I am.. a son, a brother, a friend, a Methodist…
I was raised in The United Methodist Church. I played soccer as a kid and in high school. I loved playing with legos as a child and that love blossomed into a career in engineering. I have always had a penchant for gadgets and technology. I was active in youth group and went on mission trips, was president of my youth council, and was involved in countless volunteer ministries. I ran the sound board at church for 7 years, all through middle and high school. I was active at the Tennessee Tech Wesley Foundation in college, on student council there, and worked at a Methodist-affiliated summer camp, Mountain T.O.P. for two summers. In college I dated a girl that was the youth minister at our local Methodist church.
In short, I was a “bread and butter” Methodist kid, the kind that Wesley Foundations need to thrive, and churches today desperately need in a time when young adults are scarce.
Now, at the age of 26, in my new church in a new city, I am active in the young adult group, serve on that leadership team, and as a Trustee for my church, work to take care of our historic building. I serve on the board of the local Wesley Foundation, and I even run the sound occasionally both at church and Wesley.
I am.. a son, a brother, a friend, a Methodist…a gay man.
From the earliest age I could feel attraction, I have been attracted to my same sex. I remember at first experiencing this feeling and being not quite sure what it was, because it was not what I was conditioned to experience. Our culture expects boys to like girls. I didn’t know what this feeling was, I just knew it was different. For a long time, I simply ignored it, after all I was just like any other kid, with school and soccer games and piano lessons, and going to church and youth group. It was easy to just put these feelings aside and go on with my daily life, and for 24 years, I did. However, there was always this part of me that I knew liked other guys.
I had a normal childhood, in an upper middle class suburb, with loving, generous, parents and a supportive church community. I was not molested as a child, nor did I experience any kind of “daddy issues.” It took awhile, but I finally came to terms with the fact that my feelings were coming from inside me, that my attraction was an innate part of who I was, and was not “just a phase” or “fixable.” These feelings were no longer easy to simply “ignore.”
I came out at the age of 24. It was a shock to my mother and female friends, but my dad, brother and male friends were not surprised. Most of my best friends from college were guys, and most of them also lifelong Methodists, members of my Wesley Foundation from college. They had sort of sensed it all along though they never assumed. The reaction from all of them was wonderful, and they have been so supportive. They assured me I was their brother and that they loved me just the same. They even warmly received my boyfriend when we visited my home together last summer.
These straight, southern, Christian, Methodist young men, most of them now married to women and still active in the church also want change for the better for LGBT people. They too are tired of gay people being second class-citizens in our country and in the church.
Gay people are not just “an issue” for United Methodist young people. Gay people are their friends and family. Gay people are their siblings in Christ.
It is often said that the church should love the sinner and hate the sin. My question is this: Why exactly is homosexuality a sin? We understand why lying or murder or adultery is a sin, it’s obvious. I can’t fathom why two people who love and care for one another is sinful. They aren’t hurting anyone and in fact, they are building up better relationships, with love for themselves and others. Two people in love can build up trust and support and help each other to be better people. Besides, the biological differences between our male and female bodies is so slight, and Paul says that in Christ there is neither male nor female anymore.
Paul also says that by living out the fruits of the spirit we belong to Christ. I’m here to tell you that gay people, gay Christians, and their allies, (aka my friends who are the future of the church) are some of the most joyous, peaceful, patient and kind people I know. Interestingly, I have found opponents of full inclusion are the most unjoyous, unpeaceful, impatient, and unkind people I know. If you don’t agree with full inclusion of LGBT people I ask you to consider where Jesus is in the midst of this: Who are the unkind, unpeaceful, unjoyous people around you and who are the kind, gentle, patient ones?
I also would encourage you to remember that this is not simply a political “issue” that we are wrestling with in The United Methodist Church.
Being gay is not a “lifestyle,” it’s just real people living regular lives, like me.
As you can see from my own life, gay people are real children of God that are already in our churches everyday. They are no different than anyone else, apart from who they love. Support for LGBT people has quickly become a litmus test for the next generation of Methodists because it is no longer some far-off issue. The church’s treatment of gay people affects them and their family and friends directly, daily.
The future of the church that made me the joyful, peaceful, patient, kind man I am today depends on the full inclusion of our LGBT siblings.