Methodists in Miss., Beyond Roiled by Lesbian Couples’ Church Testimony
A June 12 Methodist service that took place in Jackson, Mississippi, included testimony from a lesbian couple who spoke about the spiritual meaning the church had for them, and spoke of God’s love for them and "home" they had found in the Methodist faith.
But members of the church in Mississippi and beyond recoiled from the message--and the messengers.
The service took place at the annual conference of the United Methodist Church. The setting, as much as the testimony and the couple who provided it, sparked controversy, leading to demands for an apology for having allowed the lesbian couple to speak.
Demanding the apology is the evangelical Methodist group the Mississippi Fellowship of United Methodist Evangelicals.
Mississippi newspaper the Clarion Ledger posted an August 3 story on the controversy, in which the head of the evangelical group, Rev. Ginger Holland, was quoted as explaining that, "To give witness of any kind appears to condone a certain practice."
While to some members of the faith the issue of gays and lesbians belonging to the church, much less speaking publicly about their relationship to God in the context of the faith, may seem a significant topic, for the couple at the center of the uproar there are other, more important issues that believers are neglecting to focus on them and their testimony.
The Clarion Ledger quoted Connie Campbell, who said, "I wish we were fighting instead over how to spend $1 million to help the poor."
It was Campbell and her partner, Renee Sappington, who gave the testimony that sparked the controversy. The couple belong to a Madison congregation.
The couple were invited to testify at the service. In her testimony, Campbell said, "We have no doubt that God embraces who we are and blesses our relationship, that God’s doors are open even when the churches’ doors sometimes aren’t."
To be sure, the Methodist church recently failed to amend its church constitution in a manner that would have guaranteed that gays and lesbians may belong to the church, reported USA Today on Aug. 1.
If approved, that amendment may have gone some distance to rehabilitating the church in the eyes of the gay and lesbian faithful following an episode in which a gay men was denied church membership for "refusing" to become heterosexual.
The USA Today article indicated that if the American branch of the Methodist church could have approved the amendments on its own, the measure might have passed.