Louisiana Delegates Approve Petition to Create LGBTQIA+ Ministries Team

Mark Lambert
June 16, 2023
Delegates to the 2023 Louisiana Annual Conference on Friday overwhelmingly approved a petition to create an “LGBTQIA+ Ministries Team” to help local United Methodist churches minister to the LGBTQIA+ community.

The vote to approve the petition, taken by paper ballot, passed with 71 percent in favor of the action.

The petition was submitted by Caleb Porter, director of music ministry and organist at First United Methodist Church in Hammond, who gave delegates a heartbreaking description of the ways in which the Book of Discipline says he cannot serve in the United Methodist Church.

“I stand here not as an elder, because I am ineligible.”
“I stand here not as a local pastor, because I am ineligible.”
“I stand here not as a lay minister, because I am ineligible.”
“I stand here not as a deacon, because I am ineligible.”
“I stand here alongside so many of my queer siblings in the only space allowed for me: as a lay person.”

Porter said the United Methodist church “claims to have open doors, (but) there are many doors that remain locked.”

The vote was significant not only considering the recent disaffiliation of dozens of Louisiana churches, presumably over human sexuality issues, but also in the context of the history of the Louisiana Annual Conference, Porter said.

“For there never to have been any positive petitions passed in this conference (related to LGBTQIA+ issues), this has been huge,” Porter said in a hallway outside the conference room as people stopped and congratulated him on the vote.

Porter said the idea of the petition came to him a few months ago while he was taking a walk. After the walk, he wrote a five-minute statement in support of his ideas, “and I never changed a word.”

In his introduction of the petition, Porter said he and his “queer siblings in this conference…are tired. We are hurt. We feel ignored. We feel attacked. We wonder how much longer we can belong to a system that provides such little space for us.”

The resolution calls on the conference to “commit itself to protecting, affirming, and empowering LGBTQIA+ people within the life and ministry of the churches of our Conference, particularly as Laity and on boards and agencies.” The second action item calls on the bishop and cabinet “to form a conference-level LGBTQIA+ Ministries Team consisting of Laity and Clergy, tasked with creating/collecting/sharing resources to equip and empower local churches to do ministry to and with people of the LGBTQIA+ community.”

During debate on the petition, Porter read several statements he called “the words of queer delegates of the Annual Conference.” Those statements mostly voiced support for the current direction of the church but pointed out areas where queer people feel excluded from ministry and from fellowship.

Porter said he compiled the statements on Wednesday evening, after the first day of the Annual Conference. He and seven delegates had dinner at a riverfront restaurant in Baton Rouge and wrote down statements about how their sexuality had impacted their church lives.

“It was good to do something positive, constructive,” he said.

One of those delegates was Jessica Trahan, Director of Wesley United Campus Ministry at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Trahan and the others stood behind Porter on Friday in support of the petition.

“It’s a first step,” Trahan said after the vote. “We have to start the conversation. We have to build the relationships.”

Porter, who said he mostly was “relieved” after the affirmative vote, wanted to make clear that he has never felt discrimination at his hometown church in Hammond, LA. 

There were a handful of delegates who voiced objection to the petition, but only on procedural grounds. No one spoke against the substance or spirit of the petition.

Porter said he suggests that the Annual Conference begin looking at other conferences and churches that have created similar ministerial teams to get ideas on how to engage with LGBTQIA+ United Methodists.
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