By Anonymous Transgender UMC Clergy Person
I first read this slogan advertising my denomination when it was new. I eagerly searched through the promotional kit when it arrived. It contained radio spots, television ads., lettherhead, posters and a dvd. Exploring these items I discovered graphics and verbal messages declaring the welcoming attitude of our denomination to all persons, recognizing each one as a precious child of God. There were radio spots celebrating the equality of women and men, the diversity of races and cultures, the blessings of various ages and generations. The most recent television spot I've seen describes each person following a unique yet common journey of faith. All are invited to share, to explore this journey among other persons of faith in the United Methodist Church. Long ago I put that box down, and the slogan too, because, on that day and ever since there is nothing welcoming me; nothing inviting my family and many dear friends into the United Methodist Church. And I am a United Methodist clergy. I also happen to be transgender, and people in the LGBTQ community are not welcome.
I was recently reminded that we are not welcome in churches of the denomination I serve as I read results of the Spring meeting of The Judicial Council, our denomination's highest court. The particular decision concerns United Methodist clergy and same-sex marriage. Overturning California-Pacific Conference Bishop Mary Ann Swenson's ruling supporting a conference resolution recognizing "the pastoral need and prophetic authority of our clergy and congregations to offer the ministry of marriage ceremonies for same-gender couples", the court ruled it is a chargeable offense for United Methodist clergypersons to perform such ceremonies. This is so even in states where it is legal, even in churches that uphold these rights, and even if the clergy are retired.
In nearly three decades I have performed countless marriage ceremonies for numerous couples. Several years ago I married a United Methodist bishop and a dear member of my congregation. It is always an honor and blessing to preside and participate in such a sacred time. Now I am forbidden from offering same-sex couples who, guided by faith, seek to celebrate their union in covenant with God through the Church, and in the presence of family and friends. My denomination's highest court declares they are not to enjoy the support, encouragement, and community of my church. Ultimately this means my family is not to enjoy these things either. Our children have already left The United Methodist Church over these issues, long before they knew our story. Having grown up in the Church, they understood the gospel and could not agree with what they heard and read coming from our denomination.
In this post-Easter season filled with budding new life, our Judicial Council wields yet another death blow to those who would share their journey of faith from the unique perspective of LGBTQ persons. The council wields another blow to me and to my family as well.
"Open hearts, open minds, open doors: The people of The United Methodist Church"?
Maybe someday, but not today. Today I mourn for those I love, for my church and denomination, for myself, and most of all, for the kin-dom of God.