Monday, December 16, 2013

Response to the open letter addressed to me and read during a news conference at Arch Street UMC on December 16

I bid you grace and peace from the Lord Jesus Christ. I appreciate your passion for social justice for all people and your letter of concern specifically on behalf of all LGBT members in the church. I agree that we are in a time of turmoil over differences in opinion and theology with regard to human sexuality.

I ask you to:

  • Intentionally work to build relationships with those, who are Christians like yourself, who believe differently than you do theologically.
  • Acknowledge that there is pain and hurt on both sides of this house. 
  • Pray for God’s grace that we might build bridges of unity and conversation through the power ofthe Holy Spirit. 
  • Acknowledge that a good many statements in our Book of Discipline are positive and nondiscriminatory:  Paragraph 162J – Certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation.  Paragraph 162-III – We support the basic rights of all people to equal access to housing, education, communication, employment, medical care, legal redress for grievances, and physical protection. We deplore acts of hate or violence against groups or persons based on race, color, national origin, ethnicity, age, gender, disability, status, economic condition, sexual orientation, gender identity or religious affiliation. Paragraph 161 F - All persons, regardless of age, gender, marital status, or sexual orientation, are entitled to have their human and civil rights ensured and to be protected against violence. Paragraph 161 F (further states) We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth created in the image of God. We affirm that God’s grace is available to all. We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving and loving one another, as Christ as loved and accepted us. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.
  • Acknowledge that the church trial created a great deal of public outcry against the UM position around this social issue. Much positive attention has been given to progressive position as a result of the trial and that some would like to continue to see more trials for that reason.
  • Acknowledge that I am bishop to all and am called to the unconditional love extended to the spectrum of theological perspectives.

Per your request I acknowledge that: 

  • Our LGBT sisters and brothers are of sacred worth regardless of their sexual orientation(Paragraph 161F) or gender identity.  
  • Several statements in our Book of Discipline are discriminatory (forbidding ordination of homosexual persons, forbidding the performing of same-gender marriages and considering the practice of homosexuality incompatible with Christian teaching).   There appear to be contradictions between the many affirming statements (mentioned earlier) and these statements. This has led to confusion by many from the outside of the church wondering how we can talk out of two sides of our mouth. 
  • Church trials around the chargeable offenses that relate to the LGTB community are not helpful.
  • They use time, resources, and energy that could be better used for the ministry of the church. I will continue to try in every way, as far as it depends on me, to not have church trials.
  • I will commit to continuing to call the church to its main mission: preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world, making disciples and transforming the world through the power of the spirit.
Peggy A. Johnson, Bishop


  1. Bishop Johnson: the Church's position is disingenuous by attempting to bless the person's existence but at the same time minimizing their worth because God made them as they are: people who Love--if the wrong Sex? This debate is foolish and is reminiscent of the Inquisition. As a member of the Church, I will accept people as they are--as God made them. They themselves did not choose to be gay?

  2. Thank you Bishop Johnson for calling us to continue the work of reaching out across theological divides. You are a bishop for all people, everyone needs to see that. Thank you for acknowledging the contradictions in the BOD and affirming that church trials do drain resources (and at the same time they call attention to the struggle).
    This was an honest and balanced response.

  3. Thank you Bishop Pink for your consistent leadership of our churches!
    I met you when you were mentoring Elke at Christ United Methodist Church of the Deaf in Baltimore. As a Reconciling United Methodist I applaud your efforts to guide our church in the Jesus way from the inside. You are ever in my prayers with gratitude. Carol Carter (Elke's mom)

  4. I have been an Elder in The United Methodist Church for 25 years. I have been happily married for nearly 30 years and have two wonderful children I adore. I was raised in this church. I am a strong believer in the tradition and theology of John Wesley. Indeed, I believe my personal beliefs are more Wesleyan many other pastors. However, this trial has made me wonder if there is a place for a pastor like me in The United Methodist Church who believes in the primacy of Grace.

