Dear Members and Friends of Good Samaritan Church,
I greatly appreciate the many conversations and messages over the last few days regarding the decisions of the United Methodist Special General Conference. Several people have asked if I was considering leaving the United Methodist Church over the decision to reinforce and strengthen the church’s position on
homosexuality being incompatible with Christian teaching, LGBTQIA persons serving as clergy within the UMC, and an official stance against clergy performing marriage ceremonies for LBGTQIA couples. A couple of you have told me that you intend to withdraw your membership from the church, and I believe that I understand both your decision and the prayerful wrestling that has led to this decision. I also know that others are struggling with the same decision. Many of our members and friends are deeply hurt by the majority vote of the official body of our denomination. As one of your pastors, I want you to know that I and the other members of our staff want to support you in any way that we can.
I want to share with you some of my personal thoughts around all of this. While I appreciate and honor those who have decided to withdraw from the United Methodist Church, I have prayerfully come to the decision that I, at least for now, will stay. There are three factors that have led me to this decision.
The first is one that confronts me every morning when I look in the mirror. As a straight, white, male, I do not wonder how I will be judged or possibly harassed because of my gender, skin color, or sexual orientation. It is the bubble of privilege within which I live. I can safely choose to stay or to leave and go elsewhere without much concern as to whether or not I will be welcomed. My LGBTQIA friends cannot do the same. It breaks my heart to know the hurt and sense of betrayal that so many of my friends, church members and clergy colleagues are feeling. I am here to listen, to stand with you, and to speak to the privilege that has too often been the source of such hurt.
The second reason that I feel the need to stay in the United Methodist Church is that I refuse to surrender my voice. I refuse to allow voices of division to define who we are as Christ’s Church. We, the body of Christ, need to speak prophetically to the Church on this issue. We cannot do that as effectively from outside.
Finally, I cannot leave because I am called to follow Jesus who chose, not a long teaching career tucked away in relatively safe Galilee, but who journeyed to Jerusalem to confront the powers that oppressed and stole the lives of God’s people. Though perhaps a carpenter by trade, the Bible never mentions Jesus building any walls. Instead the Bible tells us how he reached out and tore down the barriers of division. And so, for now, I will stay and challenge the oppressive and divisive harm being perpetrated by my own denomination.
As a pastor in the United Methodist Church, I offer my blessing to you who, in faith, feel that you must leave. To you who, also in faith, decide to stay, I offer you my hand, that together we might continue this journey of reaching out to share the inclusive, life affirming love of God as revealed in our Lord Jesus Christ.
God’s blessings my friends,