She must choose between her Methodist church job and her pro-gay beliefs

I got this letter in today. Its writer would appreciate hearing your thoughts on her dilemma:

Hi, John. I’ve been reading your stuff for a while. I just returned home from an interview for a job as the Children’s Ministry Director of my United Methodist Church. I feel like I have been led to this position, which is new for me.

I am friends, and in a small group with, my pastor. His final question in our interview was about how he and I differ in our theology and politics. He truly believes that homosexuality is “not consistent with God’s teaching.” He is wonderful otherwise.

I asked him if he was telling me that I could not post on Facebook anymore in support of gay rights. He said that he didn’t know. I spoke to my husband, and we agreed that I cannot sacrifice who I am for a job, even though I really need to find work. (I am married to a public school music teacher, and we have three kids.) As a staff member of the church, I would represent the church in all that I do. I get that. (We arrived at the church through my husband, who, when I met him, was a “hate the sin, love the sinner” guy. I was anti-God and religion when we met.)

I guess I am looking for your advice on how to maneuver in a system that is currently having a civil war over homosexuality. My husband is a “stay and work to change it” kind of guy. I am just so confused.

Man, this is a tough one. As you know, I am 100% in favor of LGBT people being fully accepted into all aspects of the church. You know how hard I fight for that.

On the other hand, I’m 100% in favor of people being able to eat, pay their bills, and take care of their children.

My vote is for you to stay and take the job. As long as your pastor isn’t asking you to change your position—but only to refrain from publicly advocating for it—it seems to me that you can live with that. You’re friends with your pastor; it’s clear the regard and affection you hold for him. It sounds like you’ve got a great relationship with your church; they’ve after all honored you by choosing you to tend to their children.

You’re also in a study group with your pastor. That means that you and he will be often exchanging thoughts and ideas. Well, that’s how people’s hearts and minds are changed. It’s through relationship that we all broaden and deepen our understanding of who we are, of what we think and hold to be true. If anyone is going to change your pastor’s mind, it sounds likely to be you.

I don’t like the idea of anyone having to choose between their financial well-being and their religious convictions. That’s a terrible place to be. It’s wrong. But it’s also life. Right now the church is torn on the gay issue. And that’s lodged you in a place no one should have to be.

There are enough of us out here being contentious about the gay issue; it’s okay for you to take a more subtle approach to it. We need that, too; we can’t all be out here screaming and yelling. I say stay, remain prayerful, love your pastor as he loves you, serve your church well, speak softly the truth you know, help take care of your family, and trust that God put you where he did, how he did, for a reason.

When it comes to the gay issue, love, in the end, will win. Love is winning. And it’s doing so because every single day, in a million little ways, people like you are slowly but surely bringing into the true light of God good and well-meaning people like your pastor.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Jon Altman

    My Bishop and I disagree. He hasn’t yet asked me to stop posting.

  • Well, that’s great for you!

  • Nancy Jill Hale

    My concern would be if a youth in the church approached this woman and divulged his or her struggle with sexual identity. Would she have to compromise her own best judgment on how to minister to this young person, and thus compromise her beliefs?

  • duskglow

    I married a couple of gay men nearly a year ago. I suppose if anyone would be willing to give me a job in any religious capacity after that, maybe they’d be a keeper. 😀

  • I agree with John. If the job is offered, with the knowledge that you view differently on this matter, take it, unless you are told that you must keep silent on your views. I don’t mean, be a sounding board for gay rights in the church, but more along the line, if asked, explain why you feel the way you do, how you came to your conclusions, and that you understand that they may not agree with you, nor do they have to.
    The youth pastor at my UMC church is pro-equality. she’s served for a few years, and only recently did she take the opportunity to say a few words in a sermon on the matter. How she did it was fantastic. It was carefully done, thought provoking, only suggesting consideration on the full acceptance of our LGBT community as humans, loved by God, worthy of our love. It was not demanding compliance. I wanted to stand up and cheer at the end. Instead, I walked up to the front of the church and gave her a huge hug. She’s not said a word publically on the matter since, to my knowledge. She’s a delightful and gifted pastor, and has done an amazing job with our youth program. She’s a true benefit to our congregation, as I bet you will be too.

  • Sarah Grace Ryle

    I think this is great advice… it could very well be God’s plan to put her there to change this pastor’s heart… to change the church and the way they think about this issue.

  • Colleen Miller

    Run. There are other jobs in this world. Many that minister to people, without asking them to compromise their beliefs. Taking a job hoping to change the pastor is crazy.

  • Sue Harrington

    I agree this is a difficult position to be in – having to choose. But I think John’s advice is sound. As long as you are not “gagged” stay in post and be the change you want to see – even if that means little by little and quietly

  • Sarah Grace Ryle

    Actually, I think this is a good position for her to be in just for this reason. Bullying of LGBT’s in the church and making them feel “wrong” leading to depression, suicide is ever present… it could be God’s plan to put her in this place because of her beliefs. She could be a stop gap for some of this without totally advocating for gay rights, but also not supporting the church’s current view…

  • I would think the kid may have an ally, someone to tell him or her, that God still adores them, that they have a beautiful purpose in this world, and that no matter what, that isn’t going to be changing.

  • Matt

    Hi Letter Writer. My job is secular, but I do live a double life, and have for almost two years because I am transgender. I go to work and school as a sort of extended PR campaign, and get to be myself when I come home. Different name, different clothes, the works.

    Obviously, I’m an extreme case, and I don’t have quite as much choice in the matter. But I get the dilemma that you are facing. Basically, you will need to look at risk vs. benefit. For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t hold it against you for taking the job. It’s not you that keeps me having to live my life in secret, that much is for sure. If you decide to accept the position, then at least I can say that living a double life gets easier with time, like any skill. You really get a feel for what you can say, when you can say it, and to whom. You decide what is most important, and what is less so.

