Feb 26, 2021

The United Methodist Church’s Northeastern Jurisdiction Native American Ministries Committee announced Feb. 20 its official position on full inclusion of LGBTQIA2S+ persons. The committee voted unanimously to affirm full inclusion of such persons (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Queer, Intersexual, Asexual, Two-Spirit) to be “an authentic expression of the Gospel perspective that all are created in the image of God.” 

The committee states that, “at a minimum, ‘full inclusion’ means the removal from the Book of Discipline of all negative or discriminatory language related to LGBTQIA+ people, as well as specifically endorsing same gender marriage and the ordination of persons who identify as LGBTQIA+.” 

NEJNAM’s position also recognizes “Two-Spirit persons in First Nations Peoples and Communities who may be members of our churches.” Two Spirit (2S), it explains, is a modern term used among various Native American and indigenous groups to “describe Native Peoples in their communities who fulfill a traditional third gender ceremonial role.”

‘This is only the beginning’

This is only the beginning,” the group continues, noting that its statement is part of an extensive report resulting from two years of research and conversations. RoBear Wilson, who chairs the Western PA Committee on Native American Ministries (CONAM), and NEJNAMC secretary Ellesa High, who chairs the West Virginia CONAM, researched, wrote and presented the larger position paper. 

Representatives from across the NEJNAMC refined and unanimously passed the statement. But they cited limitations in the English language that hinder “our ability to be inclusive” in explaining “the diversity of peoples represented in our NEJNAMC churches and CONAMs, while also making impactful statements of justice.” “Two Spirit” and “Turtle Island” (often used to refer to the earth or to North America) are two terms that are used differently by different Native peoples. 

The committee’s announcement also cites difficulty in wanting to “release statements and position papers such as this, but we also recognize the need to build relationships and listen.” Thus, it sees its statement as “only the beginning, because the larger position paper…continues to be perfected.” 

Need to consider other voices

Members credit Bishop Peggy Johnson of the Philadelphia Area, an episcopal representative to the jurisdictional group, with encouraging them to “be in conversation and to consider the voices of those who identify as LGBTQIA, and particularly as Two-Spirit persons, who are absent from our leadership circle, as we further develop this statement and the position paper. Thus, the continuing work will include conversations through talking circles with our LGBTQIA2S+ members, representatives, and allies.”

Read the full statement. For more information, contact the Rev. Dr. Suzanne Wenonah Duchesne, Communications Chairperson at nejnamc@gmail.com