On a cold Sunday in January, Cynthia Meyer, pastor at Edgerton United Methodist Church, came out to her congregation.
She did so with hope that change regarding the denomination’s stance on homosexuality was coming. But eight months later, that hope, for now at least, is gone. And after the end of August, Meyer will be gone as well.
To avoid a church trial, Meyer and Methodist officials agreed that she would give up her duties and go on involuntary leave. Her final sermon in Edgerton in Johnson County will be Aug. 28.
On Wednesday, she said she was glad to avoid a trial, which could have resulted in her losing her credentials to ever pastor again. Meanwhile, she plans to work in lay ministry or for a nonprofit as she continues to hope for a policy change in the denomination’s Book of Discipline so she can return to the pulpit.
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“I don’t think God is done with me yet,” she said.
Discussions to reach the agreement lasted 13 hours. Afterward, Meyer, 53, who grew up in a small Kansas town, wrote: “I've signed away my right to live out my calling — to be most fully who God has called me to be — I hope only for a time.
“My heart is broken, yet I trust that God will work through even this for good.”
A trial had been set for Aug. 24, but according to the Great Plains Conference of the United Methodist Church, the agreement was reached “to avoid the harm and trauma of a trial.”
No United Methodist church can appoint Meyer as pastor, a church statement said, “but she may be hired to perform functions equivalent to those of a lay staff person.”
As severance, Meyer was paid $37,000, the amount of a year’s salary.
Rita Jones, president of the United Methodist Women in Edgerton and secretary of the church council, said the congregation was greatly disappointed to lose Meyer.
“She is the same person who walked through the door the first day,” Jones said. “A congregation never agrees a hundred percent on anything, but a big majority here supported her and wanted her to stay.
“She is an excellent pastor and we are sorry to see her leave and wish her the best.”
While many other Christian denominations — including the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church (USA) — already allow gay clergy, the Methodists have stuck to the ban.
Liberals in the church think it’s time for change. Conservatives stick to homosexuality being a sin.
The fight came to a head in May at the Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore., but the issue was essentially deferred until more study. The action — signaling to some that change was coming — was hailed as historic and could put off talk of a split in the denomination.
But it didn’t allow for persons such as Meyer in the meantime. She said the time could come when she would leave the church altogether.
“I think we have to realize that there could come a time when staying may not be healthy,” she said. “That it may be better to make a change.”
Donald Bradley: 816-234-4182