I was not born into the Methodist Church. As a young man, I CHOSE the Methodist Church, when I saw a congregation in Atlanta, GA, step outside their doors and offer a cup of water to a community that was searching.
This simple act of love happened when the Gay Pride Parade in Atlanta was passing the front doors of this congregation and instead of turning their backs on a community they didn’t understand, they stood on the sidewalk and offered water to those who passed.
That one act, an act of friendship brought me to the Methodist Church.
A young man in my 20’s, I was searching. I was searching for a way to continue the faith that I had learned as a child, but with a new understanding of who I was, I was also seeking a congregation that would not judge me for who God made me.
I found that love and compassion at St. Mark United Methodist Church.
In my 30’s I moved to south-Florida. Wanting to continue my faith walk, I sought out a Church that would continue to love and accept me. I found that love, understanding and friendship at the United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches.
While living in south-Florida, I met and became friends with the Pastor. In a candid and loving conversation, he told me one day that he did not understand my sexuality, but he loved me and would walk BESIDE me through life, that promise continues today.
After my pastor was reassigned to another congregation, I was embraced by my first female pastor, a friend who became a confidant, the person I needed to speak with more than anyone else on the morning my mom died. A pastor who exemplifies the love of Christ with all she encounters.
As a member of the Methodist Church, I have been blessed to gain friendships that will follow me until my last days on earth. As a member of the Methodist Church, I have grown in my walk with Christ and as a Methodist I found a home.
It all started with a simple act of kindness.
Today, as a middle-aged man, I grieve at the thought that this same compassion may not be offered to our next generation of Methodist leaders and congregants.
I never imagined that my faith-walk could one day split a church, that my desire to know God and live a life that was honoring to Him could ever be considered so abhorrent to some that we would turn our backs on others who simply wanted to live their lives in honor to God.
Acceptance, love, compassion, those are all words that I have known from the Methodist Church I chose. It saddens me that those cornerstones of the religion may be torn apart, by a simple vote, one that can change lives forever.
If we the Church are to fulfill the mission of Wesley and the teachings of Christ, everyone must be welcome, everyone must be honored and everyone must have a place at the table.
This week, as the United Methodist Church Conference tackles these important issues, I pray that millions of us who have known the love of Christ through OUR church will continue to feel the welcome and a new generation of Christ seekers will find that the United Methodist Church is a place of love for all.
Will the United Methodist Church continue to offer a cup of water to the thirsty, will they honor the teachings of Christ?