Why #ItsTime … Lisa Hildebrand

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.
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Facetune (2)
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?

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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.

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7 thoughts on “Why #ItsTime … Lisa Hildebrand

  1. Love your beautiful story, Lisa. Thank you for sharing. As a mom of two LGBTQ daughters, I can tell you the church at large has missed loving its own. I’m grateful for the churches that are courageously embracing LGBTQ people just like Jesus would and does.

  2. Reading your story (the outpouring of heart) is similar to my own. My late husband and I were blessed with two great sons, and the younger was gay, and his coming-out should not have been a surprise due to his likes/dislikes even as a child. A total opposite to our older outdoors-sports-girls son, we highly suspected he might be but we could not find the strength to face the fact. Due to his high IQ and habits one of his elementary school teaches “suggested” that he might be gay. In horror, we could not or would not accept such an idea.
    We were very involved members of KUMC, co-founded by my late husband’s GGrandfather, and fully and financially supported this beautiful old church since 1960. My husband was Finance Chair and always managed to assist in raising the necessary funds to meet the church’s needs that included building a new Fellowship Hall. After my beloved husband’s death, I as Trustee Chair, built a new parsonage in his honor. None of this is meant to boast but to reveal our love and involvement in our church.
    A few years back I wrote a memoir, Two Sons Twice Born, in hopes that our story would benefit other to realize that Gay is inborn and it does not deserve the horrible mistreatment bestowed on so many. I sent an email to our Bishop asking for a sitting in order to discuss this matter. Instead I received an email from his secretary detailing that the Bishop did not have time to see me, but did refer our DS to call me. I poured out my heart to him and he offered to take a book to the Bishop. I sent him one also and I never had any type response from either of them.
    Therefore, my heart was devastated by this ignored treatment and it was at that time that I felt I could no longer support a church that could not love unconditionally. The Church moto: Open Hearts, Open Hands, Open Doors, is lacking one other, and Non Excluded. I sent a comment to the Atlanta office for the discussion program and it was posted for one day and then deleted. and NO ONE there is able to find it………..????
    Hilda Atkins Moore, Rome, Georgia

    1. Hilda – thank you so much for Your story. A story of love, devotion and service to your family, your faith and dedication to the UMC. I am so sorry that your story and your serving heart fell on deaf ears. But I do believe you were and are a large contributor in helping to pave the way for the opening and listening, shifting and changing of many hearts and minds towards full inclusion for All of God’s Children in the UMC. Thank you.

  3. Lisa, I understand your pain firsthand; not as a parent but as a former UMC pastor who came out of the closet. When I came out I was forced to surrender my credentials. I asked what would happen if I didn’t do it. I was informed that there would be a church trial, which I was sure would go public. I had children in school, there was no way that I was going to do that to my children. I was also told that my pension would be taken. I had a substantial pension, I had pastored for over 20 years. I couldn’t afford that type of blow to my finances. I will pray for you and your family. Incidentally, I am now in Texas, I wasn’t at the time this occurred.

  4. Yes, it is time.

    For your sons and many others, including Blythe (Tyler), my daughter’s best friend from kindergarten who committed suicide recently at age 14, because she was struggling with gender issues.

    God loves us all. Even if one believes homosexuality to be sin, since when did the UMC refuse sacraments to sinners?

  5. God bless you for sharing your personal story. It is with the stories that hearts and minds will be opened in this journey to inclusion.

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