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open hearts? no. open minds? no. open doors? no. open wounds? yes!

friends, it’s happening again. love is on trial. you know, when people get together and begin to decide who is right and who is wrong. who gets to love whom. who gets to get married and to whom. and, in this case, who gets to do the marrying.

if you don’t know this already, here is a little background info on me:

  • i grew up in the united methodist church, and am still a member. though, not so active now.
  • the methodist church has always been a church that focuses on grace, love, and social issues, leading civil rights issues in the 60s. i felt at home here.
  • my granddad was a methodist minister, and i wanted to be just like him. he has always been my inspiration.
  • so, i decide to pursue this calling and was offered a job in a church a long time ago.
  • as of today, i have worked as a minister in a united methodist church (umc) for a total of 10 years.
  • during that time i studied theology and ministry at an african methodist seminary – an amazing, life-changing, world-opening, theology-busting experience.
  • i planned on being ordained in the umc – like an ordained minister, pastor, preacher, minister kinda person.
  • so to recap: i worked as a minister (unordained) for 8 years. i had a master’s of divinity degree. i jumped through all the hoops over all the years to become an ordained minister. i felt called to this, from deep within my soul. i was ready.
  • i met an amazing woman & fell in love.
  • soon, we got married and i was happier than i’d ever been. yes. woman + woman = love.
  • when i got married i was in my last step of ordination = i had completed the 4 year process of seminary, plus all of the paperwork and approvals by various groups & committees.
  • at a final committee meeting to approve to send me to the last committee before ordination (provisional is the fancy term), i mentioned that i was moving to sweden.
  • no problem, they all said. the umc is in sweden so i could still complete my process.
  • the problem came when i said that i was married. and used the words “wife” and “lina”, indicating that i was married to a woman.
  • the meeting abruptly stopped and i was asked to leave the room due to the fact that i violated a rule in the book of discipline (the rule book for the umc).
  • the rule, you ask? the umc will not ordain anyone who professes that they love and/or are living with someone of the same sex because it is “incompatible with christian teaching.”
  • after some time, someone came to get me and the committee gave me 2 options:
  • 1. since i had said that i was married to a woman out loud, and that is against the rules = no lgbt person can be ordained in the methodist church who says they are in any lgbt relationship, then i could pull my candidacy and quit the process myself. OR
  • 2. i could continue to say that i want to be ordained, follow my calling and what i feel is right for my life, and leave my fate up to the committee to decide = make them de-certify me as a candidate for ministry and say that i am no longer fit or worthy to be ordained.
  • guess what i chose? yep. 2. there was no way in hell i was giving up and quitting. they would have to force me out and deny my the right to be ordained.
  • and they did just that.
  • all because of who i loved. and because i said that i loved her.
  • never mind all the years of work in a church, all the years of studies, and endorsements from others (including some in that room).
  • never mind that i was exactly the same person that i had always been, even the same person as 1 minute before i said that i was married to lina. i did not change. i have not changed. i am still me, with all my gifts and passions and ways to help the world & the church. i still have all of the same things to offer. but, never fucking mind.
  • that was that. the end. candidacy over.
  • ordination was no impossible.
  • i was crushed.
  • and then i was pissed.

today the methodist church was at it again. only this time is was not against a person who was married to/in a relationship with the same sex. this time, it was a man, a methodist minister, who performed a wedding ceremony for his son and his son’s, now, husband.

Frank Schaefer

yep. the umc does not only discriminate against those who want to be ministers and are in same-sex relationships, like me, but they will not allow any of their current ordained ministers to perform any same-sex marriages. another rule in the book. but, this minister, this dad, broke that rule, saying that he was ministering out of love – and that the love overrides, overrules the ban on same-sex marriage. good for him!

how can a church say that people in same-sex relationships can not get ordained and can not get married, but are still “welcome” to be in the church and are worthy, just like everyone else? it’s a mixed message. and it’s just freaking wrong. it’s exclusionary. and, i do believe that jesus, who the church follows (not a rule book!), always INCLUDED everyone. exclusion was not in his vocabulary. so, why is the umc so exclusive?

well, the minister that performed the wedding for his son was put on trial yesterday. yes, the methodist church has a judicial system, to make it more democratic – which is a good thing. potentially. yesterday the court ruled that the minister was guilty of violating the law of the book. again – the book, not jesus. where are the freaking priorities here?!

and today, just a few minutes ago, to be exact, the minister’s fate was decided. the jury decided that the minister is suspended for 30 days and that at the end of his 30 days, he must repent (say he is sorry and he did wrong), or else he must turn in his ministerial orders = be stripped of his ordination. no longer a minister in the methodist church. all because of a wedding.

