Trinity UMC: A Plea for Reconciliation, Restoration, and Recovery
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Dear Members of Trinity United Methodist Church SPRC,
The past month at Trinity United Methodist Church has left a shameful stain on the history of our church. Not only has Jesus’ call been forsaken and the Book of Discipline (BOD) ignored; but a member and Christian servant of our church as been humiliated, harassed, bullied, and discriminated against in the name of what is being called "love" and "protection". The injustice that has occurred against Ryan Mould is appalling and disturbing, to say the least.
We, the people of the church, understand that Ryan was terminated because of a line under 161.G in the BOD that was grossly taken out of context. The 2016 BOD does not forbid gay or lesbian persons from being employed by, being a member of, or being in leadership positions of any sort within a congregation. Neither does it have any language about or concept of "spiritual leaders" or any real or imagined standards that such "spiritual leaders" might be held to. Through the trials, harassment, and humiliation that Ryan has endured, the following sections of the BOD have been violated:
¶ 161. II. THE NURTURING COMMUNITY The community provides the potential for nurturing human beings into the fullness of their humanity. We believe we have a responsibility to innovate, sponsor, and evaluate new forms of community that will encourage development of the fullest potential in individuals. Primary for us is the gospel understanding that all persons are important—because they are human beings created by God and loved through and by Jesus Christ and not because they have merited significance. We therefore support social climates in which human communities are maintained and strengthened for the sake of all persons and their growth. We also encourage all individuals to be sensitive to others by using appropriate language when referring to all persons. Language of a derogatory nature (with regard to race, nationality, ethnic background, gender, sexuality, and physical differences) does not reflect value for one another and contradicts the gospel of Jesus Christ.
A forum was created for church members to publicly insinuate that Ryan is a pedophile, an abomination, and unable to enter Heaven. He has been alienated, embarrassed, and emotionally flogged. Additionally, an atmosphere that perpetuates abuse was created.
A) Culture and Identity—We believe that our primary identity is as children of God. With that identity comes societal and cultural constructions that have both positive and negative impacts on humanity and the Church. Cultural identity evolves through our history, traditions, and experiences. The Church seeks to fully embrace and nurture cultural formation and competency as a means to be fully one body, expressed in multiple ways. Each of us has multiple identities of equal value that intersect to form our complete self. We affirm that no identity or culture has more legitimacy than any other. We call the Church to challenge any hierarchy of cultures or identities. Through relationships within and among cultures we are called to and have the responsibility for learning from each other, showing mutual respect for our differences and similarities as we experience the diversity of perspectives and viewpoints.
Although current Trinity UMC leadership has misled the church into believing there is only one Biblical view of homosexuality, many different Biblical interpretations about homosexuality exist. In refusing to share the other views and interpretations with the congregation, this clause has been betrayed; many within the church have been alienated; and Ryan has been harmed under the guise of "love".
G) Human Sexuality—We affirm that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons. We call everyone to responsible stewardship of this sacred gift. Although all persons are sexual beings whether or not they are married, sexual relations are affirmed only with the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage. We deplore all forms of the commercialization, abuse, and exploitation of sex. We call for strict global enforcement of laws prohibiting the sexual exploitation of children and for adequate protection, guidance, and counseling for abused children. 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. The Church should support the family in providing age-appropriate education regarding sexuality to children, youth, and adults. We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God. All persons need the ministry of the Church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. 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 has 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.
Complete disregard was given to guidelines that call for the full inclusion of gay and lesbian persons. Ryan's human and civil rights have not been protected against violence. The church has demonstrated that Ryan, because he is gay, is not of sacred worth. Since his wrongful termination, Ryan has received no spiritual or emotional care from Pastor Steve Smith or members of SPRC. Instead of welcoming, forgiving, loving, and accepting him as a member of Christ's Holy Church, he has been rejected, shamed, discriminated against, humiliated, abused, and condemned, all while being denied to serve others in the name of God.
J) Sexual Harassment—We believe human sexuality is God’s good gift. One abuse of this good gift is sexual harassment. We define sexual harassment as any unwanted sexual comment, advance, or demand, either verbal or physical, that is reasonably perceived by the recipient as demeaning, intimidating, or coercive. Sexual harassment must be understood as an exploitation of a power relationship rather than as an exclusively sexual issue. Sexual harassment includes, but is not limited to, the creation of a hostile or abusive working environment resulting from discrimination on the basis of gender. Contrary to the nurturing community, sexual harassment creates improper, coercive, and abusive conditions wherever it occurs in society. Sexual harassment undermines the social goal of equal opportunity and the climate of mutual respect between men and women. Unwanted sexual attention is wrong and discriminatory. Sexual harassment interferes with the moral mission of the Church.
