March 31, 2019
We, the members of Trinity Church of Austin, believe that every LGBTQIA+ person is a child of sacred worth. We are deeply disturbed by the harmful actions perpetrated by the called General Conference in Saint Louis. WE WILL NOT ABIDE BY THE TRADITIONAL PLAN OR ANY PLAN THAT RESTRICTS THE FULL PARTICIPATION OF BAPTIZED UNITED METHODISTS. We urge our bishop, district superintendents, clergy, and board of ordained ministry to be guided by the Golden Rule taught by Jesus, and therefore, treat LGBTQIA+ United Methodists in Rio Texas by the same standards that you treat straight and cisgender people, even when it means choosing what is right and just over what is prescribed by the Discipline.
Trinity Church has been a congregation in the Southwest Texas and Rìo Texas Conferences since 1946. However, the actions of the General Conference have made it increasingly difficult to remain United Methodist. After every General Conference since becoming a Reconciling Congregation in 1992, Trinity has lost members because they could not, in good conscience, remain in a denomination that legislates harm toward faithful members. As leaders of our congregation, we say that this harm must stop. In the name of Christ, please make it stop.
Our congregation has been in the struggle for LGBTQIA+ inclusiveness for many years and has made every effort to remain United Methodist. In 1990 our pastor, Rev. Dr. Sid Hall, conducted his first same-sex wedding for a Trinity couple. In 1992, Trinity voted to become a Reconciling Congregation, the first in Southwest Texas and the second in Texas. Shortly after our Reconciling vote, Trinity voted to host same-sex weddings in the church building. In 1997, after the General Conference voted to make performing same-sex unions a chargeable offense, Trinity suspended doing weddings for all couples, including straight couples. Following the General Conference in 2012, Trinity began exploring how to stop the bleeding of loving LGBTQIA+ members due to the exclusionary votes at General Conference. After three years—and in cooperation with the bishop and cabinet—in 2015 Trinity voted unanimously to co-affiliate with the UCC as a Union Church. That same year, we voted to suspend our 1997 policy prohibiting weddings on our property. Each of these decisions came after prayerful deliberation—all in the effort to stay faithful to our members as well as remain in the UMC.
In a church-wide meeting on March 3, 2019, three items rose to the level of consensus:
1. Suspend paying apportionments to the United Methodist Church;
2. Remove the name “United Methodist” from our signage; and
3. Urge the leaders of the conference and denomination to encourage something akin to the Simple Plan with added protections for LGBTQIA+ United Methodists, or create a new, fully inclusive expression of Methodism outside the current UMC structure.
Whatever that expression is, we feel strongly that it must be led by LGBTQIA+ persons and people of color to avoid systemic exclusivity. If these efforts are not achieved in a timely fashion, Trinity will explore the possibility of withdrawal from the denomination.
What we will not do is pretend that the current state of the church is acceptable, even if the Judicial Council rules that the Traditional Plan is unconstitutional. Trinity’s leaders will not tolerate ecclesial hand-wringing or calls for patience. The very lives of LGBTQIA+ youth are at risk, and the United Methodist Church is culpable.
Therefore, on Tuesday, March 12, 2019 Trinity’s Leadership Council voted the following:
• TRINITY CHURCH OF AUSTIN WILL SUSPEND PAYING APPORTIONMENTS, EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF PENSIONS FOR ACTIVE AND RETIRED CLERGY, UNTIL OUT LGBTQIA+ PEOPLE ARE COMMISSIONED, ORDAINED, AND APPOINTED AS CLERGY IN OUR CONFERENCES AND LGBTQIA+ COUPLES ARE ALLOWED TO BE MARRIED IN OUR CHURCHES AND BY OUR PASTORS. We believe that it is irresponsible to uphold a governance structure that actively harms LGBTQIA+ United Methodists. We will pay our pension apportionments because our own pastors, as well as the retired clergy and clergy spouses in our congregation, have been stalwart advocates of inclusiveness for decades. We do not believe they and other clergy allies of queer people should be penalized for the harm perpetrated by the general church.
• TRINITY CHURCH OF AUSTIN WILL CONTINUE TO OPERATE AS IF THE RESTRICTIONS AGAINST LGBTQIA+ PEOPLE ARE NOT A PART OF THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE, AS WE HAVE SINCE 2015. We prioritize love and support for our LGBTQIA+ members and their families over obedience to exclusionary rules.
• IF FULL INCLUSION IS NOT ACHIEVED WITHIN THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH WITHIN A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME, TRINITY CHURCH OF AUSTIN WILL ALIGN WITH A NEW FULLY INCLUSIVE EXPRESSION OF METHODISM OR BEGIN CONSIDERATION OF DISAFFILIATION FROM THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH.
We do not believe that the votes for full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people are possible under our current structure. The 2020 General Conference will likely have an even greater margin supporting discrimination toward LGBTQIA+ people. WE WILL NOT WAIT FOR ANOTHER VOTE, ONLY TO GO THROUGH THE PAINFUL EXPERIENCE OF HARM AND INVALIDATION OF OUR FAITHFUL QUEER MEMBERS ALL OVER AGAIN. We urge our bishop, district superintendents, clergy, and board of ordained ministry to act quickly to take measures to ensure that LGBTQIA+ United Methodist members in Rio Texas are treated with respect and allowed to fully participate in the rites of ordination and marriage, just as heterosexual and cisgender people are afforded these privileges without regard to their gender identity or sexual orientation.
The Trinity Church of Austin Leadership Council
Jimmy Alan Hall
Lay Leader and Leadership Council Leader