We’re worthy of God’s love: a queer Methodist on the anti-LGBTQ+ policy
All my life, I have felt unconditional love from my United Methodist Church congregation. They have been by my side since I was a baby, watching me grow up and supporting me. When my home family struggled, my church family lifted me and cared for me. Church youth group was a place where I was safe to express myself. I was the kid who sang in the church choir, participated in church plays and volunteered at every church function.
When everything else in my life was unstable, church was something I could always count on. I could go to church and be safe from all the turmoil happening in my home life. I would have done anything to spend more time in the comforting space of the church. I was so devoted that I found myself defending my religious beliefs about as often as I found myself defending my sexuality, both with the same amount of passion.
My relationship with Christ is something I have always been able to count on. God has guided me through so many trials in my life, including when I came out as queer. I prayed about whether Christ would accept my queerness, and I never felt as though God would love me any less because of who I loved. Quite the opposite, I felt Christ’s love through both my personal relationship with God and through my church family.
My congregation has always been accepting of everyone, teaching me that everyone is worthy of God’s love. We had members of the LGBTQ+ community in our church, including myself and some of my closest friends. When my friend came out as trans, our pastor supported him and fought to make sure the rest of our church supported him as well. When I come home to visit, my congregation is always happy to chat with me about my partner regardless of their gender. Sitting at church breakfast and having the person next to me ask me, “Do you have a new boyfriend? Girlfriend?” makes me overjoyed. That little acknowledgment of my sexuality makes me feel seen and accepted. Church is the first place where I never felt any less loved for being queer.
I’d like to think that the Traditional Plan won’t change the way my congregation sees me, but it hurts me to know that my global church doesn’t want me. I dreamed of one day getting married in the church where my parents got married, maybe even taking on a leadership role in the denomination. With this decision, it looks less and less likely that I will be able to do these things. The United Methodist Church only wants me if I sit in church quietly and hide my queerness. But my queerness is a part of me, and I am not going to hide it. Hiding this part of me would be hiding part of what Christ made me and just as I won’t lie about being a Christian, I won’t lie about being queer.
We are supposed to be a denomination of “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.” This phrase has been ingrained into me as long as I can remember. But under the Traditional Plan, the hearts and minds of the church only accept with judgment, and the doors of the church are only open to me if I never want to be a leader in my congregation.
As we pass the first Sunday after the General Conference, I am learning more and more that there are many Methodists who will support and fight for us, and many congregations that will accept us no matter what. The future of the United Methodist Church seems fraught and perilous, but I haven’t given up hope that I will one day be able to marry in the church I love so much.
If your home congregation isn’t fighting for you, please know that there are many churches out there that will. I understand that many queer Methodists may want to leave our denomination after this, but I don’t want to give up so soon on something that means everything to me. The Reconciling Ministries Network is dedicated to making an inclusive space for all Methodists and is a great option to those who are looking for a new church. This isn’t the end of the battle for our rights in the Methodist Church, and it gives me hope to know that we are not fighting alone.
Helene Utterback is a pansexual, polyamorous writer currently living in Boston, Massachusetts. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys reading, playing video games, working on plays and being passionate about life. She loves to learn new things and discover perspectives different from her own. Find her on Twitter @heleneutterback.