I began in the ministry in 1968. A year later I departed a doctrinally-inflexible denomination and entered the United Methodist Church. I brought with me a bundle of strong convictions, among them, the belief that a homosexual orientation was simply another way of defying the will of God. In the years since, I have re-examined the Scriptures and I have listened carefully to voices in the fields of genetics, psychiatry and medicine. As a result of doing so, I have come to believe that sexual orientation is determined by nature, not deliberate spiritual rebellion. The change in my beliefs did not evolve easily. It took years to overcome the culture of prejudice that permeated the church and world around me. I assure you that my movement from opposition to acceptance of a homosexual orientation was not the result of abandoning my faith, but exercising it!
I understand that many colleagues, many Christian brothers and sisters, strongly disagree with me. Recalling the pain and anguish of my own journey from one point of view to another, I dare not be impatient nor disrespectful toward those who disagree with me. I surely would never compel others to swallow their personal integrity and function as a pastor in a way that replicates my ideals and practices at the expense of their own. I give you permission to be you. You do not have to be me – a mere extension of my values, discoveries, beliefs and practices.
I but ask the same courtesy in return. If you oppose covenant services for same-gender partners, do not perform them. But offer me the creative, God-like courtesy to be different than you. Please reconsider your support for oppressive rules that obstruct me, and a sizable minority of your earnest and faithful colleagues, from fulfilling a ministry that we strongly feel is necessary to answer God’s call to the ministry of Word and Sacrament for all people.