At Grace-Calvary, a parish with both gay and lesbian members, I grew increasingly weary of arguing over what Paul and the author of Leviticus may or may not have meant in half a dozen passages written a couple of thousand years ago while I watched living human beings wince at the vitriol they heard from those who said they worshiped God. ¹
This. This is why I had to resign as the volunteer coordinator at St. John UMC. Even as I know that one day the Methodist Church will find a way to include the LGTBQ+ people in ministry and marriage, even as I know the dear pastor, staff, and many members of St. John would welcome this decision, even as I know it is only a matter of time until beautifully diverse people will be included in all aspects of the church, I could not bear one more session of the angry, short-sighted, and judgmental words I would hear about people dear to me, from people dear to me.
Earlier this year, I had attended a few informational sessions about the United Methodist General Conference vote on whether or not to fully include LGTBQ+ people in ministry and marriage. The discussions were very similar to the ones I endured when Lutherans voted to welcome and include everyone over ten years ago- and then my church began taking steps to leave the ELCA. Those painful memories came flooding back…
My heart would break a little more each time people openly debated the worthiness of my son and other beloved ones. I wondered why church members felt the need to “pray that the Spirit will really move next time” when I felt that the Spirit already had. I winced inside when I was told that I was overlooking my son’s sinfulness. At one point, I heard one of the church leaders worry aloud that “if we allow gay marriage, soon people will be allowed to marry their dogs.” I heard the “God didn’t create Adam and Steve” example way too often. So I soon resigned from my beloved youth ministry to help Jim at his church.
As much as I would have liked to stay and help work toward full inclusion at the United Methodist Church, I knew I would hear these same discussions all over again. I am sad and weary of this. I am more than ready to be sharing God’s love and serving with everyone instead of arguing about who is good enough to do so.
It is my passionate hope that one day EVERYONE, regardless of orientation or gender, will be included and embraced as equals, allowed to marry and to serve as God calls them to do. But I know this can be a volatile subject, and there are strong feelings on either side, so I don’t write these blogs expecting to change opinions. Growth in understanding takes so much more than a blog or a meme or a bumper sticker. Understanding takes open hearts, earnest conversations, life experiences, and spaces to listen with mutual respect.
But today I write because, as Kevin’s mom, I hear privately and confidentially from many other moms and LGTBQ+ friends who feel as I do- but who are afraid to openly speak or share. They (and I) have remained silent out of fear for their sons, daughters, or themselves, especially for their careers and safety. Today I write so that this silence is diminished, at least by one voice. Today I write to share my own personal journey- because if my path is similar to another traveler’s path, I hope we can serve as companions for one another.
Today I write because real change takes many voices. As more people become brave enough or surrounded enough to share their stories, we will feel less alone, we will feel more empowered, and we will make a greater impact- together. I hope that the good people of St. John will find the courage to speak for those who are silently fearful or hurting when the discussions begin again.
My journey has been a rich one (see Tuesdays’ blog, One Mom’s Journey to Joy). God changed my heart through my experiences with my dear son Kevin and so many other loved ones who are gay or lesbian. God changed my heart through my daughter Jennie, a psychologist who often counsels hurting gay and transgender youth. God changed my heart through my daughter Angie, a pastor whose church has genuinely embraced several transgender young adults.
I know that not everyone has had the journey I have had, so I understand when people are reluctant to be inclusive or might not have the passion for this particular issue. But as Kevin reminded me, “This is the second ministry you have surrendered because of this issue. You have sacrificed so much for this hope in your heart, and you have the right to speak of it.”
And so today I add one more voice. Mine.
Thank you for reading.
¹ Taylor, Barbara Brown. (2006) Leaving Church. New York, NY: HarperCollins. (page 108)
(Some of you may be wondering why I, a life-long Lutheran, would have joined the United Methodist Church in the first place. When Jim and I first moved to West Virginia, we began looking for a new church home. We attended St. John and were very impressed by the pastor and worship service. I immediately asked Pr. Michael what the UMC stance was on LGTBQ+ inclusion. With the honesty and integrity I so respect in him, he replied that although he feels the same as we do, he would continue to honor what the UMC church policies are. But he assured me that a vote would be coming in the next year. I naïvely assumed the vote would easily pass- and that all people would soon be included in the United Methodist Church…)
Photo taken by Karen