    The downside: It is very difficult to socialize while you are in that position among those who don’t know about you. Sharing with people is what allows vulnerability, and thus friendship. People may experience you as a little distant. I have plenty of people who know the real me to talk with and support me outside of work and school. That’s what helps the most. So that may help you.

    And one thing to always keep in mind: People can hang all of the conditions they want to over your head: Job, money, whatever. But they can’t take away your light. If you feel you’ve been called to this position, if you feel that it would fulfill you, then go do it and be awesome. You will keep things to yourself, but you will never hang your head. Enjoy every moment that you can.

    Do your best, and good luck.

  • Carol Thomas

    I am in agreement with John. It maybe God’s will if you get the job to be the quiet change God is leading you too. I hope this next bit I am O.K to say on here however I once read a book called The Bait of Satan by John Bevere. It is an awesome book for helping people dealing with problems in their church life/work and so on. I think you would as anyone get alot from it. Don’t run if you are offered the position. You could be the change that is needed their

  • charlesmaynes

    the march for Christians and equality for LBGT rights is a long road- I turned away from leadership positions in my church due to the concern that my activist ideals would come into conflict with the ideas the Church and its members might share… though If the job does happen, reloice in God’s favor- the Methodist Church is largely pretty liberal, at least where I live…

  • John Wood

    Leave…run fast.

  • Guest

    Choosing whether or not to pass as a person who does not advocate on behalf of LGBT persons is just that, a choice. You can choose. Consider this, a lesbian or gay, tran or bi, trying to live a unified life, proud, peaceful in who you are and joyful in who you love is so hard to do, especially when your straight friends are out there basically denying that they are your advocate. Silence is a choice. Choosing to not be silent is not for everyone, I suppose, when you consider that so many have lost so much by speaking up.

  • Barbara Heller

    I agree with you 100%, John. Your reasoning is exactly why I was able to back to the Catholic Church after a very long absence. Change has to happen from within — there are plenty of people working for change from outside. If the pastor were asking her to publicly make statements which violated her beliefs, I couldn’t in good conscience advise her to take the job. If he’s asking her to be respectfully silent within the context of her professional position, but is willing to enter into a respectful dialog with her about her views, I think that there’s a really good chance that she is indeed being called to that position! It serves neither the best long term interests of the church organization nor the best interests of the community at large if everyone who has a different belief leaves the church. (Putting on my asbestos suit:) Martin Luther was the best example of that.

  • David Brigham

    Response to John’s advice: Agreed. The world doesn’t change by good people running away.
    Response to the letter: This is coming from an atheist so my community has had some experience with this: If you stay and are determined to try and change people’s minds, find out why they believe what they believe. For example, it is a common belief among anti-LGBT Christians that homosexuality is a choice, because if it is a choice then it can be a sin. If it is not a choice then it likely is not a sin, it is just something that makes them uncomfortable. Invite them to review the psychology literature on sexual issues, the verdict is in in the literature that it is not a choice.

    Another example: if they cite the bible as the source for bigotry, remind them of all of the other commandments about slavery and why people should be stoned that they ignore on a daily basis.

    Just remember, never attack the person, attack their beliefs in as respectful a way as possible. I would invite you to check out:

  • Lisa

    Our very liberal Methodist Sunday School class has discussed this issue several times. Our consensus is that if you’re not being asked to change who you are then perhaps you’re where you’re supposed to be. And it’ll work as long as it works. For most of us in our class, we’ve been able to last in a situation like yours for a few years and we did some good, but after too many years having to hide who you really are and listening to those who are so strong in their intolerant views we all found that we had to leave. Doesn’t mean that was time wasted. If you need the job and can handle it then go for it. Keep in mind that it’s appropriate to keep personal views to yourself in many jobs. I’m a former high school teacher and I had to be very careful with any opinions I might share around students. It’s not necessarily hiding/denying who I am but is me respecting that others are not necessarily like me.

  • Donni Steen

    If we hide, whether we are gay or straight, because of our views about anything, we are sending the message that we are ashamed. This statement doesn’t mean, that we are ashamed, just that it sends the message to the receiver, that we are. If more of us came out openly, there would be a desensitization. It’s not any different than interracial relationships, that were once seen as unbiblical. Although, there still are a few bigots that still squawk about it; for the most part, interracial couples live in peace. There are always going to be people who disagree with many things in this world, but they should never infringe on our rights to basic services. I say, not to take the position based on principle, not for them, because they will still hold on to their own beliefs, but for your own personal religious freedom to support anyone you choose, without discrimination or condemnation.

  • Hi LW. This doesn’t address your main concern: the balance of your work life and your convictions. I’m with John on that. My last boss was a lesbian freshly converted to pray-the-gay-away Baptist. I’m too smart to talk about politics or religion in a corporate environment, but she had some issues (to put it mildly.) I told her I followed a Christian blog once. I could tell by her eyes she was sure she wouldn’t approve. It wasn’t fun. It paid the rent. Plus, now I can work commercial printers and industrial cutters in a demure suit and heels. Bound to come in handy when I start a revolution.

    What I think might help you is that Facebook question. Something like 70% of employers check social media. (It was a Business Week article, if you want to look up the exact stats.) There’s no getting around it any more. You may have noticed, though, I don’t let anyone tell me what to say. My solutions: limited posting to public; awareness of my comments on public pages; and a carefully-planned and maintained friends list. I even did the first exercise in the Coursera Social Network Analysis class (free!) so I knew exactly where my clusters were. Like most people, they are disproportionately high school and college buddies or entities I’ve connected to through them. I adore the functionality of secret groups. My gay BFF started one for just us years ago. We swap gossip, links, and design tips. Mostly bitchy gossip. The FB admins must LOVE us.

    My personal rule is no family, no past or current love interests, and no past or current coworkers on FB. I’ve made exceptions a grand total of five times. Mine is more of an antisocial network.

  • boomergran

    You deserve a better answer from your pastor/friend than “I don’t know.” If he doesn’t know, who does? Will you have to stand silent when you hear misinformation or rude remarks?

