Why some are choosing to stay in The United Methodist Church…
by Lee Griner
Why am I a Reconciling United Methodist, you ask. Why do I stay in the United Methodist Church, you ask. You might as well ask why I like singing in church, why I know the Apostles Creed without “He descended into Hell,” why I know two versions of the doxology (one with Him and one with God), or why I say “forever” at the end of Lord’s Prayer instead of “forever and ever,” why I expect grape juice instead of wine at communion. My childhood in the Methodist church inculcated Methodist values, practices, and expectations into the fiber of my being at a young age.
Then, I got mixed messages at the age of 15. It was 1976. To my incredible relief, I discovered that I was not the only homosexual in the world. To my disappointment, I discovered that the Methodist church wasn’t too thrilled about that simple fact. I left the church and pursued several other courses of spiritual study, Zen Buddhism mostly. I liked the idea that God, Spirit, Rightness, were parts of me—not entirely things outside of me that I could only aspire to and never be a part of, not even for a moment, which is how I had felt upon being deemed a recalcitrant sinner by the church. I told myself I didn’t miss church and all those judgmental hypocrites. I told myself I didn’t need to be forgiven. One of my favorite quotations came from Patti Smith’s song “Gloria” and it goes like this: “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.”
Then again, at the age of 49, I realized that maybe church had something besides selective forgiveness and never-ending judgment. It was National Back to Church Sunday, and I came back to the United Methodist Church. A few months later, I joined the congregation at Highlands UMC in Birmingham, Alabama. A couple of years later, I learned about the Reconciling Ministries Network.
I don’t think I’m back at this time by accident. So, I’m staying.
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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.