This story is shared by Lisa Hildebrand, a member of First United Methodist Church of Austin, Texas. She and her husband, Sam, have two sons: Cole (21), a Junior at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon studying English and Reed (18), a Senior at Westlake High School who will be attending Oregon State University this Fall to study Civil Engineering. Lisa is very active as a Community Volunteer in various social justice related organizations, her church, and her son’s high school. She is currently exploring what is next for her when she becomes an empty nester this fall.
I am sharing here some of my story about how the current views/beliefs regarding the LGBT community stated in the Book of Discipline affect me and my family directly as well as some of my close friends and devoted members of my church. I also want to express why I feel so strongly that full inclusion for all of God’s children, not just some, is so important for the United Methodist Church.
I was born and raised in the Catholic Church. My husband of almost 25 years, who was born and raised in the United Methodist Church, was willing to get married (not convert) in the Catholic Church for me and my family. With being away at college and working, and with my family moving away from the church parish that I grew up in, it was not easy to find a Catholic Church willing to marry us. Finally, when my paternal Grandmother, who had served communion since the 1960’s at her church, talked a priest into marrying us at her church, he agreed to do so and a date was set. I was truly disheartened upon speaking with the priest on the phone. There was no joy or celebration towards us about this beautiful commitment and sacrament that we were about to embark upon. It felt as if we were a burden to him and the church. I knew then that I could not get married in a church that truly did not welcome and celebrate this beautiful event with us. By stark contrast, we were not only welcomed with open arms by a local United Methodist Church in Houston, TX, but our commitment to be married was also celebrated with us throughout the planning and the actual wedding ceremony. We have wonderful memories of our wedding, our time of membership and active participation with our church, our Adult Sunday School class, and my full time job as an assistant to the Children’s Minister there. This was such a true feeling of inclusion and of Christ’s love for all.
Fast forward to Austin, Texas where we have two amazing sons who were both baptized in the United Methodist Church as infants. Both of our sons (ages 21 and 18) are gay. As a parent bearing witness to their stories and their struggles, I can tell you that this was not a choice they made. As a parent and a member of the United Methodist Church, it is heartbreaking to hear that the Book of Discipline states that who my children are is incompatible with Christianity.
As someone who experienced inclusivity and welcome in the church first hand, it is so difficult for me to reconcile that there is a “but” for my sons and for others who are LGBT Christians in the UMC because of something that they cannot change. It is disheartening to know that my sons and other LGBT members of the UMC, should they choose to get married one day, are excluded because of who they are. When who they really are—is beautifully and perfectly created in the image of God.
There are devoted LGBT members of the UMC who feel called to be in ministry and would like to be in full ministry at the UMC and also there are those who want more then anything to be married at the church they call home. There are those that have been hurt and harmed by this and who have left or will ultimately leave the UMC because they cannot be fully accepted and included simply because of who they are or who they love. And then there are those we are losing because they will not step foot into the church when they hear that their welcome is followed by a “but.”
Is this the Church we want to be?
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 third in a four-part series.