I attend a small United Methodist Church on the outskirts of Birmingham, Alabama. We have a Reconciling Group at the church, with a mission to expand the acceptance of LGBTQ persons throughout the congregation.

On Sunday one of our staff persons was in front of the congregation speaking about the crippling two inches of snow that we had last week. A lot of fun was poked at the south for the way we were affected, but our speaker said, “Until you’ve walked in their shoes, it’s not that big a deal.”

My thoughts immediately went to the conflict between the LGBTQ community and others in The United Methodist Church.

Unless you’ve walked in “our” shoes, (and we have many different shoe styles) then you won’t understand the hardship that current UMC policies place on people.

The Church says it welcomes us with “Open Hearts, Open Minds and Open Doors”, but who is going to enter a door to be greeted with “You are incompatible with Christian teaching?”

And if you’ve been told you are doomed to hell, or sinful (as if everyone else is not), or responsible for the ills that have befallen the church and society, you probably wouldn’t want anything to do with religion.

That is where The United Methodist Church, and many individual congregations, find themselves; pushing LGBTQ people out because of their differences while smiling about the Open Minds policy. The trouble is, this is not the church of the 1950’s. Today people don’t get their information about a subject only from that subject. And they don’t get their information about the church only from the church. So, new and curious people might hear negative things about the church before they ever set foot in one, effectively keeping them out.

Only after The United Methodist Church changes the discriminatory, anti-gay wording in the Book of Discipline and asks forgiveness from the LGBTQ community will the church begin to grow again. And this will only happen after more individuals and congregations “walk in our shoes” through hearing the stories that we share about how the church has treated us and why we are still here.

If you are LGBTQ, what story would you share? Would a person have a different outlook had they walked in your shoes?

Joe Openshaw

Joe Openshaw is a retired veterinarian, having opened the first feline practice in the state of Alabama. In his retirement, he has become an advocate for LGBTQ equality, and is a past chairperson of Equality Alabama. Joe believes that in order to bring change to the south, the faith community must be engaged in the conversation. He is a member of Discovery United Methodist Church in Hoover, Alabama, where he is the founder and co-leader of The Hospitality Group, a Reconciling Group with RMN, and co-founder of Reconciling Methodists of the North Alabama Conference.
Share This