Why some are choosing to stay in The United Methodist Church…
by Patience E. Whitworth
My Mother was raised attending church in another denomination in Pickton, Texas. As a child, she watched the Methodists across the street leaving church earlier and looking like they had more fun. That is right, Methodist are more fun! In her adult life she converted to Methodism and met my Father who was raised in the United Methodist Church. Together my parents raised my three siblings and I in the church. I learned to love the United Methodist Church by attending the United Methodist Women’s Sunday school class with my Grandmother at the FUMC of Sulphur Springs, TX (I preferred her more “mature” Sunday school class over my own).
I am a member of the United Methodist Church because I experienced God’s love within the walls of the United Methodist Churches in Ottumwa, IA (FUMC) and Omaha, NE (St. Lukes UMC). When I was in my confirmation class, I didn’t have words for my sexuality, but I have memories of standing in the back of my empty sanctuary and saying, “If they knew who I was, I’d never be welcome here again”. It was a place that I loved with all my heart and it broke my heart. So I stuffed away who I was and prayed it would go away.
When I arrived at college, I could no longer deny who I was. So I decided to come out and simultaneously leave the church. Surely, out gay people couldn’t be United Methodists (or Christians). During my second year in college, my brother died in a tragic accident. I was devastated. Rev. Don Wallick picked me up off the floor. He was gentle and said “God loves you, come home” and I did. Thanks be to God. At my first real Sunday at King Avenue UMC, Rev. Grayson Atha preached sermon on forgiveness and it shook me to my core. I needed a lot of forgiveness in my life and I started to find it.
I met a woman at work who later sponsored me on an Walk to Emmaus. Our relationship grew and despite all odds, I married her in 2009. Our Pastors, John Keeny and Linda Middelburg, did not marry us, but they were very present. We couldn’t ask them to risk their credentials to perform a Holy Union. Instead we took the traditional Methodist order of service and divided it among our family. Beth’s two children and our siblings married us. Our Pastors served communion at our wedding and invited all of our guest to Christ table. it was the most grace-filled moment of my Christian life. It continues to be the basis of our marriage.
The United Methodist Church is in the bedrock of my life. It informs my views of God’s love, grace, and links my heart to my mind. This is why I stay in the United Methodist Church. This is why we have chosen to join the FUMC of Burlington, VT. Without the United Methodist Church, I don’t know where I’d be today. I stay with in the United Methodist Church because I want to work within the system to make the church the fully loving and accepting body of Christ. Thanks be to God.
Patience E. Whitworth
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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.