    Frankly, since he knows your views, I think it’s very unfair of your pastor/friend to put you in the position of having to either follow your conscience or help provide for your family. I’m not sure that’s “friendly,” and I know it isn’t Christian. Jesus never stood silent in the face of bigotry, and you shouldn’t feel that you have to, either.

    The Episcopal Church Welcomes You!

  • Matt

    A completely unrelated note, Elizabeth: I knew the Edit button on these comments would be my downfall. And it is. The red pen inside my soul gets way too enthusiastic sometimes.

  • Seriously. I cried a little inside when John announced he was migrating over here completely.

  • juniegrrl

    Having been a children’s ministry director for a chunk of time in my past, I say church jobs don’t pay that much anyhow–find another one and be free.

  • lorieontheleftcoast

    I’m in a job where I can’t express any acceptance of LGBT people-a Christian school. I would lose my job. The students at my school are a mix of Christians and non-Christians. I think I’m one of a few people who offer God’s grace instead of trying to get children to “behave as Christians”. I know I’m supposed to be here, but I’m miserable in spirit and despise the superintendent.

  • BUT SERIOUSLY, Matt. I left out exclusion lists. I don’t use them much now, but for a while I had ten or fifteen. That way, you can leave out just one group. Mine is usually set to “parents and teachers” and everyone knows it. Custom > don’t share with >. Zuckerberg goes back to LiveJournal days. He’s down with privacy settings.

    Alt personae, too. That’s what a lot of kids do these days. Keep one for their ‘social media’ careers and one under a false name for insiders.

  • Anne

    Look at this as a beautiful opportunity to be all that God has called you to be. You are more open and accepting than those in your church. If your daily life reflects that, then others around you will see how your faith system is very workable and not threatening. I honestly believe people who exclude others are threatened by how the “others” look, behave, etc. Once they are around someone who is open, acting like Christ would, it may help to change their attitudes. My husband was not totally about gay marriage…until he met a dear friend of mine whose partner passed away this last year. They’d been together for 37 years and it was so sad. We went to the funeral and have socialize with my friend a few times over this last year. Just a few weeks weeks ago he shared with us his sadness over never having had the opportunity to marry his partner (it’s not legal in my state). His candor with us, his obvious deep love for his partner, his sharing of his grief, it all made my husband come to a different place on gay marriage. God works in so many ways. You can be the vessel through which God shares his love for everyone, even our gay friends. Good luck to you!

  • Matt

    Obviously, I can’t reveal all of my trade secrets. But I keep a very sharp, binary distinction between my two lives, including within my own mind, which is basically a Facebook Privacy Setting page written in DNA. Every person I come into contact with has a profile of what they know about me, and their security level, basically.

    I’m less paranoid than I sound, I swear. Paradoxically, this entire operation requires a deep understanding that I can only know so much and all risk can’t be eliminated. I understand that more and more as time goes on.

  • Sharla Hulsey

    This is what concerns me the most, too. Can you compromise this and still minister effectively to today’s kids and young people?

    I can hold my tongue on a lot of political/social issues, but I won’t be quiet about my status as an Ally. Some of my youth have friended me, and if one of them needs an Ally, I want to be sure they know they have one. If I had to choose between that and possibly offending some Good Church Folks or the powers-that-be, I’ll stand with my kids every single time.

  • Michael Lockhart


    “I don’t like the idea of anyone having to choose between their financial
    well-being and their religious convictions. That’s a terrible place to
    be. It’s wrong. But it’s also life.”

    We have collectively CREATED a world in which we alter who we are in public for money. That is part of the “worldly system” Jesus was against — the falsification of self for money. If you do that, you will find yourself in a horrible position — having to pretend not to support someone who needs public support, in order to be financially supported yourself. That’s how evil begins, and how it spreads to take over an entire culture.

  • Michael Lockhart

    Mammon has won the spiritual battle (for now) in your case. Misery *always* results from falsifying who you are for money. It leads you to despise another human being, and that is wrong from two sides — theirs, in coercing you to be someone you aren’t, and yours, in catering to that in them.

  • Lonnie

    I completely concur with John’s thoughtful response.

    I’d like to add a bit of perspective from a gay person:
    I was a music pastor in the Evangelical world for many years, until, for a number of theological reasons, I knew it was time to move on. Part of the reason was because I knew I would eventually come out. Now I’m gay, married and serving as a music minister in an affirming congregation.

    My point is this: I have a lot of friends who are completely pro-gay in their theology, yet still have jobs in conservative evangelical churches. I do not think they are being the least bit inauthentic to themselves or unsupportive to me or “the cause”.

    In fact, I’m actually glad they’re there, on the “inside” being gentle influencers for good. So, if you take this position, might I say bless you in such a role, and thanks for doing it.

  • Michael Lockhart

    Agree… him saying “I don’t know” was a deliberate use of ambiguity about rules to cow someone into silence.

  • Michael Lockhart

    Social media has become a way for private entities to distort social communication. That means *who we are to each other* is now subject to influence by money. We don’t need to be censored by government – we do it to ourselves for financial safety.

  • Michael Lockhart

    Agree. Hiding also makes it harder for those who can’t (or won’t) hide. It becomes a web of moral complicity.

  • Daneen Akers

    I think your advice in this situation is really helpful. Not everyone is called to be the more subtle change agents, but in situations like this, they can be the most effective from the inside. I think it matters a lot if this woman feels she’s okay not being public in her fully inclusive beliefs and goals. I know I’d like a woman like this directing the children’s program at a church I’d consider (it’s a real issue for me when we visit churches because my daughter is old-enough to pick up on whether or not the language used assumes all kids come from opposite-sex parent families, etc.).

  • Eileen Silverstein

    I belong to a United Methodist church and our pastor preaches acceptance of everyone, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. I’m sorry that you’re going through this, for not all United Methodists have this attitude. My church is so tolerant that we even sing songs by Mark Miller, who is a well-known – and openly gay – Christian composer whose works are featured in many United Methodist churches. His sister, Rev. Vicki Brendler, who is the senior pastor at the Bridgewater United Methodist church, certainly supports gay rights as do countless others in our denomination.

