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Transforming Congregations - Lesbian Ceremony Sends Wrong Message by Rejecting Forgiveness and Healing


January 18, 1999
Transforming Congregations Board Report

CONTACT: Jim Gentile, Executive Director (215)757-5513 or Rev. Jim Hill, President (619)278-2433

The Transforming Congregations Board reacted strongly to a planned lesbian union service to be conducted January 16 by more than 80 clergy in the California-Nevada Annual Conference. At its annual meeting held January 13-15 in Atlanta, Georgia, the board "deeply regretted" the devastation this union service will cause in the United Methodist Church and for the larger Body of Christ.

"We deeply regret that this service tries to legitimate a lifestyle that is emotionally and physically damaging. The service sends the message that homosexuality is acceptable to God and that one need not seek God's transforming love to overcome it. How tragic if the world were to believe that message!

"For ten years, Transforming Congregations has offered the alternative of God's forgiveness and healing for persons struggling with homosexuality. We have seen hundreds of broken lives set on the road of transformation and wholeness. We want the world to know that there is hope for homosexuals, no less than for all other persons, separated as we are from God by sin and reaping the results of humanity's fallen nature.

"This lesbian union service is an act of direct defiance against the teachings of Scripture and the laws of the United Methodist Church. It reflects the intentional severing of the covenant that links all United Methodists to God and one another. We question why those who cannot live with integrity within the United Methodist connection do not simply withdraw and find an alternative avenue of spiritual expression. Instead, they devastate and divide the United Methodist Church by their actions."

In other action the Transforming Congregations Board changed its bylaws in response to the recent Judicial Council decision forbidding Annual Conferences or other United Methodist "entities" from "identify[ing] or label[ing] itself as an unofficial body or movement." Transforming Congregations will still invite congregations and other organizations to intentionally make themselves available for transforming ministry, but they will not have the option of declaring themselves Transforming Congregations or Transforming Conferences. "Our aim all along has been ministry, not politics," said executive director Jim Gentile. "We want congregations to reach out in loving, transforming ministry toward all persons, including gays and lesbians. This bylaw change simply reaffirms that direction."

Transforming Congregations concluded its meeting by offering two public seminars on "Sexual Wholeness and God's Plan for Ministry." Bud Searcy, founder and executive director of New Creation Ministries in Fresno, California, and a Transforming Congregation Board member, was the featured speaker. "Keeping the Focus in a Time of Moral Confusion" was presented January 15 at First UMC of Marietta, Georgia. "Freedom from Homosexuality" was presented on January 16 at Grace UMC in Atlanta, Georgia. Transforming Congregations executive director Jim Gentile, a former homosexual, and Donna Hopkins, a former lesbian, also provided leadership for the seminars.

Rev. Jim Hill (San Diego, California) was re-elected President of the Transforming Congregations Board. Rev. Tom Lambrecht (Eau Claire, Wisconsin) was elected vice-president; Rev. John Swenson (Eastern Pennsylvania) was elected secretary; and Mrs. Debbie Cohen (Atlanta, Georgia) was elected treasurer. The board also celebrated ten years of service by Rev. Bob Kuyper (Bakersfield, California), who was the founder of Transforming Congregations in 1988 and the first National Director of the movement. Rev. Kuyper will continue to serve as the newsletter editor, but has retired from the Transforming Congregations Board.

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