The following ‘Dear John letter’ is written for the Reverend John Wesley, and all who work and worship within his tradition, on the occasion of this pastor’s final day of work with The United Methodist Church:
I’m leaving you.
It’s not you, it’s me.
Well, to be clear, I don’t claim to bear the full weight of this decision alone. After all, I have been watching.
I have watched as an increasingly radicalized right-wing contingent has infiltrated your buildings, your meeting halls, and the sanctuaries established under your name. I have watched as this contingent has spoken the vilest words from the floor of General Conference. I have watched as they have released polished production pieces that calmly and falsely inform your church that those who disagree with them do NOT believe that ‘God is good, the Bible is true, and that promises should be kept.’ Yes, I have been watching.
I have seen your people abandon your quadrilateral.
I have seen Reason rejected. After all, why pay attention to the overwhelming evidence of the wider scientific community when it is far more comfortable to adhere to the distaste of the ‘other’ that personal bias brings? I have seen those who claim to believe in the God of wisdom refuse to engage in the basic action of processing information; choosing instead an unexamined faith.
I have seen Experience ejected. You church currently operates within a system that legislates against the frank sharing of the fullness of our lives. Our voices are silenced. And when we dare to speak, our stories are disregarded, despised, denigrated.
I have seen Tradition tanked. I have heard the voices that argue to hold to a ‘historic position’ on human sexuality; while rejecting a tradition of open conversation that reaches far further back in history than a mere forty-five years. And I do believe that what happens at your General Conferences can any longer stand under the definition of ‘Holy Conferencing.’
I have seen Scripture soiled. I have watched as this God-breathed collection of documents collected across centuries of human existence has been edited, abridged, reduced to a mere handful of verses. Yes, I have watched the shrinkage of this noble text, the one you wrestled with and relished in. I have witnessed from within your ranks the uprising of a cult based on a particular understanding of a specific reading of a smattering of passages – passages smaller in number than there are commandments.
I have watched as clergy and lay people alike have ‘come out’ in support of the full inclusion of LGBTQI+ persons in your church… only to have their courage repaid with public shaming, church trials, and ‘just’ resolutions that have cost many of them their careers.
Oh yes, I have been watching.
And when my gaze turns, bewildered, from the war-pocked wider church it settles on my own family, on my own home, on myself. You see, what I have learned from all this watching is that your once grace-filled denomination is now toxic. It is toxic to my queer family, to my queer children, and to my queer self.
John, this relationship has become abusive.
And as in any abusive relationship it is up to each person to discern in their heart whether to stay or whether to leave. Please understand, though, that for every brave soul who boldly proclaims their willingness to fight through this thing, tooth and nail, until the bitter end… there are countless more, like me, who will simply slip away.
I honor the struggle of those who stay, John. I have witnessed, and will testify to, their resilience and pain. As for and my house, however, we will take our scorched and battered souls elsewhere.
And so, I’m leaving you. But it’s not you, it’s me.
The thing is I have discovered an important truth about our relationship, and that truth is this:
I deserve better.
One Resigned Pastor