This story (addressed to Rio Texas General Conference delegates) is shared by Adama Brown, PhD, who is a university researcher, an active member of First UMC Austin, and an RMN process coach. Brown is active as a certified lay speaker, adult Christian education teacher, lay delegate, and in congregational care ministries. Dr. Brown is currently pursuing a Masters of Divinity at Iliff School of Theology.
Thank you Creator God and thanks to the delegates for the opportunity to share some of my sentiments about full inclusion. My name is Dr. Adama Brown. I’m a university researcher, a third year seminary student, an intern with Reconciling Ministries Network, and a member of First UMC in Austin, Texas.
People often take one look at me and wonder why I’m a United Methodist. History says that I should not belong to this church. Let’s be real. This denomination is more than 90% Caucasian. African Americans broke away from this church in 1787, and since 1972 the UMC Book of Discipline has stated that lesbigay persons are incompatible with Christian teaching. And yet here I am—an African American, attending a church that is 98% Caucasian, and I’m gay. Fortunately, First UMC Austin is a congregation that fully embraces and affirms all that I am.
I’m unapologetic about who I am, who I love, and I’m definitely unapologetic about the fact that just like each and every person who is listening to this story, I too am called to be in relationship with God, to serve God, and to be in ministry with others. These are top priorities for me.
Herein lies my struggle. The UMC’s Book of Discipline states that someone like me is “incompatible with Christian teaching.” This essentially means that despite all of the validation that I’ve received from God and my community of faith, ordination, the very thing that God is calling me to do, is off limits to me. The language in the Book of Discipline is also a reminder of the great harm that those in power continue to assault on God’s people by either flat out denying the spiritual gifts of all God’s children, by remaining silent, or by forcing queer people out of ministry in both subtle and not so subtle ways.
I have experienced my share of discrimination because of my race, but this is the first time in my life that I’ve felt that a barrier has been placed between me and God’s calling.
I often ask myself if I should cut my losses now and be grateful that I’ve had several really wonderful years surrounded by people who know how to do church and know how to love—OR—do I leave and join a congregation where there are no consequences to loving and serving God as my authentic self? This is the million dollar question.
As much as those in power might try to stifle my call, I have learned that my dilemma—whether to stay or go—does not do so. Rather, it propels me to work harder. I also realize that the longer I remain a part of the UMC, I must speak up. Otherwise I am just as complicit in complacency as those who benefit from the system and either intentionally cause harm or choose to remain silent. So I’ve chosen to stay, to speak up, to study, to preach and teach about intersectional justice, and to remain present in the hopes that it will make a difference for those who find themselves on a journey similar to mine.
As we move closer to General Conference, my hope and my prayer is that each delegate will reflect deeply on the power and privilege entrusted to you and the relative implications should legislation regarding full inclusion surface. More importantly, I hope and pray that you do so in a way that demonstrates the greatest commandments of the Christian faith: to love God with all of your heart, soul, and mind and to love ALL of your neighbors, including the queer ones, as yourself.
Blessings to you all. Thanks for your time. I’ll see you all in Portland.
In April 2016 the Rio Texas Annual Conference hosted online listening sessions about General Conference proposals open to all who registered. For the online listening session held on April 12th, conference constituents gave presentations regarding proposals of General Conference 2016 on the topic of “Human Sexuality and LGBTQI,” and time was allotted for questions from online participants. Five participants (previously registered through an application process open to all conference members) were granted a few minutes to share their stories. Four of the people who spoke are Reconciling United Methodists who believe in full inclusion for LGBTQ people in our church. They have agreed to have their transcripts shared here. This is the second in a four-part series.