“I can’t live without my baby! I don’t want to live without him!” My friend screamed. She buried herself into my shoulder. Her transgender son had killed himself. He couldn’t deal with his father’s rejection. His father was a Methodist. So was his mother.
On February 25, 2019, the United Methodist Church said her pain and his loss from this earth were the consequences of sin. The father is righteous in their eyes. Her baby is dead. And as I held my friend, I thanked a god I no longer believe in that it wasn’t my baby, my Dave. I felt horrible for that thought. When you have seen so much death of beautiful souls who were too lovely for the cruelty of this world, her living hell is my worst nightmare.
My friend gave me permission to tell this story, but I have been asked not to name them. Her son had this sweet smile that was a little sly. It always looked like he was plotting something. Sometimes I think he was. He was scheming of a future. He wanted to be a chef someday. That day never came. I asked her what she thought of the decision and the turmoil of the UMC. Her words to me were simple. “F*** the UMC. F*** my ex husband. They took him from me and now they s*** on his grave!”
So what did the United Methodist do this time? I wrote about their upcoming vote that just happened recently. It was right after I spent a day in Facebook jail for standing up to an anti trans UMC minister who accused me of child abuse for accepting my child and said my child is going to hell. As opposed to spending a lot of time on the details. I will simply say this. The United Methodist Church (A worldwide denomination and the second largest protestant church in the US) had a big meeting in St Louis. One of the things they met and voted about was something they do not have a right to vote about. The acceptance, affirmation, dignity and inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people. The vote did not go in favor of inclusion. The United Methodist Church is on the edge of breakup over this.
Since starting this column on Patheos I have exposed the horrible things UMC ministers have said about transgender people as well as me and my child. In the aftermath of that article there was fallout.
I am going to speak to those who support inclusion in a moment, but first a message to the victors.
To Those Who Oppose Inclusion
To the UMC and people of faith who oppose LGBTQIA+ inclusion I hold you accountable. Your precious Wesleyan Quadrilateral lacks 2 sides. Those are reason and experience. All you have left to stand on is a warped view of scripture and a sick tradition of exclusion, denial of equality and death.
Is there a hell for children? Yes. You who oppose LGBTQIA+ inclusion have created it and children endure it daily in schools, churches, UMC run hospitals and families that cannot love unconditionally. The blood of children is on your hands! It is not a stain that will wash off your vestments easily.
Your deeds and thoughts do not live in a vacuum. You operate in the public square and as a parent of a child who has lost at least three friends to suicide and as a parent who comforted another parent who lost a child due to religious based Christian hate the public square is mine as well.
You celebrate that African Methodists will not take a knee to US Progressives. Here are some facts about Africa under Methodist Christian influence. In 33 of 54 countries in Africa being LGBTQIA+ is illegal. How many precious lives have been incarcerated, assaulted and murdered on a continent in which you hold multiple episcopal areas and conferences in 26 of those countries? In those countries your message uplifts these laws and this violence and also propagates the near epidemic proportions of the preventable HIV virus and AIDS.
To the Methodists Who Stood For Inclusion
I do not know most of you. I do not know your stories. To those who have fought for inclusion and tried to do so within the rules of a rigged game, I genuinely appreciate you and I am sorry for your pain. I want you to know that here and now.
I also want you to know that some of my fondest child memories came from Sunday school in a Methodist Church. My grandparents and my dad were proud Methodists. When I served as a pastor, there was a time where I was fortunate to serve as president of my town’s clergy association. There were two UMC churches in our membership. I served long enough to see a few come and go as they were reassigned. They were all good men and women.
Now I need to dig into uncomfortable territory.
Look at the cartoon above drawn by my dear friend, David Hayward. You may not like this, but if you are a cisgender heterosexual person, this is not your story. This is the story of not only UMC LGBTQIA+ people, but LGTBQIA+ people all over the world. The above cartoon is a poignant description of what they have heard from you conference after conference, hearing after hearing, year after year and decade after decade. The last panel is how this story ended and will end for too many beautiful lives.
You have a hard decision to make. I cannot and will not tell you what to do. But I implore you to no longer be the one who says, “Be patient. We are still working on it.”
It may be time to leave the UMC.
I chose the banner picture for this article with intention. Those beautiful people outside the church are marching with pride. Over the last five years my child has been out, I have been exposed to a lovely and vibrant community far more colorful than their flags. They are my friends, my family and my new congregation. I love them so much. Stop trying to invite them to the hell the Book of Discipline created. Stop telling them to be patient.
You will have to no longer be in that pen to do that. It’s time. I do not know what it looks like for you to stop saying we are working on it and say I am here now. Maybe you take part in a split and create something new. Truth be told, the UMC as it now exists has only been that way since 1968. It is not like they are at the Council of Nicea forming the church. Even the time of Wesley is a mere blip in church history. You can create a new and lovely blip.
There are other denominations that have open hearts and open minds. The Episcopal Church is the only one that never once failed to stand by me and my child. I am not a Christian anymore, but if I did believe in a god, I would think that would be a fine place to attend. Though the ELCA and the UCC have a little bit more growth to do, they have some good spaces to offer Methodist refugees for love.
Your path may even be outside the church walls where the lovelies are savoring life. I do not know. I do know this uncomfortable fact. You can no longer stay in that institution and tell the LGBTQIA+ people to be patient and say you are on their side and love them.
Time’s up. The time to love is now. You cannot serve two masters. You have to choose between love and the book of discipline. They no longer co exist.
Leaving may cost you job security, friends and even a pension. I sacrificed and lost a lot affirming my son. Despite the cost, I have no regrets.
One Last Piece of Advice From an Ex Preacher
Being an ally is a challenging path. You are going to make mistakes. You never know as much as you think you do. There will be humbling after humbling. You will need larger ears and smaller mouths. Those who are LGBTQIA+ have had a lifetime of pain and much of that has been delivered by the church and christianity in the name of Jesus.
When I was a progressive minister I spent too much time listening to other progressives and not enough time listening to the community I claimed to be an ally for. With good intentions I hurt the people I claimed to be helping.
Over the last two days, two people who are UMC (professionally) have hurt me. One even breached confidence. They could not deal with my anger and hurt. Nor could they handle the triggers. I forgive them both and still love them, but I trust them with my heart and my family’s truth less. Why do I bring this trivial matter up? They were spending more time defending themselves and progressives and less time listening to the source of this father’s pain.
When I was a progressive minister I did the same thing.
Be humble. Embrace beauty. Thank you for trying and thank you in advance for joining the parade of love that has existed all these years that you have been trying to create in the walls of a house of pain.
In closing. Know this. The pain I have is merely that of parent. And as a parent of an LGBTQIA+ young adult, I will never know the experience, hurt and pain they experience from rejection. And if you are a cisgender hetero person like me, neither will you. Never forget that as you move forward.
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