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February 26, 2019
To the American University Community:
The news from the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church is not encouraging.
The likely best-case option is that we will remain exactly where we have been--a deeply divided denomination with restrictive rules against ordination and marriage for LGBTQ+ persons and many laity and clergy who will resist and/or work to change those rules. The worst-case scenario is that a far more restrictive and punitive approach will be enacted, hostile to the inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons in the life of the church. Whatever happens, it is becoming clear that what will not emerge as a result of these three days of deliberations and conferencing is a United Methodist Church that will be more inclusive and affirming—at least not soon or in its present form.
To the LGBTQ+ members of our university community, I cannot know how you must be feeling. As a white, straight, cisgender male, my place in the church has long been assured. My grief at the rupture and spiritual failings of my denomination cannot begin to comprehend the grief and alienation that you must be feeling in these moments. Please know that I see you, I hear you, and that I remain your chaplain regardless of the outcome of the deliberations in St. Louis.
The Methodist tradition that founded American University, the tradition that worked to end slavery, that fought to improve workers’ rights and to achieve suffrage and civil rights, the tradition in which I was baptized, which formed me as a youth, which called me to the ministry as a young adult, and which has continued to form and guide me is a tradition rooted in the unfailing grace of a loving God, who loves and affirms all people without distinction. Whoever you are, know that you are loved, you are cherished, and you have a human dignity that no one can take from you.
So long as I am your chaplain, I commit to embodying this expansive and inclusive love in my ministry and in the work of the Office of the University Chaplain, the Kay Spiritual Life Center, and American University. They will have to strip me of my ordination before I waver in that commitment. I know that the Rev. Joey Heath-Mason, our United Methodist Chaplain, and the AU United Methodist-Protestant Community join me in that commitment to living out this radical Christian hospitality and inclusion, regardless of the outcome of this session of General Conference.
The future of The United Methodist Church as a denomination is uncertain; our commitment to full inclusion for all people regardless of age, race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, gender identity or expression, orientation, or any other factor is not.
Standing with you in witness and hope, I remain
Yours in solidarity,
Rev. Mark A. Schaefer