THE DESERT SOUTHWEST DECLARATION (Adapted from the New England Declaration)

June, 2000

As Christians we are called to embody God's love in the world. As United Methodist Christians, we are united in our faith in God, our love of Christ and our commitment to seek and do God's will as empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Even though there is much that binds us together, there is a current reality that cannot go unnamed if justice is to be done and healing is to happen. We have watched for the past two decades as General Conference actions have added increasingly condemnatory and exclusionary language to the Book of Discipline concerning the full participation of gay and lesbian persons in our denomination.

The church is deeply divided on issues related to God's gift of sexual orientation, and any pretense that we are of one mind only serves to deepen the estrangement and isolation of those who are excluded, and imposes premature closure upon the church's search to faithfully discern the will of God.

Called to embody Christ and extend God's welcoming love to all, we the undersigned clergy and lay persons of the Desert Southwest Annual Conference make the following affirmations:

WE AFFIRM human sexuality and understand homosexuality, heterosexuality and bi-sexuality to be good gifts of God. We believe that the current statement in the United Methodist Book of Discipline that "homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching" is:

--not reflective of the historic Wesleyan unwillingness to limit prerogatives which belong solely to God, and
--is representative of only one Biblical/theological perspective.

We commit to proclaim that homosexuality (no less or more than heterosexuality) is compatible with Christian teaching.

As clergy we will preach this from our pulpits and expose our parishioners to the fullness of the Scriptural witness on related matters in our Bible studies.

As lay people we will teach it in our Sunday school classes and tell it to our children.

WE AFFIRM that loving, monogamous, intimate relationships between person of the same or opposite gender, are an expression of God's love.

As pastors we will affirm relationships of persons who come to us (whether of same or opposite gender) who seek the affirmation of the church community on relationships which bear the signs of God's love. We will also enable all couples to celebrate rites of union, regardless s of gender. We affirm the willingness of retired colleagues and others in the Desert Southwest Conference to assist in this important pastoral responsibility. We further affirm the historic charge of United Methodist clergy to be in ministry according to their best discernment among the people entrusted to their care.

As lay people we will offer support to same-gender couples and their families in our midst as fully and wholeheartedly as we support opposite gender couples and their families. We will support the use of our buildings for celebrations of persons covenanting to love one another as life-partners.

WE AFFIRM that persons of all sexual orientations may be equally called to ordained ministry.

As clergy we will affirm God's call to ordained ministry as experienced by candidates for ministry regardless of a person's sexual orientation and welcome them into the clergy covenant.

As lay persons we will similarly affirm that call and we will offer ourselves fully in mutual ministry with pastors of our churches regardless of that person's sexual orientation.

As those who serve a God who sees the affliction of the oppressed, who hears their cry, who knows their sorrows, and who comes to deliver them, we have no other option than to attach our names to this Declaration. To do otherwise would be to deny the witness of the Scriptures and to turn our back on our United Methodist heritage.