Over 100 Methodist religious leaders come out as gay as church holds 11-day general conference

Ministers hold the opening worship of the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Oregon, on May 10, 2016.(United Methodist Church website)

More than 100 religious leaders belonging to the United Methodist Church came out as gay ahead of the church's 11-day general conference that began on Tuesday. The conference will tackle the issue on the ban on LGBTs serving as church ministers.

In a letter addressed to the Methodist Church signed by 111 local pastors, deacons, elders and candidates for ministry, the group complained that "while we have sought to remain faithful to our call and covenant, you have not always remained faithful to us."

They complained that the church required them to "not bring our full selves to ministry, that we hide from view our sexual orientations and gender identities."

The United Methodist Church is holding its General Conference in Portland, Oregon, where more than 800 delegates will decide on whether to lift the ban on LGBT ministers and same-sex marriages, CNN reports.

In the letter, the signatories said while some of them are lucky to serve where they could be open as gays, there are places that are hostile to them.

They said many in the church want them to leave.

"We are United Methodists because there is no other denomination with our unique connectional polity and distinctive Wesleyan spirituality. We are here because God has called us to serve in this denomination, and our souls are fed by the theology in which we've been raised," they said.

Rev. Laura Young, pastor from Westerville, Ohio, said signing the letter made her feel better.

"I feel lighter already," she told CNN. "I can be a better pastor and a better person when I can be my full self, living in the light and with integrity."

The group told the church that they are coming out as gay to let everyone "know we still love you and seek to remain in relationship with you."

"You cannot legislate against God's call," the group said, adding that the "LGBT issue" cannot be resolved through restrictive legislation but by seeing that all persons are made in the image of God and welcomed into the community of faith.

They added that they are coming out to provide hope to the LGBT young people in "hostile" churches.

"We come out to remind them that God's love for them is immeasurable, and offers them a love that will never let them go, even when it feels like the church is willing to let them go," they said.

They affirmed their love for the church.

"Through you, we have stood on sacred ground and seen the face of God more clearly. Our prayer, as the church begins its time of discernment, is that you will remember that there are nameless ones around the world, hungry for a word of hope and healing," they said.