I struggle with faith.

I struggle with religion.

I’ve been burned by the church, in different forms, and thought going back to church was never a possibility. When I left my old church, it was over 30 years of conservative, fundamentalist rhetoric, which most of the time I heard from my father, who was the pastor. When I left that church to choose a life apart from condemnation for being gay, I told myself that I would never go back to church. My relationship with the Divine was there, I didn’t question that. My father’s last words to me were, “when you leave this house, you’re leaving God!”

I looked at him and said, “no, I’m leaving the God you serve. Me and God are good!”

So the thought of ever walking back into another church was the farthest thing from my mind. Fast forward almost 6 years, and I’m a member of St. Stephen’s UMC in Norman, OK. Still living in one of the most conservative states in the country, but the church I’ve found is my family…my oasis. When people ask, I tell them I go to St. Stephen’s, not that I’m a Methodist. Mainly because I feel a part of my church, but not “the” church…the denomination as a whole.

The United Methodist church as a denomination tells me different things than my church tells me. My church lives out the love for everyone, but somehow the denomination has missed that pledge.

All through scripture, love, forgiveness, kindness, compassion and helping your fellow human is scattered throughout the bible. Yet I question why The UMC, as a denomination, looks at me differently. I know there are a handful of scriptures that they want to use to tell me why I’m not worthy of the same privileges and rights of every other member. However, the Book of Discipline reads differently depending on how it’s read.

In one phrase I’m considered a child of God and worthy of everything the church has to offer, and yet I’m also told that I would not be allowed to fulfill a spiritual calling as a faith leader (in some respects) if I so chose.

I can attend some of your churches, as long as they allow me, but ultimately I’m not looked at in the same light as the heterosexual member sitting next to me.

Why? Because I don’t tithe the same as another member? Am I not in as many committee meetings as another member? No, it seems that just because of loving another person of the same sex, I’m dismissed from certain aspects of the church.

Well that’s odd, because a lot of the scriptures I read glorify love.

“Faith, hope, love…the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Cor. 13:13 “For God love the world…that whoever believes in him might live.” – John 3:16 “By this you will know my disciples, because they will have love among themselves.” – John 13:35 “God is love.” – 1 John 4:8

Some days…I wonder.

So I ask The UMC, “how long must I wait? Will you forget me forever? How long will you turn your face away from me?”

Jason Kennard-Martin

Jason Kennard-Martin is 39 years old and lives in Norman, OK. He is a member at St. Stephen’s UMC, a Reconciling Congregation, and never thought there would ever be a church in his home state that would welcome LGBTQ people much less give them the freedom to explore theology.His mission is to help others know there are welcoming and affirming faith communities like St Stephens, and he hopes to help other faith communities work through the process of being welcoming as well.

He recently married his husband Will and they have 2 wonderful furry “kids”, Addy and Barney.He's been Reconciling Ministries Chair and a committee member, works closely with an LGBTQ youth group that meets at church, and has been associated with PFLAG Norman for 5 years and been a board member 4 of those, currently the chapter Vice-President.

He believes everyone should have the freedom to serve the Divine in whatever capacity they see fit and do so in an atmosphere that encourages free thinking and love as the basis to understanding ourselves and the universe around us.

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