Drew University Library Digitizes Collection of Historic Newsletters

Collection focuses on the history of LGBTQAI+ issues and The United Methodist Church

July 2024 – Drew University’s Methodist Library has partnered with Affirmation: United Methodists for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns, to digitize nearly 50 years of newsletters and make them available for free.

“The Drew University Library is honored to be able to digitize and provide open access to this collection, especially at this momentous time in United Methodist Church history,” said Elizabeth Leonard, Director of University Libraries and Special Collections. “This project will preserve a vital part of church history and make it available to researchers, historians, and others interested in the rights of LGBTQAI+ people of faith.”

Dr. Ashley Boggan D., General Secretary of the General Commission on Archives and History [GCAH] of The United Methodist Church, said, “GCAH is excited to be partnered with Drew University’s Methodist Library for moments such as this! We cannot wait to assist distribution of these stories and newsletters so that the full history of United Methodism can be proclaimed.”

The digitization and exhibition of Affirmation’s history is timely. On May 1, 2024, The United Methodist Church reversed its 40-year ban on the ordination of gay clergy at the 2024 General Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. The decades-long advocacy by Affirmation and similar groups contributed to the historic vote. 

Affirmation was founded in 1972 as an all-volunteer group to offer support and advocacy for LGBTQAI+ people in The United Methodist Church. In addition to informational and advocacy work, Affirmation supported LGBTQAI+ clergy and allies who faced church discipline, launched what came to be known as Reconciling Ministries Network to facilitate LGBTQAI+ recognition and support by individual congregations, encouraged and equipped LGBTQAI+ people in Uganda and Kenya, and helped organized the Love Your Neighbor Coalition with other like-minded Methodist organizations and caucuses. 

The new digitized collection will include 130 newsletters spanning nearly 50 years, plus 10 daily newsletters from the 2008 General Conference of The United Methodist Church. The newsletters contain stories, reflections, and calls for action for and by LGBTQAI+ Methodists. Along with the papers and manuscripts of Affirmation, also held by Drew University, the newsletters are remarkable primary sources documenting the history of LGBTQAI+ Methodists and their work for inclusion. These digitized materials will be freely available through the Internet Archive, Drew University Library’s institutional repository, and Affirmation’s digital platforms. 

The digitized collection will launch at the start of the fall 2024 term. In celebration of the launch, the Drew University Archives will have a digital and physical display on the history and work of Affirmation as well as a LibGuide focused on resources for studying Methodism and LGBTQAI+ history. 

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