Closed Hearts, Closed Minds, Closed Doors.
My adult life has revolved around the United Methodist Church.
While I was raised Lutheran, I chose to go to college at West Virginia Wesleyan College, because for some reason it felt like home to me (and I practically got a full ride). There in the basement of a fraternity house, I met a tall, dark, and handsome fraternity boy named Teer, who happened to love Jesus and beer. I became a Theta Xi shirted girlfriend, dreamed big dreams of teaching college-level art, and experienced the world and education through a United Methodist lens.
I fell in love with the Methodist church just as hard as I fell in love with that young man named Teer. In fact, my religion courses were some of my favorites. But what really drew me to the Methodist church was it’s slogan. And whether you like the slogan or not, for a 19 year old young woman, away from home for the first time on her own, it felt like home to me. Open hearts, open minds, open doors.
Six years later, I married that tall, dark, and handsome fraternity boy named Teer. Our wedding was officiated by a United Methodist pastor named Jason.
When we were considering getting married, I didn’t even make the suggestion that we do a secular wedding or even a Lutheran wedding. I knew that for my soon-to-be husband, getting married by a Methodist pastor was a non-negotiable. He had been raised in the Methodist church. When his parents divorced it was people in the church that filled when his parents weren’t able. I remember the first time I went to church with Teer I finally witnessed it with my own eyes, he was home. The United Methodist church was home to Teer.
And so I became a United Methodist without batting an eye.
Fast forward to 2012. Teer was now the Youth Director with Jason as his boss at a United Methodist church. December 2012 we did the most meaningful thing I’ve done in my then 28 years of life, we went on a mission trip to the Highlands of Guatemala. We served alongside the Mayan people, as United Methodists. Little did I know that what I thought was extreme altitude sickness, was actually morning sickness as I was about 4 weeks pregnant with our now 5 year old son, Camden.
Camden was born and Jason did the baptism and invited Teer and I to pour the sacramental water on Canden’s head. In the United Methodist church.
Now as a pastor in the United Methodist church, Teer and I have moved our family around quite a lot. Camden has lived in 3 houses at the young age of 5. We love the United Methodist church, we’ve literally built our lives around the church. We’ve uprooted our family because of the needs of the church and Teer’s capacity to serve.
This past year, our daughter Nora joined our family and she was baptized in the United Methodist church.
The United Methodist Church has always felt like home for us. No matter how far away from home we actually were. It has shaped our adult lives and has been the one constant when things weren’t constant at all.
The thing about pastor’s kids is that they have a really unique understanding of what it means to be a Christian. They literally live it, every single day, regardless if they like it or not. When General Conference was happening one night I asked Camden about God’s love and who deserves it. His answer was classic, “Mommy, God loves everyone, even people with bad haircuts.”
From the mouths of babes.
Here’s the thing about General Conference that makes my heart heavy.
The United Methodist church has been home for me for almost half of my life, all of my adult life. I’ve never felt like an outcast or an outsider. I’ve been welcomed into stranger’s homes because of our commonality of being a United Methodist. I’ve baptized our children in the United Methodist church. I’ve debated theology and polity, I’ve asked hard questions, and every single time it’s been welcomed with open minds and thoughtful consideration.
No church is perfect. No ONE is perfect. But here’s what I know and what I’ve experienced, the decision that was made at General Conference does not speak for myself or the other United Methodists that I know and love. In fact, the thing that outrages me the most is that those people were allowed to speak FOR me by the vote that they cast. And by casting that vote, they perpetuated harm to an entire group of people telling them that the way they experience the world is wrong. That something is innately wrong in that they do not get to experience the United Methodist church in the fullest way possible, the way that the rest of us do.
The United Methodist church is the church that has been my constant through moves, my parent’s divorce, the birth of my children, and marriage growing pains. It’s always felt like home to me because of the radical love I’ve experienced through it. It’s always felt like home.
So to my United Methodist family, the hate will not win. We will light up the darkness. And we will do it together. Love trumps hate (and bad theology), it always has and will continue. We cannot let the darkness infiltrate our church, our minds, or our words and actions.
It’s time to get to work and get back to creating a home for our brothers and sisters in Christ.