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.