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.

Gerry Hill

In the summer before my 30th birthday, I answered “Yes” to some questions. The context for these questions was during the Oregon-Idaho United Methodist Annual Conference. I was about to be Ordained as an Elder and granted full membership in the Annual Conference.  During the Annual Conference Session, the candidates for ordination are brought before the assembly and asked 19 historic questions that date back to the time of John Wesley.

Here are the historic questions:

  1. Have you faith in Christ?
  2. Are you going on to perfection?
  3. Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life?
  4. Are you earnestly striving after it?
  5. Are you resolved to devote yourself wholly to God and his work?
  6. Do you know the General Rules of our Church?
  7. Will you keep them?
  8. Have you studied the doctrines of The United Methodist Church?
  9. After full examination, do you believe that our doctrines are in harmony with the Holy Scriptures?
  10. Will you preach and maintain them?
  11. Have you studied our form of Church discipline and polity?
  12. Do you approve our Church government and polity?
  13. Will you support and maintain them?
  14. Will you diligently instruct the children in every place?
  15. Will you visit from house to house?
  16. Will you recommend fasting or abstinence, both by precept and example?
  17. Are you determined to employ all your time in the work of God?
  18. Are you in debt so as to embarrass you in your work?
  19. Will you observe the following directions? a) Be diligent. Never be unemployed. Never be triflingly employed. Never trifle away time; neither spend any more time at any one place than is strictly necessary. b) Be punctual. Do everything exactly at the time. And do not mend our rules, but keep them; not for wrath, but for conscience’ sake.

At the time, I answered all of these questions in the affirmative. The bishop explained that these were historical questions and that circumstances may be different in our time than in the time of Wesley. Still, the intent of the questions was to examine our hearts, our faith and our commitment to ministry.

gerryhillWhen I answered these questions, I lied about #9. I had studied the doctrines of the United Methodist Church and I found that many or most of them aligned with my understanding of scripture. But, there was at least one glaring contradiction for me: The Church’s doctrine as it relates to homosexuality: “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.” (Par 161F) I don’t believe this is “in harmony with the Holy Scriptures.” I have always known, to the core of my soul, that Jesus loves and accepts all people. The UMC is wrong on this issue. It’s been wrong since this language was first voted into the Discipline in 1972.

Still, I answered, “Yes.” I guess I thought, “Yes, for the most part. That is good enough. Lots of people in the UMC share my view.” So I spent the next 27 years of my life as an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church.

There is another question, for which I am no longer a “Yes.” It is question #12. I no longer approve of the UMC’s government, discipline and polity. I have come to understand that the way that the UMC is governed, and it’s polity, are too often instruments of abusive power.

When I think about how Jesus equipped and sent leaders, there was nothing of hierarchy, complaints, trials and punishments. The biggest concern wasn’t the “Covenant” (read: Law), it was the practice of forgiveness, healing and grace. There was not even a “set apart” ordained class of religious practitioners. There were just followers of Jesus living in community with the people they served.

I don’t buy it anymore. I can’t stand complaints brought against pastors who celebrate loving commitments between adults. I can no longer hold membership in a denomination that contributes to a culture that would have LBGTQ youth commit suicide before it would fully include them into the life of the Church.

But what I find even more distressing, honestly, are the liberal and progressive UM clergy who are incensed by the Church doing what it always said it would do. It is enforcing the beliefs and policies that it adopted as its Discipline. The people out of integrity are not those prosecuting the offenders. They are, actually, acting in harmony with their view of a judgmental God who withholds salvation from sinners. The are following the Book of Discipline, the same one we all answered “Yes” when asked if we would support and maintain it.

I took early retirement in June this year to step outside of the UMC for the first time in my life. My choice came from a need to restore integrity with my faith. Since then I have been healing, praying, recovering while serving emotionally disturbed youth and their families. Now, it is time to take the next step.

In solidarity with all of the people harmed by the polity of the UMC – with Robyn Morrison, Frank Schaefer, Annie Britton, Delyn Celec, J Zirbel, Kristen Burkert and so many more (LGBTQ and allies), I am surrendering my credentials as an Elder in the United Methodist Church.  Robyn and I are planning a liturgy for Sunday, December 22, the fourth Sunday of Advent.  On the day after the longest night, we will celebrate the completion of my connection with the United Methodist Church. The Church that I have loved all my life. The Church that has denied love and grace for too many for too long.

I invite other Ordained Elders in the United Methodist Church to consider if you can answer these historic questions with integrity. If not, are you ready to surrender your credentials – even if no one brings charges against you?

In Christ’s powerful love,
Gerry Hill

Alison Wisneski

As two gay people living separately in the Midwest, we weren’t doing a lot.

As two gay people living together in Colorado, we’re trying to do more.

Betsy and I received a civil union at our church, First United Methodist Church of Boulder, on the first day of autumn – September 22. Our pastors apologized for the harmful and hurtful ways the United Methodist Church treats LGBTQ persons. They said that people called us “biblically disobedient,” to which they challenged that no, we were absolutely biblically obedient. What we were doing was “Ecclesiastically disobedient.” We liked that. A lot.

document

Pastors Pat Bruns and Joe Agne sign the civil union document, while Alison, Betsy, and witness Preston Vaughn look on

We were the first same-sex couple to receive a civil union inside of the sanctuary of FUMC, and we are so proud and so honored. Last Easter, our pastors wrote a statement saying they were going to begin to perform unions to couples who asked, and it was signed by over 300 people. As two people who signed it, we were lucky enough to see our dreams become reality.

Betsy and I are pretty different when it comes to levels of our openness. I scored nearly full extrovert on the Myers-Briggs scale, while Betsy was the perfect center of introvert and extrovert. She wanted a small, simple ceremony with just the pastors. I wanted to livestream it on the Love Prevails site. We found the perfect middle (as we always do) in this blog and with some photos. We’re disrupting on a level that we’re both comfortable with.

cross

First United Methodist Church of Boulder’s first civil union performed in the sanctuary

We made it an open invitation for the church to come. This is a church that became reconciling 16 years ago and lost members who believed that FUMC was breaking the outdated, non-inclusive language code of the UM Book of Discipline, stating that our sexuality was incompatible with Jesus’ teachings. Betsy and I often joke that we believe Jesus would totally hang out with us. The Jesus we know, love, and follow would have been sitting somewhere in the pews on Sunday. Chances are, the Jesus we know would have been laughing and crying right along with us. We saw Jesus in the faces of the people who attended. The faces of love, compassion, and hope for our relationship and for relationships to come that are LGBTQ-identified and Methodist. Being both gay and Methodist can coincide in harmony, just like an extrovert and a semi-introvert can.

——–——–——–——–——–