by Rev. Jim Wiltbank, Senior Pastor and Rev. Meredith Joubert, Chair
The Constitution of The United Methodist Book of Discipline acknowledges that all people are of sacred worth. All people may attend worship, participate in programs, receive the sacraments, and become members. The Book of Discipline affirms that God made all creation and saw it was good.
This statement on inclusion affirms the sacred worth of all people. And yet, though it proclaims them worthy, it fails to include people who are “practicing homosexuals” into the ordained ministry of the church, or to allow ceremonies that celebrate same-sex marriage, or to affirm sexual relations outside monogamous, heterosexual marriage.
While the United Methodist Church has long engaged in in-fighting over the proper translation of Scripture around this issue, secular spaces have recently increased their debate over the rights, visibility, and value of our gay, queer, and trans siblings. Across the nation, states have proposed hundreds of laws that target and discriminate against LGBTQIA+ youth. Students report feeling like they are being “erased” from the U.S. education system. Families report being kept up at night with worry over anti-LGBTQ school policies and the impact on their children.
As a diverse people of God, we are called to be faithful to the example of Jesus’ ministry to all persons. God’s vision was one in which all people lived lives where they could flourish. According to a survey by GLSEN, an organization that provides resources, research, and advocacy in support of queer youth, over 50% of LGBTQ students report that they do not feel safe in their schools. When over 50% of a population report that they feel unsafe in an environment, it is highly probable that they are not capable of flourishing in that environment.
Until The United Methodist denomination makes a new theological statement that makes clear our radical openness and inclusivity, our churches can join the work that LGBTQIA+ activists have been doing for years and partner with them to bring about changes now. As United Methodists, we are concerned not only with policies that relate to our church members, but with policies that impact all people in all places. Arizona is one of the worst states for anti-LGBTQ bills in the 2022 legislative session. Many of these bills will impact the care and support that can be provided to youth by medical professionals and educators. The bills, and the threat of future bills, induce moral injury and emotional harm to our youth and their families. LGBTQ kids are already at a much greater risk for depression and suicide than non-LGBTQ kids.
St. Francis in the Foothills UMC in Tucson believes it is time for churches to take a more active role in helping to show what it looks like to love, support, and care for all people. We invite you to join us for two events which will take place at St. Francis on Saturday, August 13, at 4625 E River Rd on the corner of River and Swan. These events aim to proactively assemble adults in our communities who are committed to standing with LGBTQIA+ teens and their families and affirm the full worth and value of all gay, queer, and transgender people.
- Youth event (LGBTQIA+ teens & young adults, families, allies) 10:00-11:30 AM. Gay author/UMC pastor/activist J.J. Warren will speak, and then we will open up to hear from the youth. It is an event for sharing stories, listening, and showing support. We will give them the opportunity to tell us what safe spaces look and feel like, what makes them feel valued, what they think is going right, and what still needs to change. Allies, parents, and congregation members are also encouraged to attend.
- Community leader event. 2:00-3:30 PM. A gathering of adult leaders from the community who work and volunteer with gay and trans youth: nurses, physicians, pediatricians, educators, mental health professionals, multi-faith clergy, lawyers, politicians, researchers, and gay/trans rights activists. A panel of community leaders will discuss what they have seen, share stories of the realities of moral injury for gay and trans teens, and discuss what the challenges are for youth, families, and care providers in Tucson and Arizona. Attendees will be invited to join the Dare to Care Tucson Community Coalition, a coalition to stand in solidarity with LGBTQIA+ teens, young adults, and their families – committing to safe and supportive emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual care despite future anti-gay and anti-trans legislation passed within Arizona. Allies, parents, and congregation members are also encouraged to attend.
Share these events with anyone that you believe would be interested in attending. The flier contains a clickable and a scannable QR code, and we ask you to please pre-register your attendance.
Your support of and attendance at these two events can have a deeply meaningful impact. Join this conversation to hear stories and learn from each other. We also encourage other congregations to do work that helps to move the needle. It is God’s intention to clothe us with love and bind us together in harmony. How can your congregation be a healing, nurturing, and safe church that cares for all people? How can your congregation advocate for policies that allow all people access to services that lead to flourishing and abundance? Let us not be afraid to join in this work and inspire each other and others to action, justice, and live our faith in ways that transform the world.
For more information about these events, contact St. Francis in the Foothills UMC. (520) 299-9063
 Colossians 3:12-17
 The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church 2016. (2017). Cokesbury, 26.
 Ibid., 101.
 Ibid., 226.
 Ibid., 278.
 Teaching Tolerance: Best Practices for Serving LGBTQ Students. A project of the Southern Poverty Law Center.