My cousin David, was the brother I never had. I was sad when he took off to live in San Francisco leaving us behind in NY. We were not surprised when in the late 70s he revealed that he was a homosexual. The family was pretty accepting and we just knew he deserved to be happy.
Five years later, his long term partner died of AIDS. Instead of being mired in grief, David dedicated the rest of his life to causes that helped others with AIDS. David, a life long Methodist, became very committed to the Reconciling Congregations movement.
He, with his parents, helped his home church become one of the first Reconciling Congregations. He then joined the national movement for Reconciling Congregations. In the meantime, he started the Living Well Commission to help those who were surviving longer with AIDS.
The last month of his life we visited more frequently. He saw me as his “personal confessor.” He told me the many harrowing tails of an outcast. The situations he had endured living as a gay man…. especially in the Christian community. He told me if he had been able to be out in the open about his sexuality, he would have settled down a long time ago with his partner.
Three weeks before he died, we went to DC to witness The Quilt with him. The last week of his life he talked about how hard it had been to open people’s hearts to the fact that the church was the hope for the gay community to finally be accepted somewhere and for God to be close. It broke his heart that the church was so alienating. He never once lost his faith that Jesus loved him.
The day before he died, he looked at me and said, “Tell me Rev….is it at all possible that the naysayers are right?” It was then that my heart broke as I thought how the world and the church had been killing him slowly from the time he was “discovered.”
I also knew why he fought so hard to change The UMC. I bent over and kissed his cheek and said, soon Jesus will be kissing you and saying, “well done, good and faithful servant!”
When I was ordained a Deacon, David was there. I promised I would keep fighting for the church we both loved. When I was ordained an Elder, David was gone but his father was there to be David’s witness.
My question is this….how dare we presume to shut out our siblings from ordination or take that office away from willing hearts that serve God in Biblical obedience? How can we allow the doors of Gods church to be closed to any of God’s children? How can we proclaim ” Open hearts, open minds, open doors” without feeling the lie that it is?
Please, please take this church into the future living the truth of that motto of The UMC.
I have seen how many inroads have been made in the places where acceptance is not exclusionary, where the word of the good news is shared without exception, where humanity dares to not judge and where the love of Christ is a privilege to be given to others that they may be lifted, loved, nurtured in a world that so often oppresses. May we change, and change until all the church will say “Open hearts, open minds, open doors” like it is a sacred creed!