The discussions about and treatment of Ryan’s private sex life and sexual preference are demeaning and intimidating. Pastor Steve and SPRC hold extreme power in the church. This power has been exploited many times in the last month: Pastor Steve’s initial meeting with Ryan regarding a new ministry idea; the subsequent meeting with Pastor Steve, Cindy Chlomoudis, and Ryan; SPRC meeting; e-mail sent to Children’s Ministry families which led some of them to believe Ryan had been arrested; three sermons on October 15th; Congregational meeting.
R) Bullying—Bullying is a growing problem in parts of the connection. It is a contributing factor in suicide and in the violence we see in some cultures today. We affirm the right of all people, regardless of gender, socioeconomic status, race, religion, disability, age, physical appearance, sexual orientation and gender identity, to be free of unwanted aggressive behavior and harmful control tactics. As the Church, we can play a pivotal role in ending this problem. We urge churches to seek opportunities to be trained in responding to the needs of those who have been bullied, to those who perpetrate bullying, and to support those in authority who may witness or be called to intervene on behalf of those who have been bullied. Churches are urged to connect with community associations and schools in this outreach. We encourage churches to adopt a policy of zero tolerance for bullying, including cyberbullying, within their spheres of influence; stand with persons being bullied; and take a leadership role in working with the schools and community to prevent bullying.
The actions Pastor Steve and SPRC have taken are the very definition of bullying. We, as a church body, are standing up against this destructive behavior.
¶ 162. III. THE SOCIAL COMMUNITY The rights and privileges a society bestows upon or withholds from those who comprise it indicate the relative esteem in which that society holds particular persons and groups of persons. We affirm all persons as equally valuable in the sight of God. We therefore work toward societies in which each person’s value is recognized, maintained, and strengthened. We support the basic rights of all persons 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. Our respect for the inherent dignity of all persons leads us to call for the recognition, protection, and implementation of the principles of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights so that communities and individuals may claim and enjoy their universal, indivisible, and inalienable rights.
Ryan has been singled out, made to feel less than, and been treated in the most undignified manner. His rights have not been upheld.
J) Equal Rights Regardless of Sexual Orientation—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. We see a clear issue of simple justice in protecting the rightful claims where people have shared material resources, pensions, guardian relationships, mutual powers of attorney, and other such lawful claims typically attendant to contractual relationships that involve shared contributions, responsibilities, and liabilities, and equal protection before the law. Moreover, we support efforts to stop violence and other forms of coercion against all persons, regardless of sexual orientation.
Because of Ryan's sexual orientation, he has been denied civil liberties. The church has failed in treating him with the same grace and love that we show all other members of Christ's Holy Church.
The mistreatment of our brother in Christ, Ryan, must end now. You, SPRC, have the ability to rectify this wrong. Aside from Ryan, many individuals and families in our church have also been left feeling violated, disheartened, and angry. We implore you to seek counsel above Pastor Steve in order to bring resolution and reconciliation to our congregation and create a caring and loving environment for generations to come. We, the church, call for the following steps to be made in effort to right the wrong that has been done:
1. Immediate reinstatement of Ryan as Children’s Choir Director. Support Ryan as he nurtures our children and community musically and spiritually.
2. A humble apology to Ryan by Pastor Steve and all members of SPRC. Allow Ryan and members of the church to see that you accept Ryan for who he is and that you are making a genuine effort to reconcile this vicious attack.
3. Creation of a policy that will forbid this treatment from ever happening again. We insist that Trinity UMC be an employer and church that will never deny a homosexual a paid or volunteer position ever again.
4. Allowance of a Reconciling Ministries Community to be formed out of Trinity UMC.
5. The formation of a Unification Committee comprised of equal membership from different viewpoints, dedicated to moving the church through turmoil into unity.
If SPRC chooses not to grant the wishes of the church as outlined above, we firmly request that an explanation in writing be given to us all by November 10, 2017 so that we can understand why you have chosen to move forward with this destructive behavior.
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