Why some are choosing to stay in The United Methodist Church…
by Rev. Adam Kelchner
On Monday morning, at 10am, my colleague and friend, Kaye, and I began preparing the ‘big room’ of Edgehill United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee for a prayer vigil. We intended the time and space for prayer to coincide with the beginning of the church trial of Rev. Frank Schaefer. By this point in time, there are probably few people in the denomination and the general public in our country that are not aware that a United Methodist pastor is on trial for officiating at his son’s marriage years ago.
Not surprisingly, my banker at the local branch was most interested in conversing about the trial, particularly noting that from a distance he thought United Methodists are an open and inclusive people. It’s taken me months of regular visits and transactions for conversations about our families and life stories to emerge. With great shame and backpedaling, I apologized that we are a people known for putting pastors on trial for their faithfulness to the imitatio Christi. Then I reminded him that my parish, Belmont United Methodist Church, has an explicit welcoming statement; we believe all of God’s children are invited to experience grace. And so, the pastors of Edgehill UMC and Belmont UMC decided that we would have a public witness of prayer.
Over two hours time, 50 people from our neighborhoods, episcopal and district offices, connectional churches, and local workplaces came into a quiet house of worship to pray, to weep, to reflect, and to commune at the table which Christ has set. I imagine there were prayers for justice and courage, others for unity and discernment, and most certainly for the healing of souls that comes only from divine balm.
And then tears began to run down my cheeks as I watched Amy Delong pray (some of you may recall her church trial). Of everyone gathered in that room, she knows deeply the hurt and venom that can emerge in the midst of a church trial. I was reminded that in the beauty of a Monday morning prayer vigil that our discriminatory church practices continue against the LGBTQI community. I was reminded that this is not the first time love has gone on trial. Love is still on trial today. In the depths of my heart, I hope and pray that Rev. Frank Schaefer knows he is a powerful witness for the world that the power of love cannot be kept in the grave.
I haven’t met Frank in person yet, but he is the kind of person I would want as a pastor and as a pastoral colleague. His practice of ministry has maintained a high calling for pastoral colleagues across the connection for the work of justice. To the parents of the world, he has demonstrated compassion and unconditional love, where too often the story is that families shame their LGBTQI youth and children; even to the point of homelessness and suicide. To the bishops of our connection, he has demonstrated that the deeply inclusive and compassionate ministry of Jesus the Christ knows no bounds.
For those of us already turning an eye toward Advent, the promise of good news is Immanuel (God with us). God is already here. God has not abandoned us. God even understands and feels the suffering of the LGBTQI community perpetrated by the harmful language and actions of the church. As an Easter people, we experience the freedom of God’s grace because love cannot be kept in the grave. Evil and death hold no power. And the fetters of discrimination in Christ’s holy church are breaking.
Rev. Adam Kelchner
(Rev. Adam Kelchner is the Pastor of Mission and Outreach at Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee and the United Methodist Campus Minister at Belmont University. Adam is an avid cyclist, engaged to be married in April 2014, a student of post-Holocaust theology, and advocate for the LGBTQI community).
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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.