On Monday, Nov. 4, the Albion College Student Senate voted unanimously in approval of a resolution penned by Indianapolis, Ind. junior, Philip Carlisle, to allow/begin a discourse on campus about the Reconciling Ministry sect of the United Methodist Church (UMC).
A group of Methodists who say they don’t entirely agree with some of the current policies of the UMC found in the Book of Discipline, UMC’s civil conduct and code text, the Reconciliation Ministry movement seeks equal treatment and consideration for LGBTQ gender and sexual minorities within the church, according to Carlisle.
While not necessarily an argument of the Reconciling Ministries program, Carlisle believes that the Book of Discipline contains a logical contradiction, as it states that all God’s people are of sacred worth, yet it disallows homosexual individuals the right to be married, ordained, certified or appointed.
Though a Christian but not a Methodist, Carlisle had always conceptualized the UMC as a champion of civil rights. After listening to a panel about the Reconciliation movement he helped host as a member of LGBriTS last year, Carlisle, now aware of what he considered a great injustice, began his campaign to spread awareness of the Reconciling Ministries movement on campus.
“I went to the panel, and it made me really sad because all of a sudden these people I knew, my friends – I had two friends on the panel –were both members of the Methodist Church, and I had never stopped to consider that their religion was just as discriminatory as mine, and that’s bad – that’s a really, really depressing thought to have,” said Carlisle.
Curious and wanting to help, Carlisle followed up by asking other students and faculty member who attended the panel what they thought of the subject and what was then being done about it. At the time, however, few knew how to make any headway on the matter as navigating the process on a college campus, even one as small as Albion, proved a different beast than reconciling a congregation of 200 people.
According to Carlisle, there are roughly 200 colleges affiliated with the UMC in the United States, and many currently occupy the nebulous space of wanting to take action but not knowing how to proceed.
“We’re all in at the same place where everyone takes the first step, and they see everyone else is taking that step, and they’re like, ‘Okay, we’re on the right track,’” Carlisle said, “but taking the second step and the third…”
That step, for Carlisle, eventually meant bringing a resolution before Student Senate, and that meant getting senate sponsors like Dana Anderson, Ann Arbor sophomore.
“As a supporter of gay rights and also as a supporter of interfaith dialog and respectful discussion about religious and nonreligious beliefs, I felt a great interest in this proposal,” Anderson said in an email. “Issues of social justice and religion can be sensitive to talk about, and I felt that I could help to foster an open and safe discussion.”
A lifelong member of the UMC, Zach Kribs, president of student senate and Mason junior, thinks the resolution indicates that the college’s connection with the UMC is not just a relic of bygone days, but something with which students want to get involved, especially since he says the UMC has noted in the past Albion’s effective work with diversity and social justice issues.
“I am extremely proud of the work individual senators put into the crafting of this proposal, and the mature and thoughtful conversation that was had in the process,” Kribs said in an email. “Albion College prides itself as being accepting to all students and students’ opinions, and I think this senate did a good job of considering and incorporating them in regard to an issue of significant importance.”
One senator who worked hard to ensure the resolution was given the proper amount of rigor was Mitchell Moore, East Lansing sophomore and vice-chairmen on the appropriations committee for senate.
Along with other senators, Moore acted cautiously before voting to pass the actual resolution, believing, as the representatives of the student body, that not enough students knew about the resolution to make an informed decision.
“Passing the moving forward of this resolution starts the discussion on whether or not the resolution moves forward,” Moore said. “It gives students, clubs/organizations, and senate more time to discuss the resolution, which is why all senators voted for it. It is important to know that we did not vote on the actuarially resolution, but voted for moving the resolution forward so the campus community can discuss the resolution.”
And that’s exactly what Carlisle and his companions wanted for his resolution. The next step is to engage students, faculty, staff and alumni with a discussion about the Reconciling Ministries movement. That entails informing people about the issue as much as possible, like by bringing speakers to campus. The goal is conversation—informed conversation.
“You don’t want to force people to do something they don’t want to do, but at the same point in time, people should never make ignorant decisions, whether that’s a lack of information or whether that’s a lack of caring,” Carlisle said. “If people are going to say ‘I stand for this,’ or ‘I stand against this,’ they need to know why.”
While Carlisle would love to see the actual resolution voted on by the entirety of Albion College—faculty, students, staff, administration, trustees, custodial workers, etc.—before he graduates next year, he realizes that may a bit unpractical.
“I want the campus to be at a point where the discussion won’t stop,” Carlisle said.
For those interested in learning more about the resolution or perhaps in getting involved, you can contact Carlisle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of Reconciling Ministries Network
As a long-time member of Reconciling Ministries (along with some other groups as well) I bridles a bit at the term “sect.” We are a group within the UMC. As for “not completely agreeing,” I consider my church’s stance to be schizophrenic. We mix “Homosexuals as well as heterosexuals are persons of infinite worth” with “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” And as for “Open minds, open hearts, open doors”? No, not really. There are two possibloe approaches: get out and go somewhere else, or stay and try to work within the system to change it. I have chosen the latter, but I understand why many have taken a different route. It’s sort of like, “Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest, unless you are lgtbq; the only hope for you is if you acknowledge your ultimate depravity and agree to remain celibate.” Fortunately, there are more and more UMs who are seeing that this is not right, not Scriptural, and not Christian.