“Trinity Church of Austin dissents. We resist and we refuse. We will not follow rules that discriminate against God’s beloved queer people. We will not wait for another vote to be taken to determine the full humanity of LGBTQIA+ children of God.” –Sid Hall, 3/14/2019
If you’re anything like me, you’ve been awash in waves of grief-related emotions as our church has imploded from within in the wake of General Conference. But there is Good News! Significant actions of public dissent are exploding across the connection—including here at Trinity Church of Austin.
In my role as secretary of the Leadership Council, I’ll be meeting with Sid periodically and using this space to help keep you informed of what’s evolving. Towards that end, here’s a first list of actions of opposition and dissent that are occurring across the current Methodist connection.
– Weekly clergy meeting. Sid will attend a weekly meeting of progressive clergy on Mondays (technically his day off). This time is being used to ensure that local voices are part of the ongoing discussion about what’s next. Bishop Schnase and District Superintendent Welborn attended the meeting a week ago Monday and heard first-hand from Sid and other local church leaders that they will no longer support a UMC that excludes.
– Suspension of Trinity apportionments. Towards that end, Tuesday night the Trinity Leadership Council voted to withhold apportionments, which are the monies we give to support the overarching structure of the UMC (with the lone exception of pension-fund contributions). We will only submit these funds when we feel that the broader church structure, in whatever form it may take, is no longer harming LGBTQIA+ persons.
– Statements of dissent & solidarity. Churches from across the connection, even those that have been considered centrist, are making declarations that they stand in opposition to General Conference. Sid has heard from colleagues in Michigan, Indiana, and more that they will welcome LGBTQIA+ persons as full members, perform same-gender weddings, and affirm the call of qualified LGBTQIA+ ministerial candidates.
– Sid’s statement of dissent on behalf of Trinity. Sid has written a thoughtful, detailed and heartfelt Op-Ed entitled “My Denomination Is Dead. My Church Dissents.” It ran this morning in the print edition of the Austin-American Statesman. You can read it here.
– Flying the Pride Flag.Soon—perhaps by Sunday—a new rainbow flag will be obscuring the words “United Methodist” on our signage. The flag will remain in place until we are able to permanently change our sign to read “Trinity Church of Austin.”
– Ads in local papers. There have been several ad buys in different regions around the country. A fund in Michigan set up for just this purpose has already raised $13,000 to place ads across the state to ensure LGBTQIA+ persons know they are supported. Similar ads published by clergy have run in Boston, DC, and other locations.
– Sid provides counsel. Sid is being approached multiple times daily by colleagues from across the Methodist connection for counsel on how best to move forward. It sounds to me almost like he has a new job, in addition to all his duties as the lead minister of Trinity!
As we talked, Sid said, “The bishops seem to feel like this is the crisis. This is not the crisis! The crisis is the policy of harm to LGBTQ people. Church leadership is finally waking up to the crisis that’s been here since 1972.” And while we must be deliberate in our decision-making, particularly with regards to the building upon which we and so many of our community members rely, the stage for change is being set.
In short, we and many others will not stand for the Traditional Plan—and we refuse to be lulled back into the strange limbo we’ve been in for decades if the Traditional Plan is struck down.
Something new is being born. Thanks for being part of the new.
Stephanie Molnar, Secretary
Trinity Church of Austin Leadership Council