Why some are choosing to stay in The United Methodist Church…
by John C. Parkhurst, Ph.D.
As disappointed as I am in the greater church leadership following the debacle of Rev. Schaefer’s trial, and last year’s General Conference, I intend to stay for several reasons.
First, I AM a Methodist. Born, baptised, confirmed, and life-long. Other orders of worship don’t feel the same. My brother is United Methodist clergy. Ironically, I might have been clergy, but somehow knew I wasn’t welcome before I fully understood why, and instead became a psychologist, ministering in a different manner. However, as a psychologist, I understand how important identity is, and my identity is as a Methodist.
Secondly, I have found a place in the UMC: Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, DC, a Reconciling UMC. I frequently find myself repressing tears on Sunday mornings as our minister, Dean Snyder (a straight man,) advocates full inclusion and equality for all people, as he strives to have Foundry lead the inevitable change in the greater UMC. This congregation welcomes my children and teaches them to love ALL of their neighbors. Here they don’t stand out as being from a non-traditional family, because there are many other non-traditional families, welcomed and included in congregational life.
Finally, just as I am a sometimes reluctant US American, I have stayed in the US despite having reached the final stages of the immigration process to move to Vancouver, BC, a decade ago, during the hateful and repressive Bush administration that I sought to escape. Ultimately, I now live in the nation’s Capitol, with laws protecting equality in all areas, including marriage. I waited, and the laws changed. Bigotry lost, oppression failed, and true, Christian love prevails in the laws of my city, my church, in 16 US states, and 16 countries in the world regarding marriage equality. This will happen in the UMC.
I grew up in Kentucky, mentored by at least one of the bishops leading this awful trial, and surrounded by what I now know are some of the most intransigent conservatives in the UMC. They influenced my vocation, which I do not regret, but they also caused me great pain and suffering as I surrendered what I thought to be my calling back then. I guess I am lucky, as this sort of religious terrorism is known to have pushed others to the depths of mental illness and suicide. The reason I stay is because I will outlast the bigotry in MY UMC, with the help of, and with great thanks to visionaries such as Dean Snyder, congregations such as Foundry, the many other fine leaders in my local church and beyond (including my brother,) and the true grace of God.
John C. Parkhurst, Ph.D.
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Reasons I Stay is a project of Reconciling Ministries Network dedicated to share the stories of individuals who have decided to stay in The United Methodist Church despite its descriminatory, unjust, immoral rules against LGBTQ persons. It is part of the Biblical Obedience movement sweeping across The United Methodist Church. We recognize that staying is not the right and healthy choice for all people, and we celebrate those too who have chosen to leave to more inclusive faith communities. You can read all the Reasons I Stay stories here. We invite you to submit your own story to Reasons I Stay.