    If you are offered the job, you should take it and keep your personal life out of your professional one. What you do on your own time, including Facebook posts, is none of your employer’s business and you can always change your privacy settings so that no one from the church will be able to view your personal posts. Personally, I’m a huge supporter of gay rights; one of my cousins is gay and I love him for the warm, loving, vibrant person that he is, regardless of his sexual orientation.

  • Right on. Except it was ever thus. In the 90’s it was lobbyists astroturfing. That was my first job out of college, it was for a cause I believed in (the Newspaper Association of America), and I was but a small cog in the machine. In the 80’s it was the two-martini lunch. To get the message out, you’re always rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.

  • Dude, I’m so dating a radical Communist right now. I hear you. He lets me be Christian and Capitalist, and I let him … pontificate.

  • Lin

    I am not religious, but would like to weigh in with a different viewpoint. If you are affiliated with a religious organisation, be it Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, whatever, then I believe you follow all of their teachings. One of the things that makes me believe that all those affiliated with organized religion are hypocrites is when someone chooses not to follow a teaching of their religion because it doesn’t suit. This can be a Catholic who chooses to use birth control (hey I am all for birth control, but last I heard it was directly against Catholic teachings), a Muslim who eats ham, well, you get the picture.
    If you can’t agree and follow all the teachings/beliefs etc of your religion, then why are you a member?
    And why oh why do those of you with beliefs – whether that be that gay marriage is okay, or your religion is THE right one, insist upon lecturing the rest of us. I don’t use my Facebook page as a way to indoctrinate others into my beliefs, I keep them to myself unless I feel they are appropriate to a conversation I am having. I then outline my beliefs, listen to the other persons and that is the end of it.

  • 90% of Protestants and 82% of Catholics believe birth control is acceptable. Let’s get that stat right out in the open. (Both my parents are professors. I can’t help but lecture. Basically. Agreed on the rest.)

  • mizquotz

    I am a Children’s Ministry Director at a United Methodist Church and I understand (at least a little) about how awful this feels. This past week I had to once again decide if I was willing to stay associated with the church I (mostly) love, or run screaming for the exit. I am still here because of the children in my church and in the world who need boundless, unconditional love. It’s true that I also need the income (my husband is out of work), but that isn’t why I stayed. If all of us who love unconditionally leave the church, it will never change, and there will never be hope for the children who are growing up in our churches, right now and in the future, who have diverse gender identities. There may be some of those children in your church already – so who will show them they are loved by God – no matter what? You could do that. You could be that love – which is all God asks us to do. You could change a child’s very difficult world by loving her/him just as she/he is, and proving through your words and actions that God’s love is indeed for all of us. I’m luckier that you are, a few years ago I began an initiative and led our church to become a Reconciling Congregation. It wasn’t easy – I had to wait for a pastor who would let us move through the process. But in a community that is incredibly, unbelievably conservative, love won. We lost some people in the process, but we gained some too. It hurts. It’s hard. But I think it is what God calls us to do. I have to believe that there will come a time when love will win, and I want to do all that I can to help make that happen. You can too. But listen to your heart. Pray. Maybe you’ll know what the right choice is – more likely you’ll have to take a human best shot and go from there. I hope you decide to join us as we wrap our UMC children – all of them – in God’s love. But don’t beat yourself up if you need to walk away. You have a family who needs you too. I will hold you in my heart and in my prayers no matter what you decide, and together we can hope for a future that holds healing for our church.

  • Steve Yna NY

    We are to unconditionally love all people as Christians . That being said we cannot love them by pushing our own personal beliefs as higher than the word of God . If I really love my fellow man I will be honest about sin – All sin . We must forsake it to be at one with God and our fellow man . To love each other means encourage each other to our full potential in that truth which is higher than us all. That truth includes within scripture the clear statement that homosexual acts (not temptation to those acts) are sinful, as are adulterous acts or other forms of sexual sin. For example why is it always presumed that homosexuals somehow have a special right to give in to their temptation to commit homosexual acts while heterosexuals are not given a pass to give in to their temptations for adulterous acts? The bottom line is that all these forms of sexual sin must be forsaken whether homo or heterosexual .

  • Steve Yna NY

    I would also add to this discussion that we are a nation founded on freedom of religion and freedom of speech. What is contrary to both is when people try to force change on established churches with traditional Christian beliefs, such as that homosexuality is sin . If you do not agree that is fine – it’s your choice and your freedom. Have the grace, class, and respect to bow out and leave your church or job or whatever and fin for start a fellowship of your own without attacking the one you are leaving and don’t agree with. If you expect freedom and respect to believe homosexuality is not sin then give that same respect and freedom to those who do believe it is sin. Then go in peace and begin your own new fellowship of like minded people – it’s OK because diversity and tolerance go both ways. !

  • Jules

    If it is God who lead her there, that same God would not want her to lie to get the job. Not posting on FB is one thing, having to assert something as the truth when you know it is not is another.

  • boomergran

    My late husband was an atheist who fully supported me when I was in the process of seeking ordination to the priesthood. We can peacefully coexist without rancor and by allowing each person to espouse those beliefs which are dearly held.

  • Susan J. Hale

    Thanks to the way Methodist pastors get moved around, come August, his homophobic hiney may be moved far away, while YOU will still be there to gently plant the seeds of tolerance and understanding in the youth and parents of that congregation. It’s a bummer he wants to get all “Big brother” about your FB, but lots of people have “official” profiles and private ones that they only share with friends/family. Take the job, plant the seeds, maybe all this congregation needs is your voice to help it on the way towards acceptance of all God’s children.