you see, the jury did a cowardly thing today. the jury decided not to take a stand on this divisive issue and make a real ruling. they didn’t want him to continue to be a minister, but they didn’t want to defrock him and strip away his orders either. so they took the easy ass way out. gave him a suspension and then said HE had to decide what to do. that’s just bs and exactly what the umc seems to be all about – let’s take the middle road and not offend. let’s see if we can navigate in the middle and make everyone happy, or better yet, just not make any strong statement for or against anything. gaaahh. infuriating!

hmm… reminds me of my “choice”. that committee who was dealing with me did not want to de-certify me as a candidate for ministry. there were many amazing people on that committee, who i know loved me, and were very sad to see the situation come up. but, i was not about to let the umc off too easy. it was not me that had changed my mind – i still wanted to be ordained. i was determined to force the book of discipline force me out. i was determined to make the committee deal with the issue. and they did. they chose to follow the book.

on the one hand, i understand. but i also understand that there are many who, like me, disagree with certain rules in the book, but still uphold it. and here’s where i am with that now: nothing will change unless we stand up and make it change. if we keep disagreeing and, yet, still keep following the things we disagree with, then we will remain a church that is divided and focused on excluding people because of our need to follow the rules. i pretty sure jesus wasn’t too concerned about rules that seemed to be unjust. or, rather, he was concerned with them. he blew right past them, ignored them, and taught others that there is a more just way. he stood for something and made a difference, risking even his life for things that no one around him understood. when will you, umc, follow in the footsteps of jesus?

what does warm my heart ever-so-slightly in the midst of all of this, is reading twitter and seeing the resolve of so many ordained ministers who are saying that they, too, will refuse to follow the entire book of discipline. that they will stand up and take that chance. maybe, just maybe. one day there will be a change, if enough people get up enough courage. i’m sorry, brothers & sisters in ministry, i would join you, if i was ordained. i’d stand up.

so, i am pissed again today. and disappointed. and glad that i have stepped away somewhat from the church. i know that it is all about making change and staying in so that change can come from within, but you know what? they wouldn’t let me in. and i am/was not called to be a lay person in the umc. i am/was called to be an ordained minister. so, for now, i have no place there. i’ve been kicked out. and that’s fine. i’ll keep sending letters and pleading my case. but, i can’t do it from the inside, because they won’t let me in.

being stripped of my candidacy happened almost 4 years ago. and the wounds are still fresh. and every time something like this trial comes up again in the life of the umc, i am hopeful. i hope that there will be a change, that more people will say screw the book and let’s love the people. but, it doesn’t happen. there are plenty of people who are saying it, but it’s not happening. so, every time there is a new trial or a new part of this old controversy, my wounds gape even wider. it hurts. it stings. and i move further and further away from the church that i knew and loved.

i just can’t do it. there are too many other places where i am wanted and needed and able to make my mark. so, that’s what i am doing.

but, my heart still aches. i miss my church. and i am so. very. disappointed. the church seems to have no idea how this affects people. i keep dragging these feelings and emotions of unworthiness and confusion around with me, like heavy chains. most of the time i can forget about them, or i have grown used to them, but every now and then, on days like today, i am reminded that i am not welcome as i am. i am reminded that, though i did everything right, i fell in love with the “wrong” person (according to the church) and “broke” a “rule”.

and then i get pissed again. because, i am not in the wrong. love is never, ever wrong. listen to me: love is never, ever wrong.

but, tonight. i am done. it hurts too much. the pain will never heal. it will keep getting easier, but there will always be a hole in my heart. all i ever wanted was to give my life to the umc, but they wouldn’t have me.

still, i must move on and forward. and leave this all behind. it’s done. and i will never ever, not for one second, regret being true to who i am, for having the integrity and courage to say that just because i love a woman, does NOT mean that i am not worthy of ministering.

i guess the umc will just miss out on my ministry. but, god will not. and the world will not. because faith, love, hope, and service are bigger than the methodist church.

peace. justice, and love for all.

Published in culture + art lbgtq

Comments

  1. emuse emuse

    I recently heard an amazing talk about Christians and those of us with The Gay and why we are often on such polar opposite ends of the spectrum of this. I will dig around and look for it, but it was eye-opening. And, believe it or not, it has to do with the idea that we have a choice in who we are. Rather than not. And that seems to influence people very strongly. (There’s lots more … I will look, because I know you will be interested. And maybe it will help with this, a bit.)

