Recently, I learned that Chad Holtz, a recent graduate of Duke Divinity School who was serving as a United Methodist local pastor in North Carolina was fired for questioning the existence of hell. Here is a link to his blog post about it. This disturbing incident prompted me to think about the risks that we Reconciling Methodists take every time we work towards inclusion of LGBTQ people in the UMC.
Currently, I am a student at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As far as I know, I am the first transgender student the seminary has had. Back in 2009, the UMC church I attended in Tulsa was no longer welcoming to me and I became a member of a congregation of the United Church of Christ.Despite not being a member of the UMC, I was still active in RMN and MOSAIC. This fall, I am transferring to Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Chicago and coming back to the United Methodist Church, the church that I love. God has called me to be what a friend has termed a "holy rabble rouser." I am not the only one.
Despite the very real risks that we face, we continue to fight for full-inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the UMC. Despite being told that we are of sacred worth, we are denied even the possibility of ordination because homosexuality is "incompatible with Christian teaching." Despite the attempts to silence us, we scream with indignation and make our voice heard, even if it's one small voice in the crowd. If your voice is small, keep using it. Many small voices will eventually be heard. The battle for inclusion has been a long, hard, and painful one. We mustn't give up. In spite of the attempts to silence us, we cannot go quietly. We are fighting a good fight. To quote John Wesley: "Do all the good you can, ...By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can To all the people you can As long as ever you can!"
Violet Fenn is currently a United Methodist in exile due to a lack of reconciling congregations in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she lives and is attending a UCC church. She began her gender transition in 2008 and has been active working against bigotry and intolerance for many years. She is active in MOSAIC and the leader of its TransJustice working group. This fall, she is beginning the next chapter of her journey by attending Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa for a Master's in Divinity. Despite the bigotry and transphobia she has experienced at the hands of a UMC congregation, she believes that the Methodist Church will become open and affirming of everyone in the LGBTQ community.