  • LostGrrl

    I like very what much what John has to stay here and tend to agree with his approach and suggestion. She may have to refrain from posting on Facebook, but as John says, there are plenty of us who already do. 😉

    And Lin, the Church, as all religious organizations, is made up of humans, who can be dead wrong on many things…Just because I am a Christian, or this gal is a Christian doesn’t mean we have to go along with every last thing the Church preaches…what you are suggesting sounds almost cultish. In the end, we have to follow our own conscious regarding our faith and how we live our lives.

  • shepherdess63

    John I read your posts regularly and you are on the mark. Here is a
    link to an amazing talk by a young man who did a very in depth study of
    scripture about being LGBT. It has changed many minds.

    It may help this person and others in her position.

  • usingmyvoice

    What a tough predicament. As a UMC staff member, you are not only (or even primarily) accountable to the pastor – you are accountable to the congregation and to the SPRC. Be aware that, since it seems you are coming to the position from the congregation, you will likely be subject to harsher criticisms than if you had come in from the outside. But you say you have been led to this, so to me, God wants you there. Trust God for knowledge and discernment. He will use you. Most definitely. Stay in prayer, and ask others to pray continually for you as well. God bless.

  • Jennifer

    This is stupid. Having said that, as the mother of 3 kids (now all awesome 20 somethings), I can understand the dilemma you are in. My hunch is that for the Methodist Church, change is-a-comin’, but it’s not here yet. You can’t change who you are (been there, done that), but if you feel you can do the job and work from within, that’s great. However, it does take a LOT of stamina and energy, which your family probably needs from you right now. The minister doesn’t know that his views are archaic, but they WILL have to change or he’ll be on the outside.

  • Lin

    LostGrrl, the world is made up of humans who are right and wrong in many things. My point was, if you choose to affiliate yourself with an organisation, then you should follow and believe in all of it, otherwise you are not being true to that organisation. Please don’t confuse what I say about this with being a Christian. I am talking about people who say they are a certain religion eg Catholic, Methodist, not those who are a Christian but unaffiliated with an organised religion.
    And certainly, being in an organised religion is very similar to being in a cult. There are those who would argue, with validity, that an organised religion is a cult. And, unless you are going to tar all cults with the one brush, I can see nothing wrong with that. Yes, there have been some terrible cults who have done some terrible things (and the same could be said of organised religion) but I am sure there are many cults who do no harm, and may even do their members some good.
    Who says which teachings of any religion are okay to be ignored? You may believe that the stance on, say abortion is wrong, and so you ignore that teaching. Someone else believes the teaching on murder is wrong, and ignores that. What makes you more right in your belief than the other person?

    Most religions claim to teach the Word of God/Jesus, and believe their teachings come straight from Him, via the Bible.(How so many religions based on the Bible can have such differing beliefs is a complex issue, and not for this discussion, I believe). So, by not following one of the teachings of your religion you are in effect not following one of the teachings of your God. (Please, again, I am talking about members of an organised religion, not Christians who are not members of an organised religion. )
    Should you choose your own religious beliefs? Well, I think so. But that does not make you a Catholic, Protestant, whatever. It makes you an independant Christian.
    Put another way – if I said I was a vegetarian, but ate bacon, you would probably believe I was not a vegetarian. Doesn’t make me wrong to eat bacon. It just makes me a non vegetarian. Out of respect for vegetarians I should not align myself with them.

  • Wendy

    As a curch secretary in 2 urban UMC congregations, I feel your pain. I am also a mom of youth groupers who need to learn the full scope of God’s love. Most of the parishioners in both churches know that I am all for acceptance of all of God’s children. I have shared with some that I do not believe we humans have the authority to tell anyone that their call is wrong because God made them different than me. I am heterosexual, but I make it clear than no one is outside of God’s love and therefore no one is outside of the love of our congregations. and I still share the facebook posts… just not on the church facebook page 🙂

  • lrfcowper

    I think it’s important to realise that what most of us are doing when we ignore some teaching of our religion is ignore a non-essential interpretation from a specific group of those practicing that religion. For instance, the Apostle Paul expressed a number of personal opinions about the place of women in the church within the cultural context and events of their day. Some of these would seem to indicate that women should not serve in leadership positions, and many conservative denominations take this position. Those of us who reject it do so for a myriad reasons, including 1) Paul stated this was his opinion and practice, not a teaching from Christ; 2) the cultural context of women being poorly educated and powerless, and many priestesses of other religions being associated with temple prostitution is considerably different than our more egalitarian society today; 3) Paul mentions numerous female leaders and fellow teachers and apostles in his letters, thus indicating his position was not nearly so severe as the conservative position has made it to be; 4) it is non-essential and not a core belief of the faith; 5) historic church artwork and documents indicate this has not been a consistent tenet of the faith. So, while we may reject certain interpretations and practices of certain members of our religion, that is entirely different than rejecting the core belief of our faith.

  • lrfcowper

    The Bible condemns idolatrous same-sex acts, pedophilia, and non-consensual sex. None of these are “homosexual acts” any more than incest and rape are “heterosexual acts”.

  • lrfcowper

    There are a couple of problems here. First, it assumes the bigoted modifications to the earlier church doctrine should be allowed to define the organization, regardless of its historic roots. That means every time the bigots gain a majority and thus put into place bigoted rules, all those who were not bigoted within the church must go start another church, until the bigots invade that church as well. I’ve been a member of my ((Independent) Christian) church longer than some of these ministers have been *alive*. Why should I have to give up *my* church?

    Two, it assumes that schism is an acceptable approach to differences of theology. Many Catholics I’ve spoken to firmly believe that there is *one* church, period. Leaving the Catholic church merely places them out of fellowship. For them, there is no option but to fix the church.

    Third, your simile is incorrect. Let’s suppose there were an organization for, oh, protection of the environment. Now, in recent years, the organization has embraced vegetarianism as a stance. You have been a member for many years before this change, you have a medical condition that makes vegetarianism a difficult diet to maintain, and so you do not consider it contradictory to both eat bacon and call yourself an environmentalist.

