On January 3, 2016, Rev. Cynthia Meyer, pastor for Edgerton United Methodist Church in Edgerton, Kansas, came out to her congregation. Meyer’s announcement comes after 25 years of leadership in The United Methodist Church (The UMC), a denomination that does not allow LGBTQ clergy or same-sex marriage.
The wise sages from different lands had seen an unusual star shining over the desert. They committed: IT’s TIME! Time to take a risk and follow that star. They traveled far in the pursuit of the one through whom the light shines, the one we have come to know as the Light of the world.
We’re each called to follow that star—to take the faith-inspired risk to bring ourselves, our gifts to Jesus.
This new year, I resolve: to bring my most valuable gift to Jesus. Do you know what your most valuable gift is? Not a brass urn of frankincense or myrrh; not gold, jewels, or money.
The creation story reminds us that we, each of us human beings, regardless of gender, race, religious faith or practice, regardless of country of birth or residence, each of us has been created as a beloved child in the image of God.
God, incarnate in Jesus and made flesh in us too. This great gift, our whole, beloved self, is the greatest gift we can offer.
Our very lives are the gift we can bring.
This is why, on Epiphany Sunday, I followed that brightest star to risk offering my best gift to God, to the church, to the world: offering myself.
At the tweening age of twelve, friends dragged unchurched-me to United Methodist Youth Fellowship. Church enthralled me: caring community, ladies inviting me to their pew, join the choir, stay for cookies. The pastor’s big smile and country music illustrations, preaching Jesus’ teachings: love, grace, caring for the outcast, embracing enemies, striving for justice.
At 13 I professed my faith, then entered the nearby United Methodist college at eighteen with seminary soon after. When I timidly mentioned my youthful call to ministry to that pastor, he picked me up and spun me around! Joy! Ordination followed, then ministry in local churches, a college campus, and working with new generations of seminary students.
It’s been forty years since my baptism and confirmation. Forty years of ministry, in hiding, serving our grace-filled God in a rule-bound institution.
Forty years exiled in a hostile desert by a denomination claiming to share living water.
Forty years hearing, then proclaiming, “All are welcome at this table,” yet knowing that United Methodist policy asserts I’m not welcome to claim authority to speak those words reflecting Jesus’ inclusive, redemptive love.
Forty years of the hierarchy repeating: wait, have patience, change takes time. The Scriptures and the Holy Spirit profess: Forty years! Enough desert-wandering! Forty years of exclusion, second-class citizenship, demeaning rhetoric. Forty years of manufactured smoke attempting to eclipse the Light of the Gospel.
It’s time for challenge, for change. It’s time for The United Methodist Church (The UMC) to stop justifying discrimination. It’s time for Gospel-followers to stride forth from desert gloom to promised land, to reclaim full, equal regard in the church and in ministry.
And it’s my time to proclaim the Gospel, loud and proud: I am part of God’s good creation; God is well-pleased.
I’m a woman of God sharing my life with another Jesus-following woman. We, like you, are made in God’s image. Jesus Loves Me This I Know.
So now, I’m lifting my voice. It’s time for The UMC to illumine its brighter heritage and its claim: “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.” Make it true! It’s well past time.
Some who have been biding our time now proclaim our truth. We’re done being victims of an unfaithful system. Now we’re activists for the redemption of The UMC, for the love of all God’s beloved children, for the love of God. It’s my time now. Forty years I prepared, pondered, prayed and wandered.
Now I take my stand, raise my voice for justice, and risk credentials and career.
Silent no more, I keep faith with the Church by challenging it to keep faith with the Gospel. It’s time.