New England Declaration

The New England Declaration



Music Title: The Last Waltz

THE NEW ENGLAND DECLARATION
June 2, 2000

As Christians we are called to embody Godís love in the world. As United Methodist Christians, we are united in our faith in God, our love of Christ and our commitment to seek and do Godís will as empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Even though there is much that binds us together, there is a current reality that cannot go unnamed if justice is to be done and healing is to happen. We have watched for the past two decades as General Conference actions have added increasingly condemnatory and exclusionary language to the Book of Discipline concerning the full participation of gay and lesbian persons in our denomination.

The church is deeply divided on issues related to Godís gift of sexual orientation, and any pretense that we are of one mind only serves to deepen the estrangement and isolation of those who are excluded, and imposes premature closure upon the churchís search to faithfully discern the will of God.

Called to embody Christ and extend Godís welcoming love to all, we the undersigned clergy and lay persons of the New England Annual Conference make the following affirmations:

  • WE AFFIRM human sexuality and understand homosexuality, heterosexuality and bi-sexuality to be good gifts of God. We believe that the current statement in the United Methodist Book of Discipline that "homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching" is:
    • not reflective of the historic Wesleyan unwillingness to limit prerogatives which belong solely to God, and
    • is representative of only one Biblical/theological perspective.

  • We commit to proclaim that homosexuality (no less or more than heterosexuality) is compatible with Christian teaching.

  • As clergy we will preach this from our pulpits and expose our parishioners to the fullness of the Scriptural witness on related matters in our Bible studies.

  • As lay people we will teach it in our Sunday school classes and tell it to our children.

  • WE AFFIRM that loving, monogamous, intimate relationships between persons of the same or opposite gender, are an expression of Godís love.

  • As pastors we will affirm relationships of persons who come to us (whether of same or opposite gender) who seek the affirmation of the church community on relationships which bear the signs of Godís love. We will also enable all couples to celebrate rites of union, regardless of gender.

  • WE AFFIRM the willingness of retired colleagues and others in the New England Conference to assist in this important pastoral responsibility. We further affirm the historic charge of United Methodist clergy to be in ministry according to their best discernment among the people entrusted to their care.

  • As lay people we will offer support to same-gender couples and their families in our midst as fully and wholeheartedly as we support opposite gender couples and their families. We will support the use of our buildings for celebrations of persons covenanting to love one another as life-partners.

  • WE AFFIRM that persons of all sexual orientations are equally called to ordained ministry.

  • As clergy we will affirm Godís call to ordained ministry as experienced by candidates for ministry regardless of a personís sexual orientation and welcome them into the clergy covenant.

  • As lay persons we will similarly affirm that call and we will offer ourselves fully in mutual ministry with pastors of our churches regardless of that personís sexual orientation.

  • As those who serve a God who sees the affliction of the oppressed, who hears their cry, who knows their sorrows, and who comes to deliver them, we have no other option than to attach our names to this Declaration.

  • To do otherwise would be to deny the witness of the Scriptures and to turn our back on our United Methodist heritage.

Aw, come on -- don't put on that look of shock and glazed eyes expression -- seeds sown do sprout fruit in due time -- and you know when you sow over a few decades, you are going to produce a crop! And we have a fascinating one growing here don't we? A news release by who else but the illustrous MFSA is included below, plus addresses in case you want to say something to those folks.

By the way, an elder from the Desert Southwest AC has reported that the same document has surfaced there and that all but 1 of the DS's signed it, among others. CR and I will attempt to investigate this further.

******************************************
PRESS RELEASE June 6, 2000
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Methodist Federation for Social Action
******************************************

Boston, MA (June 5, 2000) Earlier this week, over 300 clergy and lay members of the New England Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC) issued the New England Declaration, a statement voicing their support for the full inclusion of gay and lesbian persons in the life of the church, stating their strong opposition to the current policies of the UMC.

"This declaration stands in stark contrast to the events at General Conference earlier this year, where the United Methodist Church affirmed policies stating that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching," stated The Rev. Richard Harding, a retired pastor from New England and one of the drafters of the declaration. "The people who signed this statement are saying that as Christians, we believe that sexuality is God's gift to humankind, whether a person is homosexual or heterosexual. The New England Conference signers want everyone to know that ALL are welcome at our table!"

The declaration states that "the church is deeply divided on issues related to God's gift of sexual orientation, and any pretense that we are of one mind only serves to deepen the estrangement and isolation of those who are excluded, and imposes premature closure upon the church's search to faithfully discern the will of God."

It goes on to make three affirmations:

  • that human sexuality is a good gift of God (including homosexuality, heterosexuality and bi-sexuality),
  • that loving, monogamous, intimate relationships between persons of the same or opposite gender, are an expression of God's love, and
  • that persons of all sexual orientations are equally called to ordained ministry.

According to The Rev. Kathryn Johnson, Executive Director National Office of the Methodist Federation for Social Action, signers of the declaration committed to proclaim in pulpits, Sunday School classrooms and elsewhere, that homosexuality (no more or less than heterosexuality) is compatible with Christian teaching.

Last year, New England Conference voted to be a Reconciling Conference, meaning that this Conference is fully inclusive and welcoming to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals and their families. Additionally, 32 retired clergy from the New England Conference signed a statement last year stating that they would be willing to perform same sex unions despite a church law prohibiting union ceremonies between two people of the same sex.

For a copy of the New England Declaration and the signers, go to http://www.olg.com/mfsa

For further information contact:

The Rev. Richard Harding of the New England Chapter of the Methodist Federation for Social Action
Phone: 978-287-5250
Email: reharding1@juno.com

The Rev. Kathryn Johnson, Executive Director
National Office of the Methodist Federation for Social Action
Phone: 202-546-8806
Email: mfsa@olg.com

By following the link cited just above in the news release you can see the listing of the persons who signed the "declaration" along with those from other conferences who supported it. The North Carolina Annual Conference is listed with a person by the name of Jimmy Creech giving his support -- keep in mind that it is MR. Jimmy Creech -- one could be misled into believing that the NCAC is being represented by a signatory who is a clergy member of that conference, but Jimmy is a "Mr." and no longer an ordained elder in full connection -- uh, he got disconnected a while back

If you want to get in touch with CR, just click on Penelope,
our efficient mail hostess, and she will relay the message to him!

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