A group of 111 United Methodist clergy and clergy members publicly came out as having non-straight sexual orientations in anticipation of the UMC general conference, which begins May 10.
Representatives from hundreds of UMC congregations are gathering this week at the conference in Portland, Ore., for 10 days of discernment and decision making.
In 2008, UMC leaders voted to reaffirm that marriage is between a man and a woman. But new plans are being considered this year, and the vote could go differently.
Although the pastors who wrote the letter certainly share frustrations, their plea for change is framed as a love letter.
"You have required that we not bring our full selves to ministry, that we hide from view our sexual orientations and gender identities," they write.
"As long as we did this, you gladly affirmed our gifts and graces and used us to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world in the varied places you sent us."
The letter is now posted at Believe Out Loud, who reposted it after reports that high traffic had crashed the website that originally posted the letter, Reconciling Ministries Network.
The letter concludes:
We love you, dear church. Through you, we have stood on sacred ground and seen the face of God more clearly. Our prayer, as the church begins its time of discernment, is that you will remember that there are nameless ones around the world, hungry for a word of hope and healing. LGBTQI people and their families exist in every church in every continent of this denomination. They are seeking to remain in faithful relationship with you, even when you refuse, because they know God’s tender mercies and great faithfulness.
Dear church, our prayers are with you, with all of us, in the coming days. May we all be surprised by the Spirit who continues to breathe new life in unexpected ways. May we find the body of Christ stronger at the end of our time together, not weaker or more deeply harmed. May we provide a powerful witness of finding unity even in our differences to a world fractured by fear and mistrust.