After 25 years of leadership in the United Methodist Church, I recently chose to do what some may deem unthinkable: I came out as a lesbian to my small-town Kansas congregation.
The disconnect between my gay identity and my church's policies has distressed me for many years. I’ve long recognized and now assert that it’s past time for the denomination to change. It’s my time to share my story as a part of that change.
By treating lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer members as “less than,” the United Methodist Church turns faithful people into victims rather than celebrating all as beloved children made in the image of God. The church has lost countless gifted members and leaders by not valuing the sacred worth in everyone. I noticed an internal struggle in many of my theology students at Emory University, coming to terms with their identity and the church’s unwillingness to affirm their calls to the ministry.
Young adults don't understand the rational for this exclusion. My young adult daughter fully supports my committed relationship and has welcomed my partner into our family. Raised in the church, she is repelled by the discriminatory statements, policies and actions of the denomination. She rejoices in my new openness about my identity and my taking a stand as an advocate for full equality and inclusion.
Now, as a pastor in a local church, I find it incredibly disheartening to speak to my congregation each week about God’s love for them as they are, while being unable to speak of my own God-given identity, my loving relationship, and much of my day-to-day life. While it's encouraging to see historic changes in federal law and a growing cultural acceptance, it is difficult to be a part of a system that does not yet celebrate difference and affirm all.
My partner and I look forward to a time when we feel free to exercise our right to marry. Our great joy would be to invite one or more of our United Methodist clergy friends to officiate at our wedding worship service, yet all church clergy are forbidden from performing weddings for same-sex couples and hosting such services in our churches.
At The United Methodist Church's General Conference in May, the acceptance of same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy will once again be up for debate as the policymaking body of the church determines the rules of the denomination for the next four years. That's why I’m working with the Reconciling Ministries Network to change exclusionary, discriminatory and hurtful policies, and encourage you to visit rmnetwork.org/itstime to petition the General Conference delegates directly and share stories about how the anti-LGBTQ doctrine hurts the church and the people you love.
My voice alone can only do so much. I implore others to make their voice heard as the General Conference delegates cast their votes. Together, we can move the church to fully affirm that all people are of equal sacred worth with equal opportunities in the church. Together, we can end the infliction of harm by those proclaiming the Gospel. It’s time.
Rev. Cynthia Meyer is the former assistant dean of students for the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. An ordained elder in the Great Plains Conference since 1992, she currently serves as pastor for Edgerton United Methodist Church in Edgerton.