LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. – As new restrictions loom against LGBTQ+ persons in The United Methodist Church, the five active bishops in the Western Jurisdiction are offering a safe harbor to LGBTQ+ clergy, and are urging bishops and other United Methodists to join them.

The bishops have asked their colleagues on the denomination’s Council of Bishops to sign their declaration, and urged other clergy and laypersons across the church to join them in supporting full inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in all parts of the life of the church. They made their request during the council’s meeting at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina.

Their action comes as a series of new restrictions tightening the denomination’s prohibition barring LGBTQ+ persons from ordination as clergy goes into effect Jan. 1.

“We intend to provide safe harbor for clergy under our care who may be at risk under the new provisions, prohibitions and punishments,” the bishops said.

“We do not believe that The United Methodist Church has the authority or the power to impose limits on the movement of God’s Holy Spirit in the lives of God’s beloved LGBTQ+ children. We intend to exercise our authority as bishops of The United Methodist Church to encourage and protect the full participation of LGBTQ+ persons as beloved children of God, embraced in God’s reign of grace.”

Understanding that it is impossible to accomplish this without recognizing how God calls people of all sexual orientations to ministry, they write, “We do not intend to withhold or challenge ordination based solely on a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation.

“We are unwilling to punish clergy who celebrate the marriage of two adults of any gender or sexual orientation seeking the blessing of God and the church for their covenanted life together.”

The new restrictions will make it easier to file complaints against LGBTQ+ persons seeking to enter into ministry and provide for mandatory punishments against clergy convicted of presiding over same-sex weddings. There is no other place in church law that requires mandatory punishments.

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