An Endorsement Against Church Bigotry and The Injustice of ¶ 304.3 – The Feminist Wire

An Endorsement Against Church Bigotry and The Injustice of ¶ 304.3

What better time to stand in solidarity with those called to religious institutions, yet marginalized due to structural bigotry, than what is interpreted by many as Holy Week?  Please see the press release below.

The Editors



April 19, 2011


Unprecedented Endorsement by African American UMC Scholars and Clergy Urging Ordination of Homosexual Clergy

Media Contact: Dr. Pamela R. Lightsey (773) 641-4992 [email protected]


An Endorsement Against Church Bigotry and The Injustice of  ¶ 304.3

On January 31, 2011 thirty-six retired bishops of the United Methodist Church released A Statement of Counsel to the Church calling for the removal of ¶ 304.3 from The Book of Discipline (2008). Their statement is particularly directed at this paragraph because it serves as part of current UMC polity that prohibits ordination, certification as candidates, or appointments to serve in ministry of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.”

On February 25, 2011 at its 44th Annual Meeting, Black Methodists for Church Renewal (BMCR) voted to endorse our retired bishops’ statement.

As committed citizens of God’s beloved kingdom, we, the undersigned Black clergy and scholars of the United Methodist Church also endorse the bishops’ statement and applaud the action taken by our colleagues of BMCR. The action is an expression of the original intent of BMCR to be a renewing agent within and beyond the United Methodist Church, not just on matters of race, but on justice issues beyond race. The current critical discussion within our church on matters related to sexual identity isthe issue beyond race that BMCR should, and is now addressing in a manner consistent with its historic advocacy for civil rights in the midst of unrestrained horrific discrimination.

As Black people we are uncomfortably familiar with discrimination. We have borne the weight of building up our nation and our United Methodist Church even under the harsh strokes of racism justified by theological convictions and human arrogance. Imperfect humans draped in an august array of Christian doctrines uttering an allegiance to “scriptural authority” and “natural law” are not new scenes on the landscape of Church history. Amazingly we who oppose such bigotry find ourselves in a strange and disturbing place: too many fellow progeny of Black slaves have now joined ranks with those who spew bigotry and, to our dismay, are wielding doctrine and scripture as their tools just as was done during slavery and the Jim Crow era. As before, segments within our church polity are the bulwark of this discriminatory logic.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made this prophetic comment about the church in his 1965 eulogy of civil rights activist, Rev. James Reeb: “He was murdered by the irrelevancy of a church that will stand amid social evil and serve as a taillight rather than a headlight, an echo rather than a voice.” As persons of African descent, we have seen the Church be a taillight regarding colonialism, slavery, segregation, and the rights of women. Since 1972, in its language and legislation the UMC has been a taillight on the rights of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) persons in our denomination and to the world.

Now, forty-six years later, facing the civil rights issue of this epoch, rather than silence, we Black clergy, leaders and scholars with bold voice and through this document say, “No more!” Too many are being murdered. Too many are being bullied. Too many have committed suicide.

Sadly, the season in which the United Methodist Church might have been a headlight for justice in the affirmation of the God-given rights of same gender loving persons has passed. Actions of secular courts and legislatures as they have responded to the equality provisions of our Constitution have affirmed the human and civil rights of same gender loving persons in ways our denomination has not. We trust that the delegates to the 2012 General Conference will rescind language and legislation that denies those rights.

Howard Thurman in “Jesus and the Disinherited,” described God as very present with those who are relegated to places outside the gate. BMCR embraced this belief in their support of the statement by our retired Bishops. We join them because we know that the Jesus who is “the center of our joy,” is also the Jesus who has stood with Black Methodists both within society and Methodism, as we challenged those who restrict and restrain us. We will not stand on the sidelines as our church through its legislation denies LGBTQ persons, access to ordination as United Methodist clergy.

We therefore emphatically support the right to ordination of LGBTQ persons. We urgently appeal to other racial/ethic caucuses, as well as other caucuses, and individuals representative of the rich diversity of the United Methodist Church to join us in our support to end this discrimination.

African American Scholars and Clergy of The United Methodist Church

Rev. Pamela R. Lightsey, PhDNorthern Illinois Annual ConferenceAssoc. VP of Student Affairs

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

Evanston, Illinois

Rev. Gilbert H. CaldwellRocky Mountain Annual ConferenceRetired Clergy

Asbury Park, New Jersey

Rev. Traci C. West, PhDNew York Annual ConferenceProfessor of Ethics and African American Studies

Drew Theological School

Madison, New Jersey

Rev. Phil LawsonCalifornia-Nevada Annual ConferenceRetired Elder

San Francisco, California

Rev. Donald Francis GuestPastor, Glide Memorial United Methodist ChurchSan Francisco, California Rev. Theodore L. LockhartNew England Annual ConferenceRetired Clergy

St. Petersburg, Florida

Rev. Linda E. Thomas, PhDNew York Annual ConferenceLutheran School of Theology at Chicago

Professor of Theology and Anthropology

Chicago, Illinois

Rev. Gennifer Benjamin Brooks, PhDNew York Annual ConferenceAssociate Professor of Homiletics

Styberg Preaching Institute Director

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

Evanston, Illinois

Rev. Cheryl B. Anderson, PhD
Baltimore-Washington Conference
Associate Professor of Old Testament
Garrett-Evangelical Theological SeminaryEvanston, Illinois