May Justice Like a River
By the Revs. Wiley B. Cooper, Carl D. Evans, John D. Evans, Kenneth W. Prill, and Thomas A. Summers, S.C. United Methodist clergy members of Openings, and
Julia Prater and Michael W. Haigler, co-chairs of Openings
In light of the controversy surrounding a United Methodist bishop’s prophetically conducting a ceremony that
celebrated the marriage of a same-gender couple and other similar issues about homosexuality, an ever growing
interreligious group—named Openings—holds profound dismay. It is difficult for us to comprehend how the United
Methodist Church can continue showing its oppressive actions toward the community of faultless lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender persons.
Three years ago, Openings was formed by LGBT persons and straight allies coming from diverse spiritual
traditions. As a supportive and welcoming network in our state’s midlands, its main purpose is that of aiding
in the inclusion of LGBT persons into the fuller life of our various religious denominations.
At a recent monthly meeting of our Openings network, the approximately sixty persons present voted to
communicate this statement to South Carolina United Methodists:
Openings stands in solidarity with those United Methodists working to transform their denomination into
one that celebrates sexual and gender diversity as a blessing that enriches all. Loving, just communities embrace
everyone; they are strengthened when all people are able to live fully and express their gender and sexuality with
holiness and integrity. There should be no turning back from the goal of the full participation of lesbian, gay,
bisexual, and transgender people in our faith traditions and communities.
Due to the UMC’s lingering policies that display discrimination and unfairness when it comes to homosexuality,
it is heartbreaking to see this cherished Church yet remain on the sidelines as so many other sister and brother
denominations officially march down the field of justice and mercy.
For instance, the highest bodies of these particular denominations have already systemically embraced sexual
equality and inclusiveness: Presbyterian Church, USA; Alliance of Baptists; Evangelical Lutheran Church of America;
Unitarian-Universalist; Episcopal Church, US; the United Church of Christ and others. Many members of Openings
belong to these communions.
Numerous institutions (like the military, professional groups, educational systems, and municipalities) also
have adopted non-discrimination policies concerning sexual orientation.
This broadened affirmation of LGBT persons growing in both our religious and social environment stands in stark
contrast to the UMC. Instead, it is continuing to drive itself away from a longstanding heritage of social holiness
in this regard.
In considering the spiritual journeys of LGBT persons, there is just too much at stake in allowing any
exclusionary and insensitive atmosphere to intrude into their souls.
For example, an alarming statistic is that young gay teens take their lives by suicide four times more than
their other peers. And a sad irony is seen when permission is given for UMC clergy to offer a service of blessing
and celebration for a fleet of boats, buildings, or pet animals. But there remains yet an inhumane disciplinary
restriction for clergy to provide a ceremony of blessing the committed love and companionship of two same-gender
persons as a devoted couple.
We hope and pray that, as the UMC deals with its difficult struggles and decisions, those oppressive walls that
play their part in shutting doors on the precious spiritual lives of LGBT persons may begin to tumble and let compassion
through. The prophet Amos (5:24) echoes the same sentiment: “Let justice roll on like a river and righteousness like a
For further information about Openings, its website is
Publication: South Carolina United Methodist Advocate; Date: January 2014; Page: 13