Hilary Hodge: The Methodist Church and the LGBTQ community
It’s 1988. I’m tall for my age but my feet still don’t touch the ground when I’m sitting in the pew. I’m 8 years old and wearing a pink lacy dress with tights, swinging my feet.
My mother is the pianist at Byron United Methodist Church. My middle school music teacher plays the fiddle in the band. I sing and play the tambourine. Sometimes I stay for the sermon because the band has a song to sing.
Sometimes I go to Sunday School, mostly for the coloring books, sometimes for the cookies and juice.
I sang with the Byron United Methodist Church through high school, long after my favorite minister moved away. Her name was Jan. She loved the Easter holiday and always made people feel welcome. She was able to talk with young people about Jesus Christ in a way that made us feel like he walked with us. She brought people together.
It wasn’t until college that I realized the woman who taught me to love the Lord and the teachings of the Bible was a lesbian, that she had moved away to avoid scrutiny and that, later, she was asked to leave the church. It had a profound impact on my own identity and the way I could relate to the teachings of Jesus Christ as an adult.
I no longer identify with the church. I no longer identify with any church.
A few weeks ago, the Methodist Church decided to reaffirm their discrimination against the LGBTQ community. According to an article published on Feb. 26, written by Emma Green of The Atlantic, “Methodist delegates rejected recommendations, instead choosing the so-called Traditional Plan, which affirmed the denomination’s teachings against homosexuality.”
We are fortunate to live in a state where many of our local Methodist churches are inclusive and community-driven. They support our local homeless shelter through planned meals and coordination for services. They support local groups by hosting organizations and community members who are working for a better world.
The decision on Feb. 26, by the upper echelons of the United Methodist Church, to toughen its teachings against homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and LGBTQ clergy, reminds me why I no longer find strength or solace in the Methodist Church, or any church. It’s a reminder of a sad reality and a difficult crossroads for the Methodist congregation and churches teaching the word of Christ. Jesus Christ taught us to love one another and to always lend a hand to strangers.
I’m a stranger in the place that taught me worship. I’m a stranger in the church that baptized me. I’m a stranger in the church that raised me and brought me song. I’m a stranger in the church that showed me the teachings of Christ.
And yet, Lev 19:33–34 tells us that, “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself.”
The teachings of Christ and the Bible makes no apologies about inclusivity. Inclusivity is the greatest tenant of the Bible. Inclusivity is the greatest teaching of Christ. And yet, I’ve never felt more lost in my flock.
I’m 38 years old. My feet touch the floor when I sit in a pew.
I’m no longer that young person swinging her legs in her ruffled church socks and buckled shoes. I can still sing the songs that bring Jesus into my heart. I can still remember looking toward my parents and my church leaders for answers.
The leaders and the congregations of the Methodist Church and all churches who teach the life of Jesus have a choice to make.
Hilary Hodge is a Grass Valley City Council member.
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