Where faith has led me
I believe in the transformative power of love. I hope that each of us has experienced a moment when we realized that by the grace and power of God, we truly loved a person that we had no reason to. Without the usual social glue of common interest, taste, style, persuasion, chemistry, background or ideology, we loved them still, and it changed everything. Those differences did not disappear, but they no longer kept us apart—that person had just become too precious to us for it to be otherwise. I believe God created us to live in communities like the church so that we can learn to love one another in this way.
I grew up in a United Methodist church that was not prone to Bible thumping or intensively studying scripture passages about human sexuality. Even so, the prevailing environment, both inside and outside the church, was at best ambivalent toward LGBTQ+ individuals and at worst openly hostile and dismissive of them as sinful. I wasn’t quite sure what I believed about the intersection of faith and sexuality except that the subject felt frightening and uncomfortable and unfamiliar. While, in retrospect, I realize there were more than a few gay people around me growing up, it wasn’t until I went off to college that I came to know people of faith who were open about their sexuality. I encountered not issues to take a position on or theological questions to be grappled with but unique human beings who had loves and hopes and dreams, who loved God and their neighbor, who wanted to live out their God-given callings in ways that blessed others. I encountered people who asked me this crucial question: What about me?
Recently, I found an article I wrote in college for our Wesley Foundation’s newsletter about attending the United Methodist Student Movement Conference in 1996. One of the major items of business was voting on a proposed recommendation to the General Conference to remove the language banning the ordination of “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals” from the Book of Discipline.
Although I was not a voting delegate, I was part of the conversations about how our delegation felt we should respond. One of the other attendees from my annual conference was both gay and felt a call to ordained ministry. What he said still sticks with me almost 25 years later. He said, “Why would God call me if I’m not supposed to go?”
This conversation and relationship were just one of many that changed my heart. Ambivalence and confusion were replaced by love and a desire for a church that fully reflects the reality that our LGBTQ+ siblings are beloved children of God with gifts and graces and love to celebrate and share. I am deeply grateful for those friends whose faithfulness, whose graciousness, whose lives of fidelity and discipleship witness to the compatibility of their sexuality with a sincere and fruitful faith.
But I have to confess that while I loved my LGBTQ+ siblings, cherished their friendship, knew myself to be blessed by them, for a long time I satisfied myself that that was enough. I shied away from seeing the harm they suffer. I often failed to speak up for them because I was afraid that it might cost me something. I acted in ways that presumed that their worth is something to be championed or bestowed by others instead of something inherent in their beings. Yet within me the sense grew—and continues to grow—that I must struggle against fear, anxiety, silence, and inertia, and trust that the Author of Love still works within me, calling me to testify to the truth that I have seen and known and urging me to live more fully into that love that I have experienced from God through so many others.
What changes lie ahead for The United Methodist Church? How will any such changes affect Laurel Heights? I don’t know. I don’t know the mechanics, the logistics, the time and treasure that are needed, the pain and heartache that it will cost as our church navigates from here to whatever is next. But I believe in the transformative power of that foremost gift of the Holy Spirit—love—which bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love which knows that through Christ all things are possible. Love which looks upon the suffering of the beloved and says, “No more!” Love which knows that our callings are woven together and that we are enriched immeasurably by one another’s presence. I believe in the transformative power of love; love with which our beloved congregation is richly endowed—a love which leads us to welcome as we have been welcomed, bless as we have been blessed, give as we have received.
Freely you have received . . . freely give.
Katie Myers, Lay Leader