Author: A small town pastor in the Midwest with a big heart
Dear Delegates to General Conference,
Thank you all so much for your time, dedication, and care as we approach this special session of General Conference. You are in my prayers daily. As you discern how God is calling you to vote this conference, I would invite you to consider voting for the One Church Plan.
I’m writing to you because of the lesbian couple who I had the privilege of leading in Disciple Bible Study. They hadn’t opened their Bibles or been in church in over twenty years, because so many people had quoted Scripture to tell them they were abominations when they came out. It was such a joy to journey alongside them for a year as they came to learn that the overarching message of Scripture was love, faithfulness, and mercy and not hate, condemnation, and ridicule. They now serve as leaders on ministry teams, attend worship every week, and their marriage exemplifies the servanthood of Christ. I’m writing to you because all of God’s children deserve a place where they will be able to find salvation in reading Scripture.
I’m writing to you because of the LGBTQ youth I have the privilege of leading. They are bright and funny and incredibly faithful. They come to Sunday School and worship every week and inspire me with their questions about Jesus and what it means to be a child of God. My heart also breaks for them. I’ve made multiple trips to the juvenile psych floor at the hospital to visit different youth after encounters with self-harm and attempted suicide. The conversations and their mental health journeys have all included painful experiences of what it means to navigate life as an LGBTQ youth. What moves me is they all say the same thing: church is the place where they always feel welcomed and loved no matter what. It’s everywhere else that is so hard. I’m writing to you, because church should always be a place of welcome and love when the world feels hard.
I’m writing to you because of my church musician who married his husband after more than fifty years of partnership when marriage equality became legal. He leads our congregation, as he has led congregations his entire adult life, with grace and love and a theological richness that blesses our community each and every week. He told me that he has never joined the church because the UMC officially denies his compatibility with Christianity. The day the UMC welcomes him with dignity is the day he says it will feel like an extension of his baptism to become a member. I’m writing to you because there are leaders in our churches sacrificing their dignity to live out God’s calling in their lives.
I’m writing to you because of the queer people in my pews who help bring people to faith, who sing in the choir, who lead teams, who teach children to memorize scripture, and who have been transformed by the grace of Jesus Christ.
I’m also writing to you because of the straight people (who far outnumber the queer people) who are better Christians because they are in relationship with the LGBTQ people of faith around them—the proud grandparents who stood up and announced during joys and concerns that their granddaughter and her wife are expecting, the retired clergy person who shares a pew with the queer young adult, and the people who have come back to the faith because they have found a church that will welcome their gay friends and family members.
The One Church Plan isn’t asking for every congregation to be filled with the stories I’ve described. In my town there are four United Methodist Churches and a United Methodist college. Our church is the only one that is explicitly inclusive of LGBTQ folks, but it hasn’t stopped us from partnering in ministry together. It has only strengthened and diversified the United Methodist witness in our community to make more disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. I am so grateful for all of those churches and the lives they are changing. The One Church Plan is a step toward affirming and expanding what God is already doing in my community, and it would be a gift to see it pass.
May the Holy Spirit breathe life and grace into you as you continue this journey.