  • Hth

    I want you to try re-reading your own post and see if you can see how creepily authoritarian it comes across. If you affiliate with an organization, you must never disagree with or seek to change anything about it? “Who says” you are allowed to make moral decisions based on your own reason and conscience? This isn’t how humans are meant to live. We have minds and souls and dignity and the responsibility to search fearlessly for truth. Organizations and institutions can be rewarding and helpful, but the idea that they should substitute for the kind of lifelong moral growth that comes from asking yourself tough questions and wrestling with your own confusion is really just a terrible, terrible way to spend your time on earth.

  • Lin

    Hth, this was a continuation of a previous post that I quite clearly stated was my opinion, not fact, not law, not anything other than my opinion. I am sorry that you are so violently opposed to my opinion. I can see you are quite right. I AM a vegetarian.

  • Lin

    Hi Irfcowper. First, thanks for putting your argument so well. I can honestly say it made me think.
    Your first point – no I think a religion can be changed. Of course it can. Anything involving people has to be constantly evolving or else it does not meet the needs of the people. But the change must be in the policies, beliefs, teachings, call it what you will. Your young ministers that are saying things you disbelieve – well surely that is just their opinion, surely the teachings of your church have not changed? Surely you are arguing more on my side of the argument? That you have been there for a long time, and are happy with the teachings of your church. These young ones are coming in with different ideas, and that is disrespectful to you? I find it a bit hard to go further with this thought because each time I do, I find I am putting words into your mouth and am not sure if I am on the right track. The last thing I would want to do is to attribute a stance to you that is completely off track. But I am sure you don’t mind me not waffling on any further!
    Two – I am not a religious person, and, whilst I love to talk religion, not being a part of the Catholic Church, I hope you will forgive my ignorance. My post you responded to was a continuation of a previous post which was my opinion, I agree many Catholics, and other religions, feel that way. I feel strongly that it is disrespectful to those believers to have others, with differing beliefs in their church. They are obviously happy with the belief system.
    Thirdly.Hmm, you’ve taken my simile completely in an opposite direction. But,to answer you on this: If I believe that an organisation has to evolve to meet the needs of its members, then I have to accept that evolution may not always be in the direction that I would like. Should any organisation I belong to start down a path that I do not agree with, I would not hesitate to change my allegiance. I may then call myself an environmentalist who eats bacon, but I would not call myself just an environmentalist.

  • Lin

    But who decides what is non essential? Whilst I can;t argue with your points on your particular example (mainly cos I am a female and darn well believe we are equal! lol) why could I not have an equally valid argument about why murder is okay? Or theft? Who decides when you have veered too far left from being a Catholic? Or whatever religion? That, in a nutshell is my point entirely. Loved both your posts L (can I call you that?) Both times you have made me think – and question myself. I wish I had more time to formulate a more coherent response to you. I hope you have a lovely weekend.

  • Regarding Facebook, I have had to turn down a lot of Facebook friend requests because I keep my Facebook quite personal–family and friends that I know in real life. Unless you have already friended a lot of folks from the church, you can always tell people (as gently as you can–people are so touchy about Facebook) that you keep your Facebook friendships to close relationships only. That’s worked well for me and I can actually handle the daily posts now.
    And lest I sound like I’m OH SO popular, that’s not what I meant. I have a podcast and a lot of listeners started sending me friend requests. I started a separate Facebook account (hopefully FB won’t kick me off) for friending podcast listeners. Perhaps you could have a professional FB page that you could create and interact with folks from your church like that (like a fan page)? And let your personal Facebook page be where you can let your hair down and be you?
    Just some thoughts. Blessings to you–the Lord is with you.

  • Jon Wilson

    No, I’m sorry. As a gay, ex-UM pastor, this will NOT work at all. The UMC will not tolerate dissent. If this dear woman remains unemployed by the local church, she can kill someone on main street with 100 witnesses and she will remain a member in good standing. But once she accepts a paycheck, then the pastor and members will think that they OWN her, and there will be no tolerance. The pastor’s “non-answer” about FB, etc. tells all. He was avoiding telling her the truth: “NO, you lose any right to dissent in any public way.” Yes, I understand needing the job (boy, do I), but this will not work and it’s better to apply at another church if needing to do children’s ministries.

  • I completely agree with Jon. Once you represented a church in a leadership or as an employee, your life is no longer your own. It will be far better to find a different job.

  • I agree with both boomergran and Michael. You have a right to a straight answer. I can see how the ambiguity could create a festering resentment.
    I certainly don’t know the pastor, but perhaps he is using the opportunity of your desire for the position to achieve a second goal of quieting your public statements. He may want you for the position just as much, and if you ask for a straight answer he might back down on his challenge.
    Remember, it was his last question. As a corporate interviewer, I did not leave knock-out questions until the end of the interview. They were always up front to save time. Saving difficult issues until the end is more the technique of a salesman who wants to benefit from your agreement.
    In any case, if you have a straight answer then you have a stronger basis for making a decision–whatever it is.

  • Jon Wilson

    Thanks, Lotus. And you NEVER work for the church in which you hold membership. It makes so much harder. As for the prayer and leading business: that is just the INNER call. The church has always held to the outer call which is tested by the church. And, in this case, where the Discipline is opposed to her views and where she will be asked, the outer call does not agree. Better to apply at a church which at least is neutral on the issue. Blessings.

  • Angela J Downham

    I’m intrigued that the position you’re considering is one of responsibility for children. All of whom will develop sexual orientations. It seems you have before you an opportunity to make a difference – to instil in a generation what LOVE is, the meaning of choice, the realities of compassion, the call to justice. Opportunities to live into the ideals of inclusion. Wow.

    I’m not intending or wanting to be persuasive. I’m simply sharing what I see.
    I’ll be praying for you in your decision making.

