Jesus summarized the teachings of the Law in the commandments to love God with all that we are and all that we have and to love one another—the neighbor, the stranger, the enemy, as we love ourselves (Lk. 10:27). He left his disciples with these words, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (Jn. 15:12). The early Church was called to be a community defined by love. The Apostle Paul taught that “if one member suffers, all suffer together with it, if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it” (1 Cor. 12:26).
It is out of deep love that we have held the United Methodist Church in prayer as they gathered in a special session of the general conference to discern whether and how to be fully inclusive of Christians who identify as LGBTQ+. They have struggled to reconcile very different understandings of scripture and tradition. Their process is reminiscent of our own long struggle and we know the pain runs deep for all who are impacted by the discussions and decisions. We are also mindful that while some decisions have been made, the United Methodist Church are continuing in a process of discernment as their judicial council will meet to consider the constitutionality of the actions of the special session of the general conference. We covenant to continue to hold them in prayer.
We also recognize for many within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) and beyond, the public discussion has reopened deep wounds of years of rejection and alienation. We know that Christian churches and religious communities will continue to debate the integrity of persons’ very identities. While there may be differences in understanding scriptural teachings, it is out of a deep love that we affirm that ALL people are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). The baptismal waters give us a new identity in Christ and make us one with all who are known by God (Gal. 3:26–28). The gifts of the Holy Spirit given in baptism are sufficient for the work of ministry (1 Cor. 12:4–13). With the Confession of Belhar, we believe that “true faith in Jesus Christ is the only condition for membership of this church” (Book of Confessions, 10.3). With the Apostle Paul, we know that there is nothing that can separate us from the LOVE of Jesus Christ and we are more than conquerors through him who loves us (Rom. 8:34–39).
We are mindful of the many years the PC(USA) debated the full inclusion of LGBTQ+ Christians, the hurtful words and actions, the schisms and painful separations. While we are still learning to live with the full gifts of LGBTQ+ Christians serving in the church, we believe we have been faithful to the Holy Spirit’s leading. We are deeply enriched by the integrity and faithfulness in which all of God’s children serve in mission and ministry. We believe in the radical inclusiveness of all of God’s people, that love triumphs over judgement. We affirm the gifts we have received from LGBTQ+ Christians serving in the PC(USA) and hold to our confessional understanding that the only condition for membership in the Church is faith in Jesus Christ.
We pray that we are a witness to all who are rejected by the world, that God’s loving arms are wide open to receive and to bless. We follow the example of Jesus in standing with those who are hurting, marginalized, and oppressed. We will continue to work for a world in which all are safe and have space to live the divine dreams for their lives. No fear of loss should prevent us from reaching out in love to a hurting world.
While we are clear where we stand, we are also called to continue in relationship with those who may believe differently or may be on a continued path of discernment. While we may differ, we are united in our ecumenical commitments. We continue in prayer, dialogue, and relationship, trusting in the only One who can present us faultless before God and who remains now and forever, the Head of the Church—Jesus the Christ.