Adopted by the 2018 Annual Conference of Greater New Jersey

Jesus Christ has expressly given the least, the lost, and the hurting a place among the people of God, and teaches us, saying…“Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40 NRSV); and

The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church states: “Certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation.… Moreover, we support efforts to stop violence and other forms of coercion against all persons, regardless of sexual orientation.” (Book of Discipline, 2016).

Despite the fact that our church members hold diverse theological opinions, we share John Wesley’s commitment to his three simple rules: “Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.”

United Methodists in Greater New Jersey seeks to follow a biblical mandate of edification of the least, the lost, and the hurting in order to prevent suicide, sexual assault, trafficking, and homelessness of youth, including those youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ);

We seek to educate families and churches about how to respond with love to youth in our churches and our world. This response includes affirming the value and sacred worth of all youth, maintaining safe spaces for young people that comply with safe sanctuary policies of the United Methodist Church (under Discipleship Ministries as part of the Book of Discipline under Social Principles), demonstrating respect for youth; and advocating for the needs and rights of youth in our churches and in our world.

We vow, as churches and people of faith, to bear witness to the value of each and every life by not remaining silent when this value is questioned or dehumanized. We categorically oppose the practices of human trafficking and slavery in all its forms. We urge our churches, committees, campus ministries, and all other United Methodist organizations to create safe sanctuary space for each and every child of God.

In the spirit of advocating for safe spaces, we call upon every United Methodist to respond to acts of prejudice, harassment, bullying, abuse, and violence against all persons, including our LGBTQ youth, with acts of compassion and justice. Moreover, we call upon the Church and society to intentionally support, advocate on behalf of, and minister to all at risk youth regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

United Methodists in Greater New Jersey encourage work with local schools to support educational opportunities that further best practices for creating safe spaces, policies for reducing bullying, and efforts to support youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or who question their sexual orientation or gender identity, since research demonstrates that youth who identify in LBGTQ categories are at increased risk of suicide and harm in our churches and in our world.

We call upon clergy to provide counseling and emotional and spiritual assistance to the families of all youth, including those who identify in sexual minority categories such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning, and most especially to youth who are struggling and to families who have lost loved ones to suicide. This counseling should help families and youth better understand and value their life as a sacred gift, and teach practical skills for making the home a safe place and the church a safe sanctuary space that is free of ridicule, bullying, and physical and verbal abuse. All children deserve to know that they are loved and valued. We implore our leaders and churches to be a model of God’s grace, love, acceptance and hope for all children.

Finally, we call all church leaders to offer formal opportunities for churches and communities to engage in study, prayer, and safe conversations around the work of the Commission on A Way Forward. We implore the conference to assist in training and equipping pastors and lay leadership as facilitators of this dialogue, specifically offering trainings in group facilitations skills for sensitivity and respectful dialogue among divergent opinions so that all peoples of all ages might grow to know they are beloved children of God.

Young people in our world today are hurting and being harmed. The New Jersey 2017 Youth Suicide Report shows that suicide is increasing among young children ages 10-18 in our state.

All children and youth deserve to be loved, accepted, and valued. Youth who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, and bisexual are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers; and 40% of transgender adults report having attempted suicide, of which 92% attempts were made while under the age of 25 (The Trevor Project, 2017).

Youth who come from families that reject their sexual identification categories are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as their straight peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection, and an estimated 40% of youth served by drop-in centers, street outreach programs, and housing programs identify as LGBTQ (Durso & Gates, 2012).

Homeless youth often run away or are turned out of their homes due to discrimination, name calling, rejection and abuse. Additionally, these young people often lack support within many institutions (their schools, families, and churches) specifically because of discrimination related to their sexuality which leaves them more vulnerable to experiences that may compromise their mental health. As a result, youth who identify as sexual minority categories are more likely to experience low self-esteem issues, putting them at a much higher risk for trafficking or turning to sex work in exchange for shelter, food or rent money (National Institutes of Health 2013).

Among homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth, 58.7% have been sexually victimized compared to 33.4% of heterosexual homeless youth. LGBTQ homeless youth are roughly 7.4 times more likely to experience acts of sexual violence than heterosexual homeless youth; LGBTQ homeless youth commit suicide at higher rates (62%) than heterosexual homeless youth (20%) (National Coalition for the Homeless, 2012).

We believe our church has a moral and ethical duty to respond in grace and love.