Dear Bishop Peggy Johnson,
Today has been designated as “National Coming Out Day” and therefore I wanted to take this day to stand with our homosexual sisters and brothers who are in committed monogamous relationships throughout the Peninsula-Delaware Annual Conference and who are being discriminated against by The United Methodist Church.
As you are aware, both the State of Maryland and the State of Delaware now fully recognize same sex marriage, and the federal government has taken steps to insure those couples who are wedded in these states are given full and equal standing under the law. Yet, The United Methodist Church and her clergy are forbidden from celebrating, facilitating, hosting, or officiating holy marriage ceremonies even in states where all couples can be legally wed.
Recently retired Bishop Talbert, a champion of civil rights, charged all members of The United Methodist church, both laity and clergy, to begin acts of “Biblical Obedience” by refusing to be bound to man made rules in our Book of Discipline that clearly stand against the commandments of our Lord Jesus. Bishop Talbert said, “It is time to be welcoming to all people. Find ways in your congregation to say Sunday after Sunday after Sunday that ALL are welcome; a vocal expression that all are welcome in this place. It is time to be in conversation with individual pastors about your belief in Biblical Obedience. Tell them that you believe the position of the church is wrong, and you can no longer, with integrity, continue to support the discrimination against LGBTQ persons. There are consequences to taking such a stand, but there comes a time when you have to decide to whom are you accountable. Are you accountable only to The UMC or are you also accountable to God? One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” This commission comes prior to your own declaration that, “I am speaking up for my LGBT brothers and sisters. As a person of faith, I believe we need to protect the rights of all people” Your words personally invite those of us who are members of the Peninsula-Delaware Annual Conference, and all people of faith, to seek ways in which we might join you and Bishop Talbert in standing for what is just in regards to discrimination of lesbians and gays in our church.
As you are aware I am in my second year at the Lancaster Theological Seminary, and have begun the candidacy process for ordination as an elder within our denomination. This comes after years of confirmation of my calling by my local church, my pastors, my family, my friends, my coworkers, my seminary peers and even words of affirmation given by you and my District Superintendent personally. Inquiring of these same people who know me personally will validate my thoroughly deep and lived out Wesleyan beliefs and standards of both personal and social holiness.
However, on this day I want to make a clear declaration. If I am ordained, or appointed as a local pastor while in provisional status, in the Peninsula-Delaware Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church I will not turn away any homosexual couple, meeting all the same qualifications as a heterosexual couple, who present themselves to me and ask for me to perform their marriage ceremony. I would also allow them to hold such a wedding in one of our churches, as weddings are worship services that should be held in the house of God. I will welcome these couples with an open heart, mind, and doors as our church has proclaimed to do for over a decade.
Therefore, in light of this declaration, I am asking whether you personally, along with my District Superintendent and District Committee on Ministry, will continue to support my candidacy process in this annual conference. Will you continue, “speaking up for my LGBT brothers and sisters” and “protect the rights of all people” or should I seek ordination in another annual conference, or even denomination, that no longer will stand for the open discrimination being practiced by the church?
I look forward to your response.
Soli Deo Gloria
Asa David Coulson
October 11, 2013 ~ the Feast of Saint Phillip, the Evangelist and Deacon