Ohio Wesleyan University, hoping for more inclusive church laws for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, and asexual or allied community (LGBTQIA+), requested that a 10-year visit by the United Methodist Church scheduled for fall 2019 be delayed one year.
Ohio Wesleyan University President Rock Jones addressed the campus community in a letter he wrote March 5 stating his thoughts on the matter.
“I write in the aftermath of last week’s meeting of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC), the global body of the UMC authorized to set church law,” he wrote. “… I was hopeful the General Conference would vote to permit same-sex couples to be married in the church and to accept gay people into the clergy. While much of American Methodism allows these practices, they remain formally forbidden in church law.”
Jones wrote that when the leaders of the Methodist Episcopal Church founded Ohio Wesleyan University in the 1800s, they were strongly committed to broad access of higher education and the fundamental values of a liberal education. He emphasized that those commitments are embedded in the university’s conscience and charter.
“WHEREAS, The Ohio and North Ohio Annual Conferences, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, have determined upon establishing an extensive university or college in this State, to the support of which they are pledged to use their utmost efforts, and which university is forever to be conducted on the most liberal principles, accessible to all religious denominations, and designed for the benefit of our citizens in general,” states the first line of the university’s charter.
Jones said even though the changes were not made to include the LGBTQIA+ community, he is glad to see a growing number of Methodists calling for church reforms, all the while reminding their leaders to remember the “sacred worth of all people and to social justice exemplified historically by its positions on civil rights, women’s rights, and the rights of different ethnic communities.”
“I find last week’s vote unacceptable and in direct conflict with the gospel as I understand it,” he wrote. “Still, I am encouraged by conversations now happening either to revisit the decision or to develop a new form of Methodism, fully inclusive of all people, in the American context.”
Jones noted the conference vote doesn’t impact the university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, nor has it any impact on university governance.
“I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to lead a campus that expresses full support of the LGBTQIA+ community, including full inclusion in every form of leadership,” he wrote.
According to a university press release, Ohio Wesleyan University continues to be listed as an institution affiliated with the United Methodist Church.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.