Catherine Bailey

My husband and I have made the difficult decision to leave Northwest Hills UMC in Austin, TX, and The United Methodist Church in search of a faith community that is inclusive of all people. We have been active members and leaders at NWHills for 25 years, but cannot continue to support the UMC policies of exclusion, oppression, and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

The UMC stance that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” flies in the face of medical, scientific, psychological, and other professional disciplines who agree that same-sex attraction is a perfectly normal expression of human sexuality.   Bigotry is all that stands in the way of fully embracing gay and lesbian clergy and weddings, just as bigotry was overcome to denounce slavery and to welcome women into the clergy.

Our children and youth in the UMC are taught to follow the example of Christ and to oppose racial, ethnic, and sectarian prejudice. Simultaneously, the church sends a conflicting message of subtle oppression and outright exclusion. Locally, Mary Ann Kaiser has been deprived of completing the path to ordination at University UMC. Nationally, the continuing condemnation of Bishop Melvin Talbert, Pastor Frank Schaefer and others leaves us disillusioned by our church that claims to have “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.”

Consider the LGBT kids, youth and adults worshiping in fear and secrecy within the church, and those outside the church who feel rejected and condemned. Between 30 and 40% of LGBT youth continue to attempt suicide. Ninety percent of LGBT students were harassed in the last year, and 40% of homeless youth are LGBT having been physically or emotionally forced from their own homes.

We do not take this decision lightly. My family’s affiliation with Methodism goes back for generations, including Methodist circuit riding preachers when Texas was the wild frontier. I was raised, baptized, and confirmed in the Methodist Church. My 80 year old mother is an active, dedicated member at NWHills.

I pray that someday very soon the radical, courageous leadership and unconditional love of Jesus Christ will overflow from within the UMC for all people.  I pray that anti-gay language and practices will be eliminated from the Book of Discipline. I pray that children and young people in the UMC will learn from modern-day, courageous role models within the church to strive for social justice and equality.

On that day, I will invite my younger brother and his life partner to come back to the church with the assurance that all of God’s children are welcome, regardless of their sexual orientation.

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Mary Lou Taylor

Mary Lou Taylor is a member of the Love Prevails team. As someone I consider to not only be a role model, but a friend, I take this divestment both as a serious commitment to the cause as well as a beacon by which we as LGBTQ members of the church and allies can follow. I am honored to know Mary Lou and proud to call her a friend – Alison Wisneski, social media coordinator, Love Prevails

After a lifetime as a Methodist and 28 years in the same church, where I served at one time as chair of the Church Council, Missions Committee, Environmental Committee and LGBT Advocacy Ministry, taught Sunday School and Adult Bible Study, organized mission trips and sang in the choir, I left my church this week. It wasn’t easy, but it felt right. I had to divest.

The homophobic, discriminatory language and rules against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender United Methodists must change. But power structures only change when it is too painful to stay the way they are. And as long as I stayed and gave my tithes and talents, there was no pain. It didn’t matter how much I did within my own church to make it a welcoming congregation—children who grow up in my church and discover they are not heterosexual still cannot answer God’s call to serve as a pastor; they cannot walk down the aisle of the church of their birth to marry the person they love; and they cannot be united by the pastor who nurtured them throughout their lives. To me, staying felt like belonging to a country club that lets blacks and Jews be members, as long as they don’t use the golf course or the locker rooms. It’s just not right.

Until all Methodists who believe that God welcomes us all, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, speak out with their voices, their tithes and their actions, or until enough pastors and congregations and bishops decide to follow Christ’s teachings over the flawed Book of Discipline, nothing will change. So I have withdrawn my presence, gifts and service from the United Methodist Church. I will continue my witness, by working with Kairos Co-Motion and Love Prevails. And I will continue my prayers, praying that the United Methodist Church will stop discrimination in all forms and become truly welcoming. I pray that one day I will be able to come back to the denomination of my birth without being complicit in harming others.

Wez Davis

Being Knit Together 

When I think about that time
it is simply a black hole of depression
with flashes of white light and sharp pain.
The white light of another hit from the system
and the sharp pain of long term friends and family
moving away and shunning me.

 When I spoke my truth out loud
I became a loose cannon,
too dangerous to be associated with or trusted.
An embarrassment.

When forward thinking progressive folks
tell me the Holy is no longer active,
or I am in a phase I need to outgrow,
I realize that they have never been
sent into the lion’s den,
thrown into the fiery furnace
or called to be a lesbian clergy person
in the United Methodist Church.

Thanks be to the Holy
that She
has always been, is now and always will be
holding me in Her ever-loving arms.
Arms that are strong enough for anything
and kind and gentle enough for everything.

 Earlier this week I came across the web site
loveprevailsumc.com
They are naming the disconnect
between what is said in
the Book of Discipline and the Bible.
They also have a list of
Principled Leaders Lost.
Among the wonderful, powerful people listed
I found my name.
I am so honored to be included among these folks.

I am remembered.
When I spoke my truth at the Listening Post
and therefore chose to turn in my orders,
I was heard.
What I did made enough difference
to be remembered.

 I had thought this wound could never be healed.
Yet now, El Roi, the God who sees,
the Holy who met Hagar in the desert,
has also met me in the sacred Arizona desert.
She is gathering in the remaining loose strands
and knitting me together.

 I can stand tall and proud
in remembrance
of the time I spoke my truth
in a way that is still remembered
twenty three years later.

I give thanks to the Holy
for continuing to knit me together
in unexpected ways.

Blessed be,
Wez Davis
Thanksgiving morning 2013.