A lifelong Methodist, I was christened and confirmed in a conservative church in North Carolina. God and the church, while always in the background of my childhood, weren’t front and center. But I always had my own ideas about equality, and because my views weren’t aligned with what I heard on Sunday, I was fine to follow my own moral code . . . even if it led me away from the church.
That personal path led me after college to serve as an Americorps VISTA in Denver, Colorado. The incredible nonprofit where I worked was connected to a reconciling Methodist congregation. It was a beautiful old church, adorned with the familiar Methodist symbols – the cross and red flame – and also a rainbow flag. We served everyone, and our community was enriched by the differences among us that we celebrated. It clicked. Here was the God of love and inclusion.
Ten years later, newly married and thinking about raising a family, my husband Jason and I visited Mount Olivet. We were troubled by the persistent language in the Book of Discipline condemning homosexuality and disappointed that we had not found a reconciling congregation, but we loved the community, and we joined based on faith. Faith that God was here, that God was with us, and that (as my conservative dad said recently when he matter-of-factly expressed support for same-sex marriage), “People can change.” Yes, they can. It’s God that stays the same.
Like many Methodists, I was devastated by the outcome of the General Conference last February. But I had learned that God’s love surrounds us, even when we feel that we cannot reconcile the suffering that we witness or experience with his Word and his love. I knew I had to do something that had long been difficult for me – to actively work to reconcile my beliefs with the Methodist church I loved, to listen to those within my own congregation who held different beliefs, to pray with them, to advocate for change . . . quite simply, I needed to raise my voice, humbly, in service to God.
As the Mount Olivet community reacted to the General Conference decision and moved toward becoming a reconciling congregation, I was inspired by the grace and leadership of our pastors, the bravery and empathy of our members, and as ever, the powerful witness of our LGBTQIA members.
I am grateful and proud that Mount Olivet became a reconciling congregation. As our community – and the larger community – faces additional hurdles to achieve full inclusivity and justice for all children of God, I hear His call each day to speak up, to speak out, to listen, to love, to kneel before Him and before one another, and to keep faith that we will get there. And God is with us while we do.
Make me a channel of Your peace
Where there is hatred, let me bring Your love
Where there is injury, Your pardon Lord
And where there's doubt, true faith in You.
St. Francis’s Prayer
What does the Lord require of you, but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?