    In the meantime, I will say that it is not easy being a forerunner. So many of us have lost family members, jobs, places to live, on and on, because of homophobia. It will change. (Hey, the Pope recently said everyone needed to get over the gay thing. He hasn’t gone so far as to say we should be able to get married there, but I was shocked. Leave it to a Jesuit.)

    You are a forerunner. You did not ask to be. You may not have realized, initially, that that’s what would become of you. But it is what has happened. It is important. And perhaps in 5 or 10 or 20 years, it will change. We have to be water to their rock-headedness, basically. Eventually, there is no rock in the world that can withstand erosion from water. It just takes some time.

    Love to you & Lina, Liz.

    em

    • emuse emuse

      PS: I really would love to see you look into the MCC. I think your soul would soar and you could lead so many people. Just a thought.

    • Just FYI, the pope thing was satire. Unfortunately. Pope Francis is awesome, but he has yet to go so far as to support gay marriage.

      • emuse emuse

        No, no I didn’t mean to infer that he had. I know he has not. But he has at least told Catholics to stop persecuting us and treat us with love. And I can tell you, I lost most of my family when I came out in the 1980s. Catholics, for the most part. So his comments have floored me, as the Church has been so backwards about all this.

    • liz liz

      Whoa Em. Thank you for your amazing comment. Yes, I am a forerunner, and it hurts at times, but I take up that mantle and that title, if that is how it is. I will fight for justice and freedom as long as we need to. Thank you for all of your support and encouragement. It is amazing to know that there are people out there that understand.

  2. emuse emuse

    Okay. I found the thing I was looking for. It’s a video, so I posted it on my blog so I wouldn’t take yours over. 🙂

  3. Catherine Catherine

    Kudos to you for being so awesome. Absolutely you were right to stay true to yourself (as you already know full-well). Things like this are why SO MANY people, particularly young people, are sick and tired of organized religion. If the UMC wants to survive, it has to learn to be accepting. This makes me sad for the church I grew up in, which I would like to romanticize and believe truly embodies its “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors” motto. Obviously not. I’m sorry that they scarred you so deeply with their prejudiced exclusivity, but I’m glad that you’re using it to be such an activist and inspire so many others.

    • liz liz

      Awww… thank you Catherine, for being such a cheerleader and ally to ALL people. You are absolutely right about the reasons why young people stay away from religion… I hear it over and over again. We have got to get our message together, and remember that the UMC is the denomination of grace, not judgement. Love to you, dear friend. xx

    • liz liz

      I saw/met her when I went to General Conference in 2004. I was super impressed by her then! Thanks for the link.

  4. So frustrating and sad and all negative words you can find. Jesus would be/probably is so very angry with church today. Love is love… Kärlek är kärlek!!

    • liz liz

      I am pretty secure in thinking exactly like you, Ulrika. Disappointed and completely stunned that the UMC cannot seem to get this right. Love you!! KRAM

  5. Bloody homophobes..I’m a humanist, but I don’t deny the existence of a chap called Jesus Christ and I bet he’d let YOU into his gang…and I bet he’d make an example of those who excluded you from their gang.

    Keep your spirits up, my dear.
    ~The Dippylomat, Esq.

    • liz liz

      Sir, you sure did bring a smile to my face with your comment. I feel like I just might be accepted in Jesus circle of friends too. But, then again, who wouldn’t? That man was inclusive of everyone.

      Thank you, dear sir. xx

  6. Very emotive Liz! And how frustrating and heartbreaking. But, you should be proud, you never did hide what / who you are and who you love. You know, there are people who do you know? Even in our times and in our open-minded (mostly!) countries – there are still people who hide these facts and that doesn’t help anyone!
    I had a similar moment of having to tell myself that it’s all ok this last couple of days – not the church mind (you know I’m of no part to a church), but with my father… more on that once it’s all settled in.
    Fabulous post, clearly your subject – it’s you!

    • liz liz

      One thing I was (and still am) determined to do was to live with integrity. I am so glad that I was strong enough in my beliefs in my love for Lina and for grace, that I stood strong, forcing the church to be the one to “banish” me. It is not an easy thing to do, but by the time I fell in love with a woman, I was very secure in myself as a person, determined to be me – at all costs. But, it took me a long time to get to that point. Since I found that courage, I want to now help others find the same.

