We, the members of the Board of the Reconciling Ministries Network, are deeply disturbed and heartbroken by the epidemic of teen suicides in recent months. Most of these teens suffered severe bullying and constant harassment from their peers because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity.
These teen suicides are a critical issue for the religious leaders of all United Methodist Churches because there is an unambiguous relationship between these tragic suicides and the message of intolerance and hate that is preached and taught by anti-gay Christians.
The United Methodist Church Book of Discipline states that homosexuality “is incompatible with Christian teaching”, (Paragraph 161H). This ultimately promotes intolerance toward Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) persons. These messages of intolerance are found in many of our United Methodist Churches. LGBT persons are often seen as morally bankrupt, or in need of prayer and “transformation” in order to change their inherent God-given sexuality. Hateful anti-gay messages are then acted out in the form of bullying against LGBT youth by church leaders, family members, friends, peers and acquaintances. This ongoing rhetoric damages the spiritual lives of everyone. It also promotes an unsafe environment and a belief that LGBT youth are not worthy of Jesus’ inclusive love.
Bullying must stop. The church’s silence validates and gives permission for this violence. The church cannot sit idly by while hundreds if not thousands of LGBT youth are bullied. We, the members of the Reconciling Ministries Network Board, implore the Council of Bishops to provide the church with a public and vocal witness of tolerance and love instead of sanctioning, either directly or indirectly, this violence. As Bishops of the United Methodist Church we request that you:
We call on the Council of Bishops to remind the church of resolution # 158, approved by the 2004 General Conference and reaffirmed in 2008, in which General Conference addressed the high rate of teen suicide, noting that “teens dealing with issues of sexual identity are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than are other youth.” The fact that the church has failed to establish and fund a task force, whose purpose is to educate the church on teen sexuality and suicide, makes the church complicit in the creation of a bullying culture.
Pontius Pilate attempted to wash his hands of the blood of Jesus. We cannot remain silent lest we also be perceived as trying to wash our hands of the pain and blood of these young people and their families. We have a responsibility and an obligation to voice our outrage against intolerance, violence and hate in the form of bullying. We cannot allow one more child of God to take his or her own life because they believed they were not worthy of God’s love.
Neither can you.