  • Bill Steffenhagen

    Dear confused. I have two sons. Both are very successful military officers and one is a diplomat as well. One is married with family. The married one (Coast Guard) is more socially and politically conservative, the other (Marine, Diplomat) liberal. Both have long been aware I am gay (divorced 20 years) and are cool with it tho the more conservative would, I think, prefer I was less of an activist about it. He and his wife are active christian church goers and have three daughters to “splain things to. The other is not religious but very much a “christian” in a spiritual sense. My liberal son and I are able to hold great conversations about social and political issues and we’ve had occasions where we talk for hours, once all night. The liberal son often seeks my advice on his life choices. The conservative son does not. That’s for background.
    Years ago, in one of the conversations about life choices with my liberal son, we hit upon an analogy regarding the reality that every choice in life has a cost and the analogy we now occasionally still use is a chess strategy which is, that often in chess, a game can be won by sacrificing a very valuable piece for the ultimate goal. We called it “sacrificing the queen”.
    My point? That sometimes in life we are faced with the necessity of “sacrificing the queen”. You are at that point. You are faced with a decision of which choice to make of two desirable and GOOD choices that are seemingly at odds with each other. You must choose which chess piece to sacrifice, the queen or the bishop. In your case, since your pastor did not give you a firm answer to your question one way or the other, perhaps your queen is safe and all you have to sacrifice is the bishop or the knight. By that I mean that you don’t really have to make an agonizingly hard choice? You can embrace your church AND find ways to more subtly advocate for gay civil rights and, in so doing, change some minds.

    As for your church and pastor…..well, he didn’t give you the hard answer, did he. So maybe he’s on the fence himself. Sounds like he’s leaving an opening not only to you, but to your whole congregation. It may be that there is no need for ANY sacrifice.

  • Bill Steffenhagen

    I had to re-read your letter because I was seeing others referring to your pastor as a “homophobe”, essentially intolerant of gays, suggesting that he is saddling you personally with his anti-gay position when the way I read your letter, he fudged it. To your group, he presented the UMC’s official position, but did he present it as HIS OWN? You wrote, “He truly believes that homosexuality is “not consistent with God’s teaching.” Did he actually say it that way to you or your group, or did you extrapolate that from him pronouncing the UMC’s official position? To you personally, it seems, he left you some personal space on the issue. Yeah, I’m doing some serious parsing here, but the way I read what you wrote, you should too. I think it’s safe to assume that a lot of clergy members these days, of many denominations, are doing a lot of parsing of this issue themselves.

  • Comment fail.

  • Kurt Schwind

    I disagree. The UMC is deeply divided on this issue and there are many UMC churches that are open and affirming. Also pastors in UMC get moved around often. It’s completely possible that in 2 years that a new pastor will be there that fully supports LGBTQ rights. It’s too difficult based on the letter above if this is a reasonable pastor that can deal with different points of view or if it’s a pastor that is going to be a huge issue.

  • Dan Roth

    Or maybe it means he doesn’t know. Or possibly that he himself is conflicted as to what the correct answer is.

  • Kurt Schwind

    And he gave that speech in a UMC church. 🙂 The UMC, right now, is about 80% accepting. I’m basing this on the quadrennial effort to have the line with ‘homosexuality is incompatible’ removed from the book of discipline. Now, to have it removed you only need 75%, so why is 80% not getting the job done? It’s because it’s a world-wide vote. Our UMC Africa churches are in single digits on this issue. This is why you are seeing more and more American churches going ‘open and affirming’ even though it appears to contradict the UMC teaching.

  • sophiakristina

    I continue to face a similar predicament as I work for a United Methodist denominational agency. The UMC, as diverse as it is, has room for everyone. What you’ll have to ask yourself is where you’ll get the strength and support for those times when it feels like you’re the only one who wants to “stay and work to change it.” I stay because I, too believe that love wins. It has already won. I stay because I want people to see that Christians and God and neighbor loving people can also be LGBG-loving people an that it’s not an oxymoron.

    As someone who does social media for work, I’ve found it too hard to box my beliefs up. But if your believe is that God is love, then that will shine in all you do and communicate.

    But what I say to people who can’t stand it and who are tired of fighting: do what you need to do. If your work is not life-giving and it’s too emotionally draining, maybe it’s time to take a break from the fight and let others have their turn.

    Know that you’re not alone. May God grant you the courage to live out your faith in all aspect of your life.


  • lrfcowper

    Well, the trick with my church is we don’t have documents such as the Book of Discipline or any such creeds. We very much rest on the idea that where the Bible speaks, we should be in unity, but where it is silent or unclear, diversity of opinion with respect is called for. My congregation has always leaned conservative on many issues, but it is not united on the question of same-sex marriage, abortion, etc. So when I got into an argument with the youth minister over my support of same-sex marriage and the place of LGBT people in the church, I was somewhat surprised. It was, when it came down to it, his ministry area, though, and as I would not back down on this issue and submit to his desire that I not “confuse” the youth, I resigned from my youth ministry work. But, I didn’t leave the church, because it was my church and I have been a Christian since before he was a twinkle in his parents’ eyes. Interestingly, he resigned about a month afterwards. I do not know what role our altercation had in his resignation. There are still elders and ministers at my church who are heterosexist, many of whom assume the majority of the congregation are as well. They may be. I don’t know. But I maintain that this is an area where we should be accepting and respectful of diversity and I do not intend to leave the LGBT members of my congregation in the lurch by leaving it to the heterosexists.

    To be honest, until the Moral Majority made this a plank in their political power grab, this simply wasn’t an issue at most churches, and they had no doctrinal position one way or the other. People were free to derive their own conclusions. Now, yes, most people who had no particular reason to delve deeply into the question mostly assumed a surface understanding of homosexuality based on a handful of passages and the cultural condemnation. But there’ve always been those who dug more deeply and didn’t believe the condemnation was there. And those people watched in dismay as bigotry was written into the bylaws and rules of their churches. A lot of them did leave to form their own denominations. But a lot of them stayed, because leaving was surrendering the territory. And those that stayed have changed minds and hearts in a lot of our mainline protestant denominations, have started welcoming and affirming ministries and congregations. They’re winning because they stayed. Now, that’s not going to be ideal for some folks. If you are yourself LGBT or you are non-confrontational or shy or emotionally sensitive, the bigotry can leave you so very, very hurt. It’s okay to leave before you’re wounded beyond repair.

