Reconciling United Methodists of North Carolina

a part of the Reconciling Ministries Network

An Open Letter to the Bishop

As the dialogue sessions are going on in our conference, I cannot remain silent on the main issue.

I have been a member of Edenton Street United Methodist Church for twenty-nine years,, a Methodist since I was born into a Methodist home almost sixty-seven years ago. I have always been proud of being a Methodist because of our faith and ministry. Historically, we have taken important stands and have been an inclusive church for the masses, as John Wesley began our path so long ago. The fact that we were the leader in establishing the North Carolina Council of Churches back in the 1930's to reach out in a united way to those too weak and too downtrodden to help themselves and to say: "We care about you and want to help in any way we can," characterized the church I belonged to.

It never occurred to me until these last few years that our members could care for anything else more strongly ... until I became a member of a group to whom many have not shown true caring.

Let me explain. My oldest of four children, Mark, was a gay man who died of AIDS. He was insulted in the church from the time he was in the sixth grade. It became almost impossible for him to go to church because of the messages he received there. After his death nine years ago, my eyes were opened when I became a volunteer for the AIDS Service Agency here in Raleigh and later became politically active to be in a better position to fight against the prejudice, hate, and bigotry professed by some of our most visible political leaders and unfortunately, for many people who are considered to be leaders in our churches.

If one member of Christ's body is in pain and suffering then so is the entire body? Is this not the message of Jesus who never seems to get quoted in this debate? I find it exceedingly strange that Jesus who is the Head of the Church is never turned to for advice -- He who ministered to the outcast, the lepers, those considered on the margins of society, He who came to bring us all together in His love. It is so inconsistent to pick and choose which part of the Bible these who would judge us so devastatingly are doing.

I am sorry this letter is so long. My heart is so full I cannot prune it back, although I have still not said all I would like. I appreciate your accepting it and listening to me. I do not speak for myself alone. I speak for legions.

I thank-you and wish every blessing upon you as you deal with this most important issue.

Eloise M. Vaughn