As some of you know, I was born Methodist Episcopal and became United Methodist. The Wesleyan quadrilateral still runs strong in my heart and soul although I call the American Baptist Church my denominational home now. I watched the debate and read the reports of the recent called General Conference of The United Methodist Church with increasing alarm as an invested believer who hoped that delegates would truly embrace The United Methodist motto, “Open hearts, open minds, open doors.” Doors closed instead. Minds seemed to hunker down. Hearts proclaimed openness while rejecting their brothers and sisters in Christ. What do you do when your church takes your hopes and visions and talents and crushes them in the name of a kind of tradition that creates insiders and outsiders with the gospel message of hope?
In the Divinity School’s statement of Commitments, we state and try to live:
The school is committed to confronting the homophobia that prevails throughout much of the church and society. We recognize the rights of lesbians and gay men within the religious community and the need for the eradication of civil discrimination based on sexual orientation. This commitment involves the exploration in the curriculum of lesbian and gay concerns as well as affirmation and support of gay and lesbian people within our community.
This commitment has not and will not change. We seek to educate and proclaim the embrace of all people and to not put conditions on that embrace. This is the power of the gospel message of hope that we will continue to try to live. As a school, we stand with our United Methodist brothers and sisters in our midst—faculty, staff, and students—and we will not back down in our commitment to eradicate homophobia, heterosexism, and transphobia in society, in our religious homes, and in our hearts. As the tears begin to dry, we will pick up our harps once again and proclaim the gospel of love…regardless.
Emilie M. Townes
E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Chair
Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society