      I am so interested in hearing some of your story, involving you father. It is ok for us to be ourselves, but it is not easy. My love and peace are with you. And I am so thankful that you faithfully support and encourage me. It means so much! xx

  7. Thanks for sharing your story.
    What makes me happy in the midst of all of the pain here is that you haven’t given up on your dreams. You have a gift for ministry and the world deserves to know that gift.
    I am an Episcopalian and this issue has divided our church and that makes me sad. People really should focus on what’s really important.
    Best of luck and love to you and Lina.

    • liz liz

      Thank you so much for reading and caring. Wow, what a wonderful comment from you! I will cherish your heartfelt love.

  8. I had no idea you were at the final stages of being ordained! What a heartbreak that must have been but – the Methodist church doesn’t deserve you. God is saving you for bigger and better things, my dear!

    • liz liz

      God is so very much bigger! Thanks for being such a positive and supportive person for me. Love.xx

  9. Brian Cornell Brian Cornell

    Sister In Christ,
    I love your ministry. I know what God can do through you. You are called, you are gifted and you are talented. You have also chosen the path of emotional, spiritual and intellectual honesty, which is leaving you exposed. And I wish I could cover you with enough prayer, walls and distance to protect you, but you are being brave (which is kinda sucky for you) and coming home and close to the things you love. You are facing them. So I’ll do my best to face them with you (which is lovely in a kinda sucky way) and keep praying that a corner is turned to let the world and church catch up with what God is doing with you on this side of His Kingdom. Blessings and prayers.

    • liz liz

      So beautiful Brian. I am completely touched by your faithful love and support. I have always felt it from you, and it makes all the difference. Thank you for being a fellow warrior for justice, and equality, and peace for all people – no matter what their circumstances or needs. You, my dear friend, are a blessing to me and to so many others. Much love and peace to you.

  10. This whole business is SOOOOOOO frustrating. To think of how much strife went into General Conference 2012, in the hope of bringing change, and now it comes to this. I know that (some of) the people on the other side of the debate think they’re acting out of love, but the effects of their judgment and exclusion are so, so harmful. Did you know that Rev. Shaefer conducted this wedding almost 5 years ago, and the UMC doesn’t allow things to be brought on trial after they’re 5 years old? In the very last month before the 5 years would expire, a member of his congregation brought the issue to trial… immediately following the member’s mother getting fired from her job as church secretary. It wasn’t even about the wedding; it was about revenge. Ugh! And now he’ll get his ordination removed, for that!?!

    I’ve been talking quite a bit lately about how judgment pretty much never helps. When we think about evangelism, we should be telling people what God and the church have to offer, not what kind of eternal punishment they deserve if they don’t join. And it’s the same with trying to keep fellow Christians accountable for acting morally right. We can appeal to Jesus’ example, and we can pray for one another, and we can even gently share our opinions about actions we may see as wrong. But we CAN’T go around acting like it’s our job to judge people, because it’s just NOT. What you do is between you and God. As Christians, we should be loving people as they are, for who they are, even while we encourage them to grow closer to God and act in accordance with Jesus’ teachings (which, incidentally, say nothing about homosexuality!).

    Anyway, thank you for sharing your story so eloquently. I can see why the wounds feel so fresh. No one should have to be treated like that. I hope and pray that the UMC can find a way forward that embodies Christ’s love instead of continuing to emphasize exclusion and judgment.

    • liz liz

      I did not know that about the 5 year thing! What a vengeful and sneaky thing to do… something that the member of the congregation had no idea (or forethought) of the impact his “revenge’ would have on so many people across the world. That makes me furious!!

      How is it possible that the grace-filled UMC has gotten things so mixed up lately. It is time to read up on the doctrine of grace as John Wesley wrote about it. Come, Holy Spirit!

  11. Sarah Sarah

    Dear Liz,
    I am very touched and inspired by your story and want to thank you for sharing it, even though it sure must be very frustrating for you.
    I am currently on my way to become an ordained minister in the UMC in Switzerland, right now I am doing my studies in Germany. Even though I am heterosexual, I could never believe why some people should be judged or excluded in our church just for LOVE. I am not willing to accept this fact and the thought that I wanna change something especially about this topic has long been rising in me. In this part of europe where I live and serve we are very open hearted and minded for this topic, but our hands are bound to change anything unless the book of disciples isn’t changing. But I wanna raise the awareness for equality, especially in our church and to do so I need more information, especially information that is up to date. Could you (or any of the other readers of this post) recommend any papers or books as to this issue? That would help me a lot!
    Thanks a lot, keep the love, faith and hope!
    Blessings, Sarah

    • One good place to start would be the Reconciling Ministries Network (http://www.rmnetwork.org/about-us/). They’re the main lobbying group for LGBT equality in the American UMC. I’m not so sure about paper or book resources, but I’m sure if you contacted someone at RMN they might have some ideas.

