June 8, 2016

As an elder in the New York Annual Conference and dean of Drew University Theological School, I write this letter of support and gratitude to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex candidates and clergy. In light of recent strides toward maintaining unity at the cost of LGBTQI clergy and candidates in the United Methodist Church, it is clear that the struggle for full LGBTQI inclusion has reached a challenging plateau, and voices of bold truth and limitless love must come forth.

This letter comes as a commendation for the courage and righteous zeal of the New York 15 who signed the “‘We Are’ Open Letter to the People of the United Methodist Church,” and the growing number of UMC LGBTQI clergy (nearly 125) across the connection who signed “A Love Letter to Our Church from Your LGBTQI Religious Leaders.” This letter stands among those coming from thousands of allies, including the over 1500 United Methodist clergy, over 500 LGBTQI Christian leaders across denominations and more than 60 National Religious Leaders through the Religious Institute. The supporters are many and continue to grow. I have personally stated my support of the four Drew Theological School signers, and now along with my faculty colleagues we publicly stand in solidarity with them.

To the LGBTQI clergy and supporters, know that as Ella Baker once stated, “we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.” The freedom afforded in Christ to God’s children, created in God’s own image, fully affirmed just as they are, will not be limited by misguided church dogma. The support of the faculty of Drew Theological School comes not in spite of scripture and tradition, but precisely because of the God we encounter and see revealed in scripture and tradition. Therefore, let us continue the struggle for full inclusion and the embodiment of God’s reign on earth as it is in heaven—a beautiful spectrum of sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, races, ages, social and economic statuses, nations and religions. May it be so.

I write, along with the faculty of Drew Theological School, with hope for a fully inclusive church,

Javier A. Viera
Dean, Drew Theological School
Professor of Pastoral Theology
Elder, New York Annual Conference