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Rights activists march on May 16 around the Oregon Convention Center, the site of the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. Using the theme of Jericho in which walls were brought down, the demonstrators were demanding that the church be more inclusive of LGBTQ people in its ministries. Photo by Paul Jeffrey, UMNS.

Photo by Paul Jeffrey, UMNS

Rights activists march on May 16 around the Oregon Convention Center, the site of the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. Using the theme of Jericho in which walls were brought down, the demonstrators were demanding that the church be more inclusive of LGBTQ people in its ministries.

Clergy offer support to LGBQT pastors despite GC2016 action

By Kathy L. Gilbert
May 16, 2016│PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS)

More than 1500 United Methodist clergy have signed a letter stating they would refuse to fill the pulpit of a LGBTQ pastor who was removed for “God’s given sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Marching around the Oregon Convention Center, a group of LGBTQ supporters, sang and shouted, “Tear the Walls Down Now” in reference to the Bible story of Jericho, and asked an openly gay pastor to be a bishop candidate.

Reconciling Ministries Network announced the letter supporting LGBTQ clergy in a press conference. The Love Your Neighbor Coalition organized the march. Supporters of full inclusion in the church are vocal and visible as the 2016 United Methodist General Conference enters the second week of the international meeting in Portland.

The lawmaking body of the denomination will set church law and policy before the conference ends on May 20. More than 100 pieces of legislation relate to full inclusion of LGBTQ people. LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning. Some advocacy groups add I for intersex.

The Rev. Ginger Gaines-Cirelli, pastor of Foundry United Methodists Church in Washington; the Rev. Gil Caldwell, retired; and the Rev. Frank Schaefer, pastor of University United Methodist Church in Isla Vista, California, wrote the letter now circulating across the denomination.

“We, the undersigned clergy of The United Methodist Church, believe it is time – time for us to end the practice of requiring LGBTQI clergy and clergy candidates to hide their most authentic selves. Thus, we call upon General Conference to remove the prohibitions against openly LGBTQI persons being ordained and serving as clergy in our churches,” the letter states.

“One’s God-given sexual orientation or gender identity neither qualif(ies) nor disqualif(ies) a person for ordained ministry,” Gaines-Cirelli said.

Since Monday, May 9, more than 120 LGBTQ clergy and candidates have come out as gay and in a letter addressed to The United Methodist Church.

Last week, the Rev. David Meredith married Jim Schlachter, his boyfriend of 28 years.

Joey Lopez, a member of the Love Your Neighbor Coalition, introduced Meredith at the march. Then he said, “I have been having a conversation since August. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had an outed gay bishop?”

The crowd roared approval.

Meredith, pastor of Clifton United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, explained why he is willing to answer the call.

“One of the responsibilities of United Methodist clergy is to be available to the call of God for episcopacy. So when people here asked me to be available, I felt the urging of the Spirit and the power of God to say ‘yes.’

“Love will make us better instead of exclusion that makes us worse.”

Gilbert is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.