Leaving the United Methodist Church
Letter to the Editor | Thursday, February 28, 2019
I remember the morning I got baptized into the Methodist faith. As a young teenager, I was mortified to be standing in front of the congregation with all eyes on me. I was so nervous standing in front of the congregation and kneeled down at the makeshift altar in the church gymnasium, because the sanctuary had been damaged by Hurricane Rita in 2005. I remember all of my senses that day. My knees on the soft cushion on the altar, my elbows on the wooden rail and my sweaty palms clasped in front of me. I barely heard the words the Pastor said over the beat of my own nervous heart, and felt the water gently placed on my head.
I loved my church. I felt more at home with my youth group Wednesday and Sunday nights than I did at school. I saw the world in black and white. I moved 12 hours away for college, and adorned my dorm room in crosses and religious symbols. The first Sunday, I walked from my dorm across University Avenue in Lubbock, Texas, to visit a Methodist Church. I was so certain again. I was certain that I would be welcomed and loved, just like I had been at my childhood church. I wasn’t. I sat in the back pew and felt like an insignificant face in the crowd. I visited churches of all denominations on and off throughout college. I compared every single one to the church I loved, and in the meantime, my distance from God grew. I still marked Christian in my mental box, like I would mark “female” or “white” or “heterosexual,” but it meant almost nothing.
I studied abroad the summer after my freshman year and met my now-husband in Spain. I realized I had a lot of questions, and I’m not sure any of the answers exist. I had lived away from home from two years, was the first member of my family to go to Europe and had started dating someone from a different culture. I changed my major to psychology. I started to learn about sexuality and gender. I met, and became friends with, people of all colors, faiths and sexualities. I grew up. I realized that different did not mean bad. I realized that my small, predominately white Christian town maybe did not have it all figured out. I realized that if you never challenge your faith, bring it out into the light and examine it from all angles, it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny or tests. I started to feel myself tensing up when someone would talk about faith or church. I passed a church on every street corner in college and started to have “me vs. them” mentality. I spent the rest of my college years distancing myself from what I thought Christianity was.
I began law school at Notre Dame in the fall of 2017, and I continued to make friends with men and women of different colors, faiths, backgrounds and sexual identities than me. I feel like today I am at a crossroads with my faith. I am not certain if I will stay a member of the United Methodist Church. I feel that my faith has strengthened, and I was looking forward to mustering up the courage to put one foot in front of the other on a Sunday morning and cross the threshold into our local United Methodist Church. I wanted to raise my hands and close my eyes while my heart soared during a worship song. I wanted to feel the cushion under my knees and the wood under my elbows at the altar. I wanted to partake in communion.
But I woke up this morning to the news that the United Methodist Church had voted to emphasize its opposition to same-sex marriage and to gay clergy. It hurts me, and it hurts for me for those that identify as LGBTQ. It should go without saying that people are people. That no matter where you are from, the color of your skin or who you love, people are the same on what matters. We all are born, we grow, we gain friendships, we may fall in love and eventually, we pass.
I don’t have a bible verse to put here today that unequivocally puts an end to the gay marriage dispute in the church. But sometimes your gut just knows. Sometimes, you just know that something is right or something is wrong — and that is God within you. I know deeply, down in my gut and into my soul, that gay marriage should be celebrated in the United Methodist Church and that gay clergy should be allowed to live their lives openly and in celebration of whomever they love. There can be nothing closer to God than love. He gives us the propensity for it — in fact he gives us the burning desire to have it. He would not give someone the ability and desire for love if it were wrong. I probably would not have felt this strongly about this before I myself got married in December of 2018. I felt God deeply that day, I felt Him stronger than I have felt Him in years and the cord between us was shortened that much more. I knew I was pleasing Him while saying my vows to the man I love because I wasn’t just saying them to my husband, I was saying them to God.
It is hard to believe we are having this debate in 2019, but here we are. I hope and I will continue to pray that the United Methodist Church does what I did — they take their faith out into the light and examine it from all angles. I hope they realize that love is given directly from God and cannot be wrong. I hope that one day, my feet will cross the threshold of a United Methodist Church again, but for now, I will have to worship in places where I feel Him the most — in the outdoors surrounded by the beautiful world He created for us.
J.D. class of 2020
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.