Saturday, June 18, 2016

Rationale for the Resolution on a Call for Non-Conformity With the Book of Discipline in the Cal-Pac Annual Conference

Today, the California-Pacific Annual Conference voted overwhelmingly to approve A Call For Non-Conformity With the Book of Discipline:

WHEREAS, according to The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, "all persons are of sacred worth" and "The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching" (161.F); and

WHEREAS, United Methodist Church doctrine calls for inclusiveness in which “all persons are open, welcoming, fully accepting, and supporting of all other persons, enabling them to participate fully in the life of the Church, the community, and the world” (140); and

WHEREAS, a candidate's sexual orientation and gender identity should not be considered as criteria for fitness or effectiveness in ministry; and

WHEREAS, the Book of Discipline encourages “a respectful dialogue with those with whom we disagree, to explore the sources of our differences, to honor the sacred worth of all persons,” and acknowledges that “we do not see the ‘Discipline’ as sacrosanct or infallible” (Episcopal Greetings, p. v); and

WHEREAS, ordained clergy seeking to navigate the inconsistencies within United Methodist Church doctrine face extraordinary penalties by ministering fully to the LGBTQIA children of God, and charges have been made and trials held against ordained clergy for conducting marriage ceremonies; and

WHEREAS, Bishops have publicly and privately opposed recommendations for such charges, and spoken out against trials and penalties for ministers officiating at these marriages; and

WHEREAS, by scripture, God’s covenant extends to all persons, as made living by the Christ whose command was to love God and neighbor, teaching radical inclusion, and through our Church mandate to gather all persons of faith into the community of the body of Christ;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED the California-Pacific Annual Conference urges the Bishop and Cabinet to state publicly they will not deny appointments based on sexual orientation or gender identity; urges the Board of Ordained Ministry to declare its intention not to consider sexual orientation and gender identity in making decisions in regard to commissioning and ordination; urges trial boards not to convict for chargeable offenses pertaining to being "a self-avowed, practicing homosexual," as well as for those clergy who officiate at weddings for couples regardless of the gender of the partners, and that these matters would be addressed through "Just Resolution."

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED the California-Pacific Annual Conference and its members are urged to not participate in or conduct judicial procedures related to The Book of Discipline's prohibitions against LGBTQIA persons.

**Because I was one of the authors of this piece of legislation, I was able to take the opportunity to speak in favor of it. Below is what I shared on the floor of Annual Conference: 

Bishop Carcaño, my name is Rev. Mandy Sloan McDow, clergy from the North GA Annual Conference, appointed to serve the faithful congregation at Laguna Beach United Methodist Church.

This resolution borrows language from our sisters and brothers in the New England Annual Conference who, yesterday, affirmed a similar piece of legislation. It uses strong language – the language of non-compliance – because this is the time in which all eyes are upon us, to see how this Conference will respond as we wait and hope for the work of the Bishops’ Commission to begin.

As one who watched from afar for many years, I am keenly aware of the gift of this Annual Conference’s continual work for justice and inclusion. But, I will tell you that people are hurting. In the days following General Conference, I heard from my LGBTQIA congregants a great wail of “How long, O Lord?”

I stand here as the pastor with a broken heart. I have loved and cared for, ministered to and provided the sacraments for my LGBTQIA siblings as best I can. But my best isn’t good enough, because I serve a denomination that is so entrenched in bureaucracy that it cannot move forward fast enough. So, I am left with the awful truth that my beloved congregants and friends – my family in the body of Christ – may leave. I am heartbroken that I have come to a time in which I cannot be the pastor to those whom I’ve been serving, because they cannot stay in an abusive relationship with our denomination any longer.

This title of this legislation is strongly worded, because the actions needed to restore the trust of our LGBTQIA siblings in Christ are strong. But, this piece of legislation doesn’t ask any more of this Annual Conference than what you’ve already done, for you have stood on the right side of history. Bishop Carcaño, you have demonstrated radical hospitality to those who have been rejected based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, and you have acted with grace to those clergy who have risked their credentials to officiate the weddings of same-sex couples. You have always done what was right.

This legislation is necessary because people are looking to us to make a strong stand. People are desperate for us to do more than wait. People are watching for us to model grace, rather than judgment. It is our call, as the beloved children of God, to embody Christ’s love in the most radical and life-giving ways we can, and to put our faith, not in the law (which is not sacrosanct or infallible) but in the Gospel. For it is our call, to continue the push, with grace, compassion and mercy, for a church that errs not on the side of judgment, but on the side of love, just as you have modeled for us, Bishop Carcaño.

This resolution speaks to Christ’s life-giving love, and the desperate plea the world has uttered for the church to live into its baptismal promise and to accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves (including the Book of Discipline). I humbly offer this resolution as my prayer for this power to be used wisely and courageously, urging this Annual Conference and the Board of Ordained Ministry to act with the same prophetic witness you have always shown.


Rev. Mandy Sloan McDow
Senior Minister
Laguna Beach United Methodist Church

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Pulse: Massacre in the City Beautiful

Weeks ago, I planned a sermon series on the marginalized people in scripture. Today was the day I planned to preach on Jephthah's Daughter, one of the most notable "texts of terror." I've been dreading it. 

Then we awoke to the news that the deadliest shooting in US history occurred at The Pulse, a popular gay bar in Orlando. 

Today at Laguna Beach United Methodist Church, we rang 51 chimes for each of the deceased. We prayed for the victims, the shooter and their families. And, we listened to this dreadful text, which suddenly made sense in the wake of this terrible act. 

Jephthah's Daughter was sacrificed on the altar of her father's insecurities and fear. Fear is what cripples us. Fear is the way we limit God. 

No longer can the church be afraid to stand up for the rights of LGBTQIA people. We can no longer pretend that this community isn't the subject of great harm. We are no better than Jephthah if we continue to use our privilege to permit the destruction of the lives of others. 

This was a targeted act of hate against the LGBTQ community. This isn't an issue of religion or even a matter of lax gun control laws. This is a matter of homophobia, and it's beyond time for the church to do more, shout more, advocate more. Love more. 

We have work to do, because the Body of Christ is broken, and only love can heal it.