In January, the Rev. Cynthia Meyer set herself up to be fired.
She came out to her congregation, announcing that she was lesbian and in a loving relationship with a female partner.
Meyer took her brave stand knowing that it would trigger scrutiny that might cost her the role of pastor at Edgerton (Kan.) United Methodist Church, as it conflicts with the faith’s views. Indeed, Meyer further pressed the church’s processes into motion by sending a letter of her decision up the faith’s chain of command.
She faces a possible trial over the matter in August.
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To many, the fact that the United Methodist Church is still wrestling internally with how to view homosexuality might come as a surprise. Other arms of Christianity have already made peace with the issue, formally changing long-held positions that found it to be sinful. The question was one of the most closely studied at May’s Portland gathering of bishops for the Methodist General Conference.
The bishops agreed to a commission to study church discipline on homosexuality, a process that could take up to two years.
This week, United Methodists in this region took another step, possibly forward, toward resolving Meyer’s case.
On Monday, the bishop for the Great Plains Conference issued a letter to the region’s clergy and lay members calling for a “an intensive effort to seek a just resolution.” Bishop Scott J. Jones also acknowledged the quandary of being stuck between the denomination’s agreement to reassess and the current rules.
It’s within that holding pattern that Meyer’s future is trapped.
Jones asked that all involved, legal representatives and possible mediators, keep conversations confidential. So there is no attempt to pry here, via reporting, just an acknowledgment that good people are trying to find a solution.
“We covet your prayers. I indicated to you that we, the Great Plains Conference, have been put in a place where there are no good options. I hope to avoid a trial and still keep my covenant vows,” Jones wrote.
The bishop’s letter follows the actions of clergy who asked for such a resolution for Meyer.
Several local United Methodist ministers have been thoughtfully, gracefully, forward-thinking on the issue. The example of the Rev. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of the Leawood-based Church of the Resurrection, stands out.
In May, Hamilton published three long blog essays on the conflict, which he called the most divisive within the church today. He wrote to inform and spark reflection, showing how the Bible can seem to be in conflict.
And he reported that at least 56 petitions and pieces of legislation were submitted on the issue of same-gender marriage and the ordination of gay and lesbian people at the Portland meeting. The stands came from a variety of views, conservative, progressive and moderate.
He followed up these writings with a heartfelt sermon on May 22 titled “When Christians Disagree.”
In the address, Hamilton took the congregation through his personal journey. From his childhood of teasing people suspected to be gay. He talked about some of the first openly gay people who approached him as head of Church of the Resurrection, asking if they would be welcomed. For years, he counseled people to join but also admonished that he didn’t believe that God wanted them to be in romantic relationships, which was then his interpretation of the Bible.
Hamilton said that through the years he’d listened to more than 200 people tell stories of gay people, their desire to be followers of Jesus. He estimated that there are 300 to 600 gay or lesbian members of Church of the Resurrection and that they are valued as members, volunteers in missions, ushers and choir members.
Hamilton discussed how he began to question himself, asking if he was truly expressing God’s will with how he was interpreting biblical scripture on homosexuality. Telling people that they must live without the emotional bonds of intimacy had always weighed heavily on him.
He acknowledged that he might be wrong in his shifting view of what God desires on homosexuality. But he emphasized that as the church continues to live within the tension of differing views, there is room for a Christian response, one that he asked of the congregation.
“There is room for people to disagree on their interpretation of the text,” Hamilton said. “There is no room to disagree on how we love people.”
At their best, any faith leader will help guide people toward a closer connection with others through their faith in God’s love.
It’s refreshing to hear local voices doing that good work on such an important matter today.