CHICAGO,IL and WASHINGTON, DC – May 24, 2013 – As discussions about marriage equality, inclusive Scouting, and LGBT ordination loom as annual (regional) conferences of The United Methodist Church begin to gather across the United States, the past week has shown the pervasive, violent nature of homophobia and heterosexism in the nation’s largest city. Anti-gay hate crimes are on the rise in New York City, and in one situation, after an incident of harassment which included the hurling of anti-gay slurs, one man, Mark Carson, was shot to death.
Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) and the Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA) implore The United Methodist Church at all levels to live into our United Methodist Social Principles by supporting efforts to stop violence against all persons, regardless of sexual orientation (¶162J). Cooperative efforts with local congregations and LGBT services agencies can provide a first step for living out acts of justice and compassion in accordance to Scripture and Wesleyan tradition.
“Hate crimes are committed with the intention of erasing a person’s very being—to tear them apart—to dismember. But, every time we remember someone like Mark Carson, we frustrate the intentions of his killer,” said Matt Berryman, executive director of RMN. “To remember LGBTQ victims of hate crimes is to change the very culture that killed them. In Holy Communion, we have the image of bread being broken, reminding us of the violence, hate, and dismembering committed against Jesus, but we are called to remember Christ’s life, and to live out his teachings showing that brokenness and death ultimately give way to new life. There is an urgency of now for us to remember the Mark Carsons with actions that dismember the power of hate, violence, and bigotry.”
Chett Pritchett, interim executive director of MFSA also spoke out against the violence. “Whether in the form of isolated murders with illegal and unnecessary weapons, state-sponsored war and occupation, or attacks against those who are assumed to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, violence in all its forms is anathema to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This isn’t an issue confined to America’s cities or small towns; violence is happening across the globe and our Church should be in the business of curbing such violence.”
Both Berryman and Pritchett applaud the efforts of New York area Bishop Martin D. McLee for his statement regarding violence against LGBT persons. In a letter to the New York Annual (regional) Conference, McLee states:
While the perpetrator has been arrested, the problem of bias crimes directed at members of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Community continues. As Christians, we are called to respond. Let us begin by offering prayers for the victims and families of those harmed by hate crimes. I encourage pastors to provide anti-bias leadership by teaching and preaching about the harm of directing violence against anyone.
RMN and MFSA encourage United Methodists to see how current church policy claiming “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” creates a culture of shaming and violence in both Church and wider society. “Often, justification for such egregious crimes is founded upon carefully taught religious dogma of the kind we see in The United Methodist Church's teaching concerning LGBT persons. It is time for the church to acknowledge its prominent role in enabling such a rationale. A pattern for the proper redress of such harms from a perspective of Biblical Obedience would include honest confession of sin alongside a true commitment to change.” said Berryman.
Reconciling Ministries Network mobilizes United Methodists of all sexual orientations and gender identities to transform our Church and world into the full expression of Christ’s inclusive love. RMN envisions a renewed and vibrant Wesleyan movement that is biblically and theologically centered. As committed disciples of Jesus Christ, RMN strives to transform the world by living out the Gospel’s teachings of grace, love, justice and inclusion for all of God’s children.
Since 1907, the Methodist Federation for Social Action has worked to mobilize, lead, and sustain a progressive movement, energizing people to be agents of God’s justice, peace, and reconciliation. As an independent, faith-based organization, MFSA leads both Church and society on issues of peace, poverty, people’s rights, progressive issues, and justice within The United Methodist Church.