A Letter to Bishop Watson
(“Benjamin Michael Watson has been the resident bishop of The United Methodist Church’s North Georgia Episcopal Area since 2008. The North Georgia Conference has over 362,000 members, 950 congregations, and 1,400 clergy.”)
November 25, 2013
Bishop Michael Watson
Office of the Bishop
North Georgia Conference
United Methodist Center
4511 Jones Bridge Circle,
Norcross, GA 30092
Dear Bishop Watson:
I’m a 45-year-old, straight woman; a proud, lifetime United Methodist and currently a member at St. Mark United Methodist Church. I was so pleased and honored when you worshiped with us earlier this year. It was wonderful to meet you! I know it required courage to join us, uncertain of the reception you may have received from our diverse congregation.
I write to you today to ask you to look forward bravely and stand with us again in that place of courage! For the time has come for the United Methodist Church to grant full equality and inclusion to our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters.
In college, I worked five summers with developmentally disabled adults and children at Camp Sparrowwood at Camp Glisson. No one in the United Methodist Church would’ve dared to say that those disabled campers shouldn’t be fully included in the church because of the way they were born. In fact, many thought we at camp were doing super-special, doubly-blessed Jesus work just because we were working towards greater inclusion for that community.
But, as you learn with experience, there is nothing special about those campers. The way they are born doesn’t make them closer to or farther from God or sweet or good natured or even particularly slow. They are unique individuals with their own personalities and issues and lives, just like you and me.
Likewise, there is nothing special or different about me, or about my LGBT family at St. Mark. We are, each of us, created just as we are in God’s image without mistake or error. We are all men and women with God’s spark of divinity inside, and each of us is saved not by our worthiness or our works, but purely by God’s grace.
These LGBT friends are the same men and women of God who welcomed me and created a place for me at St. Mark. These are the same men and women of God who prayed for me, cared for me and loved me this summer while I was in a deep, dark depression. (And, yes, also excessive misery. WHOA!) These are the same men and women of God who have created a United Methodist Church where I have discovered that I am OK, that I am lovable and acceptable and that I have gifts and blessings to give back to the world.
If these men and women can minister to me in such a powerful and life-changing way, why should we not allow them all rights and privileges in the United Methodist Church to do so in an official capacity? Why should we deny these men and women anything that I am afforded in the United Methodist Church just because I am “lucky enough” to be born straight? We are asking not for special rights, but for equal rights, for the simple dignity of human rights.
So I’m asking you today to stand with us to make the United Methodist Church what it could be. Let us be the United Methodist Church of grace and mercy, not the church that split over the “question” of slavery. Let us be the United Methodist Church of justice and equality, not the church that needed to apologize for its treatment of indigenous peoples at its last General Conference. Let us be the United Methodist Church of love and acceptance, not the church where a Sunday School teacher told my mother her premature baby died because of my mother’s sin.
Let us be courageous and visionary. Let us be welcoming and affirming. Let us be just and full of grace. God has created us all equally and infallibly in His image and redeemed us through His mercy. Let us understand that all God asks from each of us in return is to love Him with all our hearts and minds, and to love our neighbor just the way we’d want him or her to love us.
Let us have nothing to apologize for in the future, to any of our brothers and sisters, or to our God.
Let us be one in Jesus Christ.
A Long Run