To My UMC Siblings: Follow Your Gift

Let me begin by saying I was once a United Methodist, baptized as a teenager into the communion. I left when the church didn’t reflect my commitment to and passion for civil rights and women’s rights and against the Viet Nam War. At 17 and today, the most urgent needs of humanity ground my understanding of a life in Christ.

At 25, as a lesbian, feminist, justice-seeker I experienced a call to ministry. The year was 1977. My book tells the story of how I figured out what that meant. Well, I still am, all these years later, nonetheless…  may I offer the insights of my journey?

I became a Presbyterian (now PCUSA) because their structure and theology, in theory, offered a way to challenge their then anti-gay stance. I learned a lot about what it means to challenge a church you love. Today, with love, offering comfort to your grief, and standing with you in your passion and anger, I want to offer whatever small wisdom I have garnered:

The most important thing you can do is honor one another by holding the tension that there is no ‘one right way’ to respond to the events of the General Conference.  Some will be called to stay. Some will be called to leave. Some will be kicked out. Some will leave their faith – and perhaps not just the UMC but the Christian faith. All these choices must be honored because each experience of faith in community is different, no matter how shared.

For some, what has happened reflects continued abuse and rejection. It is okay to leave.
For some, it is a family argument. It’s okay to stay.
For some it is a betrayal. It’s okay to question or even reject Christianity.
What matters is that you remain authentic to your journey.

Some of you have the gifts to stay and fight: the intellect, the history, the strength, the spiritual grounding, to take on an institution that summoned you to your spiritual journey. It will require your deepest, most Christ-like self.

Some of you have the gifts to leave. The intellect, history, the strength, the spiritual grounding to strike off into uncharted territory. No telling where it might take you- to what denomination or if you will sail untethered. It will require your deepest, most Christ-like self.

Some of you have the gifts to refuse to be abused or betrayed: the intellect, the history, the strength, the spiritual grounding to remove yourself from those things that have hurt and controlled you. While your experience is not necessarily a universal one,  many have been abused or betrayed by institutional Christian power structures. If this is your truth, speak it. You are not obligated to protect your abuser. It will require your deepest, most Christ-like self.

As your journey through this time of anger and grief, please know that you are held in the prayers of many in your city and state and around the world. The answers you discover as you move through this painful time must be your answers. There are no wrong answers. Your history and your gifts must direct you. However you proceed, may you always be held gently in the heart of Godde.


6 thoughts on “To My UMC Siblings: Follow Your Gift

  1. Thank you for your wisdom regarding a very difficult and complex situation. As an Episcopal priest who survived (by grace) my own tradition’s stresses, strains & reforms of several years ago, I hope your readers will keep in mind an option you don’t mention in your post: finding temporary shelter in another Christian communion such as ours — at least until the dust settles. I can imagine sympathetic and welcoming local congregations and pastors among our Episcopalian, ELCA Lutheran, PCUSA Presbyterian, UCC (etc.) brothers and sisters.

    1. Rob- Thanks for your thoughtful response. I didn’t include that option because the impulse to think one’s spiritual home is interchangeable without grief can be insensitive to the experience of loss being experienced by so many.

  2. You challenged me when we were together in the class of 1983. I have often wondered what happened to you. I will soon be the ripe old age of 89 and
    am still searching. I got my start toward feminism when the Methodist Church supported the ERA and I was elected as coordinator of ERA in the North Ga. Conference. Since then I have spent some time in the Episcopal Church. The Methodist Church, as you may know, is still struggling with gay rights. This heterosexual mother of five believes all people are God’s people. I am quite certain that we are all sinners, but I do believe that the utmost commandment is to love God and neighbor.

    1. It’s good to hear from you, Daphne! Thanks for your thoughtful comment. It sounds like you have been on an authentic path of your own. Wishing you blessings for the journey.

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