Over the last few days, across my Facebook page, my news feed has been dominated by post after post regarding the 2019 General Conference of the United Methodist Church. The United Methodist Church had been meeting this week to decide the future of the UMC and whether or not to uphold previous bans on gay clergy and same-sex weddings. Today they decided to uphold the previous bans, and for a Christian-lesbian (Yes, you can be both...) it really hurt me for a minute, and I wasn't
The pain of the LGBTQ folks across the message boards has been so raw, and so real. You can absolutely feel the pain, sadness and disappointment through the keyboard of the computer. I've wanted to wrap my arms around so many of the hurt and struggling folks who were on these message boards, but it got me to thinking.....
The worst part of being gay for me has always come in the form of organized religion, and I found the church I attend now, when I was the securest I've ever been in my spiritual journey, but at my lowest point with organized religion.
I will never forget the first Sunday I attended church at Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church. That day was over 9 years ago. I rolled into that church expecting to be hated upon entering, but there was something magical happening in that place. That Sunday, I sat in the 6th row from the front, on the end, just in case I was going to be beat with a Bible and needed a quick escape route. I came into that church that morning, with a ninja-princess-warrior vibe, and a chip on my shoulder bigger than I had as a hormonal teenager. I DARED God to try and convince me being in church was a good thing. In fact, as I sat there in prayer, I sort of shrugged my shoulders, looked upward towards the Heavens, and said: "You want me here?! Prove you exist in these walls, because until now I have never felt you in a church. I need a sign Lord that I can be a lesbian, a Christian, welcome in a church, and I need it to be blatantly obvious..." (I like to keep my conversations with God super real.)
And then it happened. This bald man, with skinny jeans and glasses walked out on the stage and started to preach. I remember holding my breath. It was as if this man was preaching directly to me. I can't remember the exact sermon that day, but I can remember Pastor Mike Slaughter saying something like this: "People always want to know my views on homosexuality in this church, and I am going to say it again: Everyone is welcome here. Not everyone in this congregation will agree, but if we start looking at one person's sins, then we have to look at everyone's sins, and there is no one here who can say they haven't sinned. If we single out homosexuality, we also have to single out those people who are divorced, all the way down to those people who have had speeding tickets. I expect the homosexual members to abide by the same principles in which the heterosexual members do: I expect them to be faithful in their marriages, tithe 10% and raise their children in the church."
So, I did, and these folks have become my family. They are the wacky, weird, yet fun relatives that save you at boring holiday functions. Like family, we don't always get along. We don't all have the same beliefs. But we have traveled together, served together, laughed together, and cried together. They have been seen me at my best and at my ugliest. And therefore, as people are questioning where they are going after this ruling in the UMC, I have decided I am staying right where I have been.
I'm secure in my relationship with God, and my relationship with Him didn't change yesterday because of some ruling at a conference. My faith is steadfast, He knows my heart, and despite whether a church acknowledges it or not, He made me in His image, exactly how He wanted me to be. I go to church to enhance my spiritual walk, not for validation. I serve, because as we all know we do greater things when we're in community, and I'm blessed that my church welcomes everyone. If you are reading this post and you are struggling with the UMC ruling, I'm going to need you to get up, adjust your crown, and remember exactly whose child you are. He didn't make you to hate you!
Now get out there and go be the hands and feet of Jesus.
God needs all of HIS children today more than ever.
Like seriously, get up and go right now!