    But to suggest that the folks who stayed haven’t wrestled long and hard with why they’re holding on, and whether leaving wouldn’t be a better option, is very simplistic. So is suggesting they all should just leave, especially considering there are LGBT kids and teens who are caught in these denominations, who need allies in their local congregations, because they do not have the option to leave. It isn’t a job for everyone, but some of us are called to be Jeremiahs, at least for a time.

  • lrfcowper

    L or Lyn or Lynette are all fine for referring to me.

    In the case of Christianity, Christ himself lays down some pretty basic rules for recognizing when a teaching is good or not. First, of course, he lays out the rule of love– love others as you love yourself, treat others as you would wish to be treated, judge them with the same ruler you use on yourself and those you love. Murder and theft both fail on that count, obviously.

    The second metric is the test of fruit. Jesus, as God, obviously knew there were going to be ethical dilemmas that he simply couldn’t address in the place and time he was because there were no words for them, no way of conveying such concepts as cloning, atomic power, space exploration, the internet, video games, genetic modification, organ transplants, sex reassignment surgery, and on and on and on. So, he laid down a simple rule– whenever someone comes up with a teaching, examine the fruit, the consequences, of that teaching. If the teaching results in bad fruit– loss of faith, despair, pain, misery, suicide, murder, poverty, etc.– regardless of how scriptural or righteous that teaching sounds on the surface, it’s a bad teaching. If a teaching results in good fruit– more love, more joy, more generosity, less pain, more justice– it’s good. It’s pretty easy to look at the “fruit” of the anti-LGBT theology of the Moral Majority– LGBT teen homelessness and suicide, depression, bullying, assault, murder, and discrimination of/against LGBT people– to know this teaching is rotten to the core.

    The third metric is the hardest for a non-religious person to buy, but it’s the Holy Spirit. Christ promised that the things we were not ready to learn yet would be taught to us by the Holy Spirit. Many denominations have changed their attitudes toward LGBT people because enough of their members came forward with what they felt was the teaching of the Holy Spirit that they felt that its leading could not be ignored. Call it conscience if you want, or an awareness of a greater reality than your own small agenda.

    At any rate, I hope that helps your understanding. Have a good Thanksgiving (if you’re in the US).

  • Alliecat04

    My question is about her job title. It sounds as if she will be called on to associate with children who will regard her as an authority figure. Some of these children will be gay. Will she be expected to lie to them and harm them at a vulnerable time in their lives? If that’s the case, the price is too high, and you have to explain to your family that mommy can’t pay the bills because she couldn’t take that job.

  • Lin

    Hmm, to explain my point further I am going to use one example and three different ways of dealing with it. Again, this is just my opinion, but maybe you can see my way a bit more. Not asking you to agree with it, just understand it.

    So, the example is – Religion A actively teaches against contraception. Now, you could substitute any teaching that your particular church has here that you hold dear. Maybe murder, rape, abortion, sex outside of marriage, whatever. But I will use contraception. The point is not about how valid contraception is, but that it is against the teachings of the church. The arguments could be used for any situation – a member of a political party, an environmental group, any group that stands united with common beliefs.

    Person A believes wholeheartedly that they are a good member of the church. However, they use contraception. they have not discussed it with anyone other than their partner, and can justify the use in their own mind. I consider this person a hypocrite, and is actually one of the types of people I had in mind for what I have written elsewhere

    Person B is also a member of the church and again feels they are an outstanding member of the church. they not only use contraception, but, in their role as a leader in youth works speak positively of the use of contraception.They do not discuss their views or teachings with the church hierarchy. They just teach what they have justified in their own minds, despite it being directly against the church teachings. This is the other kind of person I had in mind for my writings. This person is, in my belief, harmful to the church. And, to someone like myself, looking in from the outside, makes me believe that this church is hypocritical. I have no way of knowing that this person is not speaking on behalf of the whole congregation.

    Person C – also believes they are a great church member. They believe in contraception, and have thought through their decision well. contraception is the only teaching they have issues with – and they love their religion. They speak to the church leaders, giving their reasons and actively strive to change the teachings of the church. They are interested in seeing the church evolve. Now, hopefully they do it in a respectful way – not beating people over the head with a stick “I will keep hitting you with this stick until you agree it is a lovely stick”, but in a spirit of co operation and give and take. maybe they feel, initially that all women between the ages of 9 and 90 SHOULD be using contraception. That is their deeply held belief. Through discussions and compromise, they manage to change the church teachings to something like ‘each couple can decide if contraception is right for them’

    I was not speaking about person C at any time. Like I initially said, this can hold true in any organisation, and I would consider Person C to be someone to admire and hold in the highest respect. Persons A and B I would not like to be in any organisation with them. I would find it difficult to respect any organisation they were members of.

  • Pubilius

    My recommendation, and I practice what I preach, is stay as long as you’re able. The LGBTQ children in your congregation will need help, they may not have any allies elsewhere in the church. Sometimes, this means helping in quiet ways, other times the Holy Spirit may require us to step up and speak out.

  • Batik

    She should stand it as long as she can – every church needs table turners and likely, there are others sitting there waiting for someone to express what they believe in their hearts. I ran into a similar situation. I am a church office administrator. I was told by the ruling elders to remove a FB post (I believe it was from Christians Tired of Being Misrepresented), because someone complained that I was not a good representative of our church. I refused and said I would understand if they fired me – but that I have the right to my feelings and expressions. There was NO untruth in my post. I didn’t post it while I was clocked in. I represent the church and Christian values well no matter where I am – but I am NOT my job and I have just as much right to my opinion as the people who wanted to stop me from expressing it. I found out who complained and blocked them from any communication with me and also on all social media. It turns out that the person who complained didn’t even look at my post – they knew about it third hand. It never went beyond that and I am still working (and representing) eight months later…