraced. The truth of intersectional justice demands that our denomination take a firm stance for the dignity and equality of all people, including sexual and gender minorities, and refuse to partner with or support churches that perpetuate harm in the name of “fidelity to Scripture.”
Sure, this will cost us churches, money, and members. But to be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to be willing to sacrifice all temporal treasures in order to elevate the cause of the marginalized or oppressed. We now stand at a crucial moment of our history, and the Spirit is making a clear call to our denomination. Our hope and prayer is that in this new decade we will respond with courage and conviction and stand firmly on the side of true inclusion.
May it be so.
Brandan has written in more detail about this vision for radical inclusion in the church. Check out his book True Inclusion: Creating Communities of Radical Embrace from Chalice Press here.