Omvendt hyrdebrev til biskopen

Absolutt Biskop-konvoluttLegfolk i United Methodist Church i den amerikanske delstaten Texas, samler via sosiale medier underskrifter på et brev de har skrevet til sine biskoper angående kirkens syn og praksis i homofilispørsmålet. «Problemet» er at bare texanere kan underskrive. Men brevet er så relevant og sterkt at jeg, som norsk metodist-legmann, velger å videresende det til vår nordisk/baltiske biskop Christian Alsted.

Av respekt for brevets amerikanske opphaveskvinner og -menn. har jeg (med unntak av geografiske omskrivninger) bevart den originale engelske ordlyden i brevet jeg herved videresender til biskop Alsted:

Dear bishop Christian Alsted!

We write this letter representing lay members of the United Methodist Church who live, work, and worship in the country of Norway. It is in keeping our covenant with God and with the church that we write, so that we may better live out our membership vows. These vows call us to Christian discipleship, to strengthen the ministries of the UMC and to fully participate in church ministries by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness. At the heart of our vows, we accept the freedom and power to renounce and reject evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.

 We know that the position of the Church is shifting toward the full inclusion of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) siblings in Christ; yet, we lament the glacial pace of change, which hampers the pursuit of our mission to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world. We are convinced this mission can only be fulfilled through outreach and witness based in Christ’s all-inclusive love. We are deeply troubled by the harm perpetuated against LGBT people and their families by our church while we continue to wait for General Conference to take the steps necessary for reconciliation.

 We have witnessed families torn apart by spiritual violence after a loved one’s disclosure of sexual orientation or gender identity. We have witnessed the deaths of people young and old who have died by suicide, worn down and broken by years of abuse. We have mourned the loss of many to AIDS and indifference in a spiritual culture that privileged misguided piety over compassion. We have witnessed beloved couples within our congregations seek the pastoral care of their ministers as they prepare for marriage, only to be turned away, bringing great pain to both the couple and the clergy person. We have witnessed gifted clergy fall victim to witch-hunts and suffer the removal of their credentials and ministry. We have endured the isolation of holding a sometimes unpopular view among people of faith too entrenched in fear to hear God’s call to be reconciled with all people. Often the church has directly contributed to these harms, but even when it has not, the church has been complicit by its complacency.

 Despite the adversity faced by our LGBT family, friends, and allies in society and the church, we profess the Christian faith found in the Old and New Testaments and strive for beloved community. But, we struggle to faithfully participate in the ministries of the church and make new disciples of Christ when the presence, gifts, talents, and witness of our LGBT sisters and brothers are not fully recognized or appreciated. The One who calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves also calls us to enter the temple when it has been profaned and overturn the tables.

 Marriage equality has reached Norway. More and more congregations will feel called to open their sanctuary doors and celebrate services of Christian marriage for prepared same-sex couples in their congregations. More and more clergy will begin to officiate these sacred events. And you will receive complaints against us for violating the Book of Discipline—the same book that says, “We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.” We must begin to live out our commitment to the part of the Book of Discipline that says we are committed to supporting “the human rights and civil liberties . . . of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation.”

 As the norwegian society moves toward acceptance of LGBT people, the UMC continues to resist this positive and Christ-centered change. We understand change in denominational policy cannot occur outside of General Conference, and we recognize there is no assurance of change in 2016. Nevertheless, many of us are called to open the full ministries of the Church to all now. We cannot in good conscience continue to be proxies of institutional discrimination against our LGBT neighbors. We cannot continue to prioritize institutional maintenance over the mission and ministries of the United Methodist Church. And while we value our connectionalism and prefer not to violate the Discipline, we cannot continue to wait on the General Conference to right this wrong.

 We find it shameful that society is ahead of the Church. We are embarrassed to be the last of the mainline Protestant denominations to repent of the sin of exclusion and embrace marriage equality and ordination of qualified LGBT candidates. (nb: uthevet av meg) We believe that the UMC will be strengthened by the full inclusion of LGBT people into the life and ministry of the Church. Inclusion represents a step onward to perfection, and we will do all in our power to help the Church move forward. It is time for a faithful witness to the Gospel of Christ. This is our witness—it is our prayer, our gift, and our service to our Church.

 That we might better represent Christ to the world and make disciples for the transformation of the world, we sign our names to this document, which is as much a pledge to hold ourselves accountable to the inclusive love of God as it is a call to you, the Bishops of our United Methodist conferences in the state of Texas, to follow precedent set in other areas of the connection when faced with complaints about marriage ceremonies of LGBT people in the Church. We call on you to follow the process of seeking just resolution, rather than trial proceedings that are harmful to Christ’s people and the mission and ministries of our Church. Until a better solution comes to us through revision of the Book of Discipline, this is how we seek to manifest the life of the gospel in our Church and in our world.

 Will you join us, bishop Christian?