Thursday, April 30, 2009
Last year we made a very emotional and life-changing decision. The emotional fall out on all sides was palatable as we worked through our feelings and the ramifications of what we decided to do. I am reminded of this by a recent post on Alan’s blog: http://homepage.mac.com/akiste/iblog/index.html
We have had many spirited debates about our decision to leave the United Methodist Church, and their willingness to stay in the Presbyterian Church even with their prohibition against LGBT Clergy.
This was our initial letter sent after much discussion and tears:
Dear Trinity Family,
When we moved in to the house next door, we were greeted by many of you asking us if we were looking for a church home. From the “Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Doors” slogan, to the P-FLAG information in the narthex, we truly felt that we could make a home at Trinity United Methodist Church. Over time we were made to feel loved and accepted, and Trinity did indeed become our new church home. Even before we made the decision to adopt our daughter Anna, we wanted to find a church that reminded us of the respective churches where we grew up. Trinity United Methodist Church was that church home for us. As we went through the excitement and frustrations of waiting to adopt, as well as the indescribable joy of adopting Anna, we felt the love and joy of this church and its church family. From the shower that was held for Anna Laura, to the celebration of the sacrament of her baptism, we truly felt like we belonged and were accepted as members of this church. Because of this, Trinity United Methodist Church will always hold a very special place in our hearts.
On April 30, 2008, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church voted on an issue that had a very strong implication on our ability to serve this church, as well as truly feel accepted as a family and as active members of this denomination. Unfortunately the General Conference let us down. The “Open Doors, Open Hearts, Open Minds,” motto was put to a test and hearts, minds, and doors were closed by this conference vote. The official stance that was upheld is that no one who is Gay shall be appointed to serve in the church. Although we have never felt such sentiment at Trinity, it makes it difficult for us to support and serve the United Methodist Church as a whole. Christ never once spoke about homosexuality or LGBT issues, but He was rather firm and vocal on His stance on divorce. It is ironic that the UMC supports and welcomes divorced members as both leaders and as clergy, but yet rejects LGBT people for service and leadership. Trinity has benefited from many individuals who have dealt with divorce and the tragedy that it brings as persons who have had an active role in leadership and in worship. Christ’s love and grace is unconditional, open to all who seek Him. The UMC has chosen to not demonstrate the same level of compassion and acceptance to those who are LGBT.
It is with broken hearts that we will be leaving Trinity United Methodist Church and the family we have grown to love in search of a new church home that we can physically and financially support, and a denomination that preaches God’s love and acceptance to all, above hurt and condemnation. We pray that in the future the United Methodist Church will stand behind its motto and welcome all of God’s children to worship and serve their church.
In God’s love, for all,
Tom, Tod, and Anna Laura McMillen-Oakley
After we left, it came to our attention that there were meeting held to discuss our decision to leave and what the congregation could do. We did not attend the meetings, but we were pleased to hear that they were being proactive in their response. However, we could not put our faith or our church attendance on hold while they worked out how to respond. This is our letter in response to the news of the meetings and an update as to where we stood back in June of last year.
Dear Trinity Friends and Family,
We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for meeting to discuss our leaving the church that we called home for four years. Although the meeting wasn’t specifically about us, we appreciate it for your intentions and concern. We completely understand and love the fact that Trinity United Methodist Church has been such a supportive and caring place for us to worship and socialize, and we realize that TUMC does not share the same views of our incompatibility that the larger United Methodist Church as a whole does… but we are still compelled to leave for a church body and governing body that finds us compatible and acceptable as ministers regardless of our sexuality.
Were this three years ago, we would probably stay and put up a fight, but now we have Anna Laura and the fact that she would be going through membership at some point, and this fact of incompatibility will come up, we decided to move on to more inclusive and non-judgmental grounds. We can accept this (although we don’t really understand it) but we worry about our daughter and her reaction to this aspect of our church’s dogma. We feel it’s easier to leave now and raise her in a totally welcoming environment than have to explain and perhaps move on a few years from now. We have been going to First Congregational United Church of Christ in downtown and like what we see. The minister, Pastor Julie, and her partner have just adopted a baby girl, so we have made a strong connection there with both the minister and several members of the congregation.
We look forward to being good neighbors and good friends here on Greenwood. Please know that our hearts will always have a special place for TUMC, and that Anna still yells “MY CHURCH!” when we approach the point from 4th Street, but also know that we need to take a stand regarding this issue. We fight for so much as a Gay couple on a daily basis, so to continue that fight into a house of worship each week seems a little daunting and against the whole purpose of worship and praise to our Creator. It was mentioned that if we leave we can’t fight, but we have found a church where we don’t have to fight, and we like that. We will continue to pray for Trinity and its many missions and members, and we hope that one day the UMC will reverse this needless and discriminatory aspect of the book of discipline.
Until then, in Christ’s unconditional love,
Tom, Tod, and Anna Laura
It’s hard to believe that it has been a year since all this happened. Time does indeed fly by. But we do feel grounded in our new church home and are excited with the prospect of our new minister starting this summer. We officially joined the church on Easter Sunday and can now vote and have a more active and hands on role in the decision making process at First Congregational UCC.
In a few years, Anna will step forward with some of her other Sunday School peeps and be confirmed in the church, a day we look forward to knowing that we are all welcome and we are welcomed for who we are, and not discriminated against for who we love.
God is indeed still listening.