‘The Methodist Church has historically championed the lives of those on the margins, and lesbian and gay Methodists claimed this heritage by becoming organised in 1989.’
It was the discussions on the 1990 Conference Report on A Christian Understanding of Human Sexuality and the preparations for the subsequent 1993 Methodist Conference debate on Human Sexuality which gave a focus for the group. Many were already members of LGCM (Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement) and became the core of the Methodist Caucus within LGCM.
A working group of the Methodist Caucus met every other month planning for the 1993 Conference. Fifteen hundred pounds were raised and all six hundred representatives of the Conference were sent an excellently produced sixteen-page booklet entitled One More Step telling our stories and putting our point of view. We produced and circulated a badge which read “I’m praying for an Inclusive Church”. – a powerful visual statement to friend and foe alike as about 200 badges were worn in solidarity in the Conference area. The first ever public meeting of the Methodist LGCM Caucus was held on the Monday lunchtime before the debate on the Tuesday and 150 people crammed into the small room.
Alongside the ‘official’ resolutions it was felt that there needed to be a more visionary and affirming resolution which was proposed by the Chair of the Caucus, Rev John Cooke, and finding no one in the Church hierarchy prepared to second the resolution, Rev Dr John Simmonds, the Secretary for Further Training wonderfully volunteered to do so. In the event a ‘conservative’ resolution reaffirming the traditional teaching of the church was passed. Providentially our affirming resolution was called for debate and to our delighted surprise passed by a large majority: Conference recognises, affirms and celebrates the participation and ministry of lesbians and gay men in the church. Conference calls on the Methodist people to begin a pilgrimage of faith to combat repression and discrimination, to work for justice and human rights and to give dignity and worth to people whatever their sexuality. The work of the Caucus and its friends had helped to prevent a disaster and obliged the Church to embark upon a pilgrimage.
The relationship between these two very different resolutions preoccupied the Church for the next number of years. A crisis occurred when in 1996 a gay minister wrote a comment article in The Pink Paper about his and his partner’s experience in his church and circuit. Two leading evangelical ministers brought a formal complaint and then charges against the minister which they pursued through the Disciplinary Courts of the Church to Conference itself. Members of the Caucus believed that this was a form of harassment, and worked to call together a broad-based group of Methodists under the title “Sustaining Six” (the Conference ‘affirming’ resolution was Resolution 6) in order ‘to support the gay minister, to alert the Church to issues around harassment, discrimination and repression and to encourage the Church to take the Pilgrimage seriously’. The subsequent debates at the 1996 Conference were bitter and divisive and the President of Conference called for a period of calm. As a result it was decided that we would continue to support any who were the subject of discrimination, and encourage conversations on sexuality in our own contexts, but resolved that the 1993 Resolutions, ambiguous though they were, say all that the Church can say at the moment and therefore would not bring resolutions or memorials to modify them.
Thus ended a ‘political’ and campaigning period in the early story of the Caucus/Outcome and inaugurated a quieter time of supporting one another and attempting the slow but necessary mission to educate the Church. This has been attempted in a number of ways.
Branding: It was felt that the title ‘Methodist Caucus within LGCM’ was cumbersome, overly bureaucratic, lacking in a sense of vision and direction, and frankly not snappy enough. After discussion a decision was made to adopt the title of Outcome – a play on the liberating experience of ‘coming out’ and the expectation of a future destination. So in 2002 Outcome and its logo was launched.
Keeping the flame alive: Over the years a regular pattern of events has enabled Outcome members and a wider circle of people to engage with one another and support one another, by means of an Annual Retreat and regular Public Meetings.
Visibility: It was important that the presence and participation of LGTB Methodists was noticed and recognised. An Outcome stall has been present and staffed at every Methodist Conference venue and a Conference Public Meeting has often been arranged. The 20th Anniversary of the 1993 Conference Resolutions on Human Sexuality was celebrated by a very well attended public meeting with a panel of distinguished speakers. It has been important to promote the normalisation of Outcome’s place in the life of the Church, and it has now become a regular part of the annual programme that the President or the Vice President of the Conference is invited to and attends an Outcome event.
Education: The mission to educate the Church and help it to move towards an inclusive Church has resulted in a number of remarkable and impressive publications. Encouraged by the then Methodist Publishing House to think about producing a book that would share something of our experiences, a dedicated group produced an 80 page book, published in 2009. The title was taken from one of the great liberation hymns of Charles Wesley, ‘And can it be?’, but as the book journeyed on it was decided that we were saying much more than this, and took to declaring ‘And It Can Be!’ In 2013 this was supplemented by a further publication ‘Bold I Approach’ a worship anthology for an Inclusive Church with contributions from past Presidents and Vice-Presidents of the Methodist Church.
Communication: We have a new up-dated Outcome website and most communication is electronic.
Contributing to the Debate: Outcome has consistently contributed to the ongoing debate within the Methodist Church. Submissions were made to the 2005 Conference Report ‘Pilgrimage of Faith’, where the Church subsequently decided that it would not be helpful to attempt a clear decision on same-sex relationships. Outcome participates in the 2008 Equalities and Diversity project where LGBT issues are now included. Submissions were similarly made to the 2014 Report of the Working Party on Marriage and Civil Partnerships exploring the implications of the same sex marriage legislation. The Report to Conference was open and challenging – and so the debate continues and Outcome will play its part.