Why some are choosing to stay in The United Methodist Church…
by Lamont Richie
At the UMC church I attend, we have had two classes based on the RMN “Claiming the Promise” program. Between the first and second classes, I addressed the congregation one Sunday morning and told them, in part, that: “Eighteen days after I was born, I was baptized [in the Catholic church in my hometown]. My life as a Christian had formally begun. But that was a decision made not by me, but by my parents. And for a long, long time, I regarded it as a decision that – while not intended – imposed upon me a life-long sentence of feeling defective, incomplete, unworthy, abominable, intrinsically disordered and a sinner…all of this because I am gay.”
When my partner and I joined the UMC 8 years ago, it was because of the people we knew in the local church and because of the tagline about open doors, minds and hearts. We became involved but for me there was always something missing – I knew that when families were talked about, it didn’t include my kind of family; and when anniversaries were celebrated, I knew that my relationship wasn’t one that the church recognized.
Our Sunday School Class became a Reconciling Community; and now there are some who are advocating that we become a Reconciling Church. I am behind that move but I am being cautioned about making too big a deal about same-sex marriage. That bothers me because I believe that inclusiveness means full inclusion, not just the parts that we are comfortable with. My feelings have become stronger as a result of the trial and sentence of Pastor Schaefer.
My sense of what is just is to have it understood clearly that being a Reconciling Church means more than just saying that LGBTs are welcome. We already are according to the BOD. For me, the real obstacles standing in the way of full inclusion are the BOD provisions precluding homosexuals from ordination (unless, of course, we are non-avowed and non-practicing homosexuals, whatever that may be) and from having our unions celebrated by UMC ministers or in UMC churches.
Personally, I am a member of the RMN; and regardless of what happens in my local church, I plan to be involved with any organization that advocates, clearly and unconditionally, for full inclusion in the UMC regardless of one’s sexual orientation or sexual identity. There is no room for a subordinate membership status for any LGBT person. I am gay, I am a Christian and I am a child of God who was made in His image. I have a role to play in this life and in my church and that role should not be compromised or marginalized because of who I am.
It seems that the only ones who are arguing that I have chosen to be gay are those who are not. And how would they know what I have chosen and what I have not? I am confident that God knows, however, because He’s the one who made me.
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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.