    • liz liz

      Sarah,
      Thank you for reading and for commenting!! Blessings to you on your journey toward ordination! What an amazing journey it is. I am afraid it will take a long time before the changes are in place, there are too many annual conferences in Asia, Africa, and the US which are completely against the ordination of all people.

      I lived in Sweden for the past 3 years and have been a part of EMYC, so I am aware that the thoughts and beliefs are much more open than in many places in the US. Sadly, though, I had conservative, discriminatory actions done towards me even in Sweden. It is sad that people can minister to and how the society in which they live needs.

      But, this is why I am speaking up the more voices we have, the louder we are. The more we push for an show grace, the more grace-filled we become.

      Carissa is right to direct you to the Reconciling Ministries. I would say start there. There are also a few books I read when I was in seminary on LGBT ministry, but that was about 5-6 years ago now. Keep fighting and learning. And anytime you want to chat or have a question, please contact me.

      Thank you for your comment!!! Peace, Liz

      • Sarah Sarah

        Dear Liz, dear Carissa
        Thank you very much for your direction. I haven’t gone through the site completely, but what I have seen so far looks great, so thanks!
        @Liz: I have been a member of the EMYC for the last three years and it’s great to know that even though our church is so global and big we still have some things in common. I would love to come back on your offer concerning your experiences and beliefs, I will contact you again when the time is ready. Thanks so much! Love, Sarah

  12. Ash Ash

    Wow, so raw, and I didn’t realise this happened so long ago, it must throb, this pain. But I must say this is one journey you are on Liz, one big journey. All strength to you xxoo Ash

    • liz liz

      My dear Ash. Always so beautiful with your words, and always someone who I know feels what I am feeling in my heart. I just love our kindred friendship. It is a very long journey, but it also gives me purpose and hope. I will never stop speaking about it. And I never need to, when I support from friends like you. Love and peace, dear one. xx

  13. Wow! What a terrible thing for them to do to you. I’m really sorry that happened. Hopefully, at some point, they’ll reverse their policies. Until then, try to heal. Best wishes. — Scott

    • liz liz

      Scott, thank you for your comment. And thank you for your support and well wishes. I will never be quiet and give up!!

  14. A very touching story! Now the entire background you’ve been hinting at in your previous posts makes more sense. You should def write your book on before, during, and after (divorcing your husband, finding a new love with Lina). I can’t wait to read it or your excerpts you will hopefully post here!
    This is a really messed-up situation. It was for you back then. Luckily, you had the “choice” to stand your grounds and decide you will not surrender but have the church make the final decision. But this minister, who has probably been in the “job” for a while, does not get to make this decision. i agree – inexcusably cowardly, especially considering that America is FINALLY becoming more and more LGBT-friendly. After decades of harrassment and unacceptance, a new era has finally emerged. And it’s not right for the church to cling to books written by mankind when after all, books can be rewritten.

    • liz liz

      I am working on organizing my book on paper. I can see it coming together… now it is just to begin to create and write. It’s coming, I can feel it. The time is final right!
      As for all the LGBT/church stuff… AMEN to all you said, sister! Let’s rewrite the book! 🙂

  15. I, for one, just don’t get how people can decide that love of any kind, in a world starved of it, is wrong. God is Love. Did they somehow miss that memo?

  16. Charlotte Strand Charlotte Strand

    Liz, you are just amazing and cool!!!!
    Thank you so much for your words, and for not beeing quiet, about this thing!
    This is a time, where i am not proud of beeing a methodist. Sorry to say.
    Lets pray, that things somehow Will change soon.
    Hugs to you and Lina!

  17. Concerned Methodist Concerned Methodist

    The difficulty is that his son testified in a church trial before God, that he is still married. Although technically correct, his divorce was ordered on 21 Sep 13. It will be final on 21 Dec according to MA law and he is living with another man. This fact has remained hidden through all the media is again deceptive to the nation as the campaign continues on The View, CNN, GMA, ect and undermines the movement and cause that Pastor Frank is trying to lift up.

  18. […] my question to the united methodist church is this: when will you break the rules? when will you stand up and break down the walls that divide? when will you err on the side of inclusion and acceptance, instead of exclusion (something i’m pretty sure was never practiced by the person of jesus)? when will you decide that, even though you think that the ordination discrimination that kept me away from being ordained is wrong, your non-action is wrong? when will you stand up for my right to be ordained? when will you break the damn rules? (background history on this here) […]

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