I have served on staff in United Methodist Churches since 1996 in children’s ministry, youth ministry, and young adult ministry. More recently I have been serving as a pastor. That is, until I went to my bishop to reveal I am gay. The responses I have received since coming out have ranged from love and support to hate and disgust. Long-time friends and forgotten enemies have reached out. The most devastating response has been from church leaders and religious authorities.
The United Methodist Church clings to a systematic structure outlined in the Book of Discipline (BOD). The BOD is the law-of-the-land governing the UMC. Like scripture, interpretation of the doctrinal statements and policies in the BOD varies. Interestingly, UMC authorities more strictly adhere to the BOD, and allow more freedom in interpretation of scripture. But that’s a different topic.
The BOD states, “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in the United Methodist Church” (par. 304.3).
Because of the above statement I have been discarded. Actually, my bishop’s interpretation of the above statement lead to me being discarded. In early February I met with the bishop and agreed to withdraw from candidacy for ordination. Our plan was for me to continue to serve in my appointment as the associate pastor of a UMC in Lawton, OK through the end of February. I was assured by the senior pastor and lead to believe by the bishop that my family would be remunerated through May (the term of my current appointment).
Within a week I was no longer in ministry. The bishop was able to collect enough money to help me for two weeks. The church I was serving only agreed to help with six weeks. Don’t get me wrong, even though it falls short of what my family needs I’m thankful for the financial help we have received. One church leader tried to encourage me with the words, “I’ve discovered during times like this God provides.” Well…God is not the one who has discarded me!
I share this story because I am not alone. I know too many people who have been discarded by the church for a variety of reasons. Some of you may have been discarded by the church. Like me, some of you have been discarded because you are lgbt.
There is an apparent anti-lgbt bias in the church. For many Christians being a homosexual is the sin, and possibly one of the worst sins. The Bible never condemns someone for being a homosexual. In fact, the word homosexual does not even exist in the biblical languages (it wasn’t even a word in English until the late 19th century). Modern translations of scripture have interpolated the word homosexual to address a concept not easily explained in the English language. Because of these translations the church takes liberty in standing against a specific group of people simply because of an attraction to someone of the same sex. Unfortunately, the church’s homeostatic response will continue to drive people away.
There is hope. There are people fighting the system. Until the system is changed people like us will find it difficult to be included. We don’t have to suspend our need for community. If you feel discarded by the church reach out. You can contact me directly by completing the contact form on this site. You can reach out by liking our Facebook page Wide Open Church.
“So let’s do it–full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the bid Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:22-25, MSG). We are in this together!