Being a member of the clergy AND a member of the LGBT community is tough to pull off in most traditional churches, which is part of why it made a lot of waves last week when 111 members of the Methodist church came out, defying a church ban on homosexuality.
Seems like the overwhelming majority of them were coming out for the first time, although a handful had been open about their sexuality within their own community … they just hadn’t informed church officials.
Small wonder why.
The United Methodist Church’s ban on homosexuality dates back to 1972. The Church doctrine claims all people are worthy, but the “practice of homosexuality” is “incompatible with Christian teaching.” Openly gay clergy can be removed from ministry and face trial.
Which is why I think it was incredibly gutsy for these people to come forward and share the truth about their sexuality. The group sent a letter to church leaders, which read, in part:
While we have sought to remain faithful to our call and covenant, you have not always remained faithful to us.
Those who came out say they did it to show that congregants who are against LGBTQ inclusion cannot stop what these church leaders believe is God’s will.
“While you have welcomed us as pastors, youth leaders, district superintendents, bishops, professors, missionaries and other forms of religious service, you have required that we not bring our full selves to ministry, that we hide from view our sexual orientations and gender identities.”
One minister who signed the letter summed it up this way:
“It really does take your entire self to be a full minister. As people in your church open themselves up to you, you want to be able to provide a very open sounding board — and one of the ways to do that is live authentically. I don’t think keeping secrets is the best way to do that.”
So often, it takes a mammoth act of courage to try to change the world. Jesus Christ did it. So did Abraham Lincoln. And Rosa Parks. And Martin Luther King, Jr. And countless others, each of them risking a great deal by standing up for what they believed was right.
Would *I* risk my career, my church, my freedom to stand up for my beliefs? I’m so fortunate that I haven’t had to consider it much. I’m straight, white and middle class. The gutsiest thing I’ve done is to start this blog and work on a book that are focused on LGBT issues. I know these are hot button topics and someone’s gonna disagree with me, but I am really not risking anything of worth. Not my life. Not my job. Not my freedom.
Hats off to these people who struggle to follow their heart. To live their authentic lives. To risk so much for acceptance. To those 111 clergy this week and all those who have fought, and will fight, the battle to be true to yourselves – I say, God bless.