Statement on UMC General Conference 2019

by President Steve Thorsett,

President Thorsett responds to the United Methodist Church’s decision not to embrace full inclusion of LGBTQ members and leaders.


Dear Willamette community,

Yesterday, in St. Louis, a conference of the global United Methodist Church made the disheartening decision not to embrace full inclusion of LGBTQ members and leaders. Led by conservative delegations, the conference rejected the view, held by the majority of American Methodists, that all should be welcomed in the church.

As an Episcopalian who over the years watched my own denomination wrestle with these issues, I grieve for the LGBTQ members of the church, who have endured the pain of these last few days, as delegates debate their humanity. I share their anger and disappointment in the outcome of that debate.

As the leader of the oldest Methodist-affiliated educational institution in the West, I want to assure all members of our community that we remain steadfast in our commitment to full inclusion of LGBTQ students, faculty and staff at Willamette. We are not alone in our commitment. The Western Jurisdiction of the UMC, which has appointed LGBTQ leaders at all levels, has committed to full inclusion. Bishop Elaine Stanovsky, the UMC leader in our region and a Willamette trustee, has also issued a stirring statement. Finally, our partners at Claremont School of Theology have affirmed a “deep and ardent” commitment to continued inclusion.

The weeks and months ahead will be challenging for the fifty-year-old idea of a single “United” Methodist Church, the second largest Protestant denomination in the United States. It is a time when it would be easy for a loosely-affiliated school like Willamette to back away from the UMC and the debate that is tearing it apart, but I think that would be a mistake. Indeed, now is the time that the UMC, its Western Jurisdiction, and especially its many LGBTQ members need us and the other affiliated universities the most, to be the voice for those Wesleyan values that shaped Willamette’s own values, that every human being is worthy of respect, dignity and love.

Non nobis solum nati sumus,


Willamette University

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