Posted by Mark Holland
Here is a letter I received from a pastor in the South Central Jurisdiction. It is personal and powerful and speaks to the importance of the work at General Conference 2019. I am sharing it with the family’s permission, with the names altered for privacy. Such is the state of our church…I pray for the day we do not need to alter our names to tell our truth.
My name is Rev. Sue Smith, and I am a lifelong United Methodist. My parents met at the Wesley Foundation at college, and I was baptized in a small, local UMC. My husband, Steve Smith, and I, and my sister and brother-in-law are all UM elders in the South Central Jurisdiction. My father has been an active lay member of our annual conference for years. I love the United Methodist Church as a global denomination, and I pray that we can find a way to continue sharing God’s love to everyone.
I have long held that it is important to avoid a church split over homosexuality because there will always be persons born gay in all churches and I want the church to be a safe place for LGBTQ folks. This belief intensified this past year when we found out our daughter, Mary, is gay. I desperately want a church that will include her and allow her to get married someday. She has grown up in the church, gone to United Methodist church camps every year since she was 5, even speaking at annual conference to support camping ministries. She was baptized by our Bishop at annual conference when she was 2 1/2 weeks old. Clergy over the years continue to ask how she is doing as they attempt to live out the vows they took at her baptism. She continues to be a faithful United Methodist in the midst of our current struggle.
Mary also knows other LGBTQ+ youth from different churches who are afraid to tell their parents or who have heard condemning messages from the pulpit, making them unable to be their true selves. I want all our LGBTQ+ youth to feel safe and loved no matter what, but especially in the UMC. Additionally, I believe it is important to avoid a church split over LGBTQ+ inclusion because there will always be LGBTQ+ persons born in all churches. I deeply desire for the church I love to stop hurting the people I love (to borrow a phrase I heard this fall), and I believe the One Church Plan can hold us together and allow space for all.
Thank you for your dedicated work. My prayers are with you as you represent us at General Conference next month.
Sincerely, Rev. Sue Smith