  5. Thanks for your thoughtful statement, bishop. I know that you have an impossible task; almost anything you say will get you in trouble with someone. And yet, I can't help but feel that the conference has fallen short of the Methodists' heritage of social justice. Not to say that Wesley himself would have been pro-gay, but he was opposed to slavery long before abolitionism became fashionable. In 20 years, Christians of every stripe will look back on the trial of Rev. Schaefer with embarrassment. Taking hard stands is costly, as you know. The conference took an easy stand because it feared reprisal from right-leaning congregations. I wish this case could have made us feel pride instead of shame.
    -SBP, Pittsburgh

  6. Discrimination is just that. One can read all the good things about the denomination, but if one line in the discipline diminishes the worth of a group of people, the good things are sorely tarnished and stand as hypocrisy.

  7. Discrimination is just that. One can read all the good things about the denomination, but if one line in the discipline diminishes the worth of a group of people, the good things are sorely tarnished and stand as hypocrisy.

  8. "Several statements in our Book of Discipline are discriminatory..."

    That says it all. Our church has chosen to make prejudice our declared policy. Many of us will not be willing to remain as members of a church clinging to a bigoted and outdated document and treating it as if it came down from Sinai.

  9. Bishop Johnson,

    Thank you for your post. I understand that you personally are in a very tight spot politically. However, to understand why young people like my wife and I have left the Methodist Church, the elders need only to look in the mirror.

    Jesus was radical in his love for everyone. He was ahead of the curve.

    I believe that you may disagree yourself with these discriminatory church views, but the leaders of the UMC must realize that this "lukewarm" practice of conditionally "Open Hearts and Open Minds" is politically devisive and unwelcoming. These conflicting policies actually make things worse rather than better.

    What does it say when non-Christians can claim to have more open minds, can claim to be more Christlike than the Methodist Church.

    Jesus criticized the religious leaders of the time when they were wrong, and I believe Christians like you who god has put in powerful positions within the church must swim against theses tides. In no uncertain way.

    What would he say about this, and what else really matters? Would he be a stickler for the rules? Would he he be politically savvy? Or, would he flip the tables over?

    I grew up in the Methodist church and my wife and I were married "traditionally" within the Methodist church.

    Someday, we may return if we feel that our fellow human beings are no longer being "spit out".

    Alex O'Connor
    Lost, Confused, non-churchgoing Methodist

  10. Dear Bishop Johnson, I applaud your words and your expressions of Inclusive Love... We might be on the threshold of an epiphany in the United Methodist Church... a long time coming... To my young adult sons, the gender issue is a non-issue. To my uncle, the late Rev. Melvin E. Wheatley, Jr.... born not far from Rev. Schaefer 's parish in 1915, this would be a bittersweet day, as the struggle has not yet been resolved, but at least there is more than one active Bishop willing to step forward. As my Mom would have said, "We can agree to disagree," but let's not leave broken hearts and lives along the way.

  11. Dear Fellow Progrssive Christians of the UMC,

    I am a spiritual director in Doylestown and am interested in creating a community that is Wesleyan but non-discriminatory. A place for worship and spiritual growth, outreach and sharing. If this interests you, you can reach me through my website

    I am not interested in starting a new denomination, but in offering a spiritual haven for those feeling disenfranchised and adrift. Those who yearn for community but no longer fit with orthodoxy, yet value tradition.

    Would you like to join me on this enterprise of faith?
    Rev. Beth Beyer Abbott

  12. It's very hard to say anything on this subject and not be attacked no matter what is said. I watched while a woman attempted to courteously share her rather traditional point of view on clergy conducting ss marriage when suddenly a woman church lay elder demanded her to "SHUT UP!! over and over. I had expected some semblance of civility. The woman sharing her compassionate but traditional view was finishing her sentence when the woman lay elder came to an inch of slapping her face whereon seeing it I impulsively said "HEY!! DONT YOU DARE HIT HER !!" and she stopped hand paused in air. I had anticipated that the people that held traditional points of view would have been the roudy ones! Who can figure?
    I hardly knew either of them.