I’m the luckiest. I always knew that I was loved growing up. I was raised in The United Methodist church, and it raised me well.
At church camp, I found myself at the altar and asked Jesus into my heart. Youth Group was filled with joy and hope as we learned how to live out our faith. Middle school was awkward and uncomfortable, but church was a haven and a sanctuary.
I was in High School before church stopped being a safe place.
The boy I had secretly crushed on for years came out of the closet while in college. The local United Methodist pastor decided to preach a sermon series on the evils of homosexuality. It lasted six weeks – and I imagine it would have lasted until this boy’s family left the church or Jesus returned, whichever came first. They listened to anger, hate-speech, lies, and fear for six weeks and chose to love their son best by leaving the church. During that sermon series, I became quite familiar with the “clobber verses.” I learned the pseudo-science of fear based sex-education. The pastor said that AIDS was the cure for homosexuality.
I would sit up late at night and read my Bible as I thought about these sermons. I had ready my Bible faithfully for years – cover to cover – and none of these verses had ever jumped out at me. And they didn’t make sense to me.
This was who I was – how God had created me, and I had never learned that I should hate myself before.
I thought for a long time about those sermons. I knew that either he was right, or the rest of the Bible was. Either God loved me, died for my sins, and welcomed me – or that pastor was right and there was something hopelessly sinful about me. For six weeks I debated this. I decided that if he was right, that I would take my dad’s gun and kill myself. Every night I stayed up trying to decide if he was right or if God loved even me.
I’m the luckiest, and in the end I decided that he was wrong and that God’s love was greater than the hate I heard on Sunday morning.
I went to my District Superintendent (DS) and told him that I felt the sermons were wrong. My DS was a rule-book following, Book of Discipline quoting, administration loving DS. He looked into that poor kids eyes and he threw all of that out the window. And he hugged me and told me that I was loved. When I started seminary, he proved that by inviting me to live with his family while I was in school.
I love being a pastor. I love the Great Thanksgiving. I love the hymns and liturgy. I love sitting with the children during the children’s moment. I’m the luckiest and I serve a bustling, growing, spirit filled church. I love welcoming all to the table. I love preaching the Gospel that saved my life – at that church camp altar and again alone at night in my bedroom – so that all may be saved.
I love being a pastor. And I love my partner. I’m the luckiest, and I love the most God-honoring man I’ve ever met. Humble, courageous, kind, and faithful.
We both serve in churches that don’t accept our love.
He’s a missionary in a country that harbors great hatred for queer folks and I’m a United Methodist pastor in a conservative conference. For his safety and my job security, we keep silent. It’s never been easy. We were both so afraid even to share our truth with each other. But even though our vows have kept us from intimacy together, love is the greatest thing to share.
It’s time. It’s time that we stop the bullies from preaching hate from our United Methodist pulpits. It’s time that we show our children we love them. It’s time for The United Methodist Church to stop discriminatory policies and practices against queer people. It’s time to welcome all. It’s time.