Last week in St. Louis, progressive members of the United Methodist Church fought to overturn the denomination’s long-standing ban on same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy. The vote took place at the special session of the church’s General Conference, which brings together Methodists from around the globe.That vote failed.
But as Block Club Chicago reported Monday, at least one Chicago Methodist congregation does not plan to follow this ruling. The United Church of Rogers Park released a statement that reads, in part, “Our resistance to injustice is a critical part of our baptismal and membership covenants, when we vow ‘to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever form it presents itself.’ Sometimes, that evil, injustice and oppression are found within church law.”
Lindsey Joyce, a pastor at the United Church of Rogers Park, joins the Morning Shift to talk more about her church’s stance.
On their reaction to the vote from Joyce’s church
Lindsey Joyce: [At] my church, our leadership is predominantly queer. We already thought that the United Methodist Church was on the wrong side of this… and so to be asked [by the United Methodist Church] to sign a sexual orthodoxy statement — my guess would be that would be something along the lines of, “We affirm only that marriage is between a man and a woman. We affirm only that that’s who can be married in the United Methodist Church” — we have many couples in our church who are just heartbroken — gay and lesbian couples. We had a man who shared with us. He’s 58 years old; he came out at 58. He’s just recently started coming to our church because he found he could finally believe you could be gay and be a Christian. And he’s just feeling like the rug’s been pulled out from underneath him.
On being a queer-affirming congregation
Joyce: Right now, what we’re doing a lot of is we are caring for each other. People are hurt, people are angry; there’s mental health issues at play here for sure. We know that the queer community — I had someone share with me that, growing up, they went to a church that told them that they were gonna go to hell because they were gay. And so, you know, this person tried to kill themself three times, until finally, you know, he tells this story where he heard God’s voice say to him after the third time, “You fool! That’s not me.” And so I think that what we’re trying really had to do in our church right now is to… continue to say, “God loves you, we love you, you are welcome here in the fullness of who you are.” And if we can be a medium through which God says to someone, “That’s not me; I love you,” that’s what we’re trying to do right now.
Is a split within the United Methodist Church likely?
Joyce: I think it is. You know, my people, and the queer community, need a church institution where they’re not having to prove their full humanity every day. But at the same time, a church split is not gonna heal the decades-long wounds that have been caused by this.
How does a United Methodist General Conference vote work?
Joyce: Our General Conference functions a little bit like Congress… there’s lobbying, there’s whipping votes, there’s things like that. And so this measure passed very very narrowly. And what that lets me know is that United Church of Rogers Park is not alone in this. I think that in America the vast majority of United Methodists do support the full inclusion of LGBTQIA. But, to be honest, we just didn’t play the game as well, and that is a really heartbreaking thing to think about.
This interview was edited for clarity and brevity. Click “play” to hear the full conversation.
GUEST: Lindsey Joyce, pastor at United Church of Rogers Park
LEARN MORE: United Church Of Rogers Park Devastated By Anti-LGBTQ Ruling From Methodist Conference — But They’re Not Backing Down (Block Club Chicago 3/4/19)
United Methodists Face Fractured Future (NPR 3/2/19)