She’s been living a lie and I’m deeply troubled about this even as others are cheering her on.
I write of the Rev. Cynthia Meyer, a long time pastor, and her announcement to her church on Sunday, January 3, 2016.
From this article,
“I have been an ordained United Methodist pastor for 25 years. At last, I am choosing to serve in that role with full authenticity, as my genuine self, a woman who loves and shares my life with another woman,” said the Rev. Cynthia Meyer during her sermon at Edgerton United Methodist Church. Meyer has served as the church’s pastor since July.
In a related post, a retired UMC pastor, Rev. Bruce Robbins, has written his Bishop, The Rev. Bruce R. Ough in the Minnesota Annual Conference. Robbins has asked that Bishop Ough move forward in dealing with the charges that Rev. Robbins co-officiated at a same-sex wedding in 2013.
In the meantime, the Rev. Mike Tupper continues to sleep outside the Conference Office at the Michigan Annual Conference as he seeks to make his point of ongoing discrimination against LGBTQ persons. He wishes to symbolize the way they are kept outside the doors of our church.
These incidents display just the tip of the iceberg of the unrest facing the UMC as we prepare for our General Conference in May, 2016.
My Own Position: Remove the Language and Remove Rev. Meyer’s Credentials
I have been a long time proponent of removing the discriminatory and truly distasteful language found in our Book of Discipline concerning homosexuality. I’ve written far more extensively about the situation here where I address our increasingly problematic understanding of human sexuality as a rigid binary.
I have a major problem with this statement in our Book of Discipline:
“The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”
Yes, I understand and respect that many believe this and can cite chapter and verse to support their beliefs. But there are multiple other “practices” considered incompatible with Christian teaching. However, none are singled out this way.
Either let’s mention them all (which we would never agree upon) or drop this line.
However, that is not my concern here. I’m going to have to take a difficult and troubling position, unquestionably unpopular with those who do celebrate Rev. Meyer’s decision to make this public announcement.
I’m glad she has declared herself, but I believe she should have accompanied the announcement with the relinquishment of her credentials as a UMC clergy.
I have great sympathy to her as a person, as a sister in Christ, as a fellow clergy. I am concerned that she has not shown integrity in her years of ministry.
Rev. Meyer has been living a lie for a long time. I understand that she is a fine pastor and many have benefited under her tenure as clergy. Nonetheless, she has been lying. She has either had to keep her personal life deeply hidden, even impenetrable, to close associates and to the congregations she served or asked them to join her in perpetuating the lie.
If an unmarried heterosexual clergyperson disclosed to his/her congregation a long-time affair with person of the opposite sex, she/he would at the very least be put on a leave of absence with probably far greater repercussions. This is a clear behavior incompatible with Christian teaching.
As clergy, we are called to live lives of deep integrity and personal transparency. It’s a truly difficult calling, one very few should undertake. In the UMC, potential clergy undergo years and years of preparation and examination before actually taking our ordination vows.
One of our vows reads this way:
Bishop: Will you do your best to pattern your life in accordance with the teachings of Christ?
Ordinand: I will, with the help of God.
We are also asked these questions:
- Have you studied our form of Church discipline and polity?
- Do you approve our Church government and polity?
- Will you support and maintain them?
We are not supposed to respond to those questions and vows with our hands crossed, pretending to say “yes” while intending to act differently. When I took my own ordination vows, I was could answer “yes.” As I continued to mature in the faith, I became increasingly uncomfortable with the discriminatory language. I took early retirement for multiple reasons, but this change in my own stance certainly figured into that decision.
Again, I believe the UMC should remove all discriminatory language and be what we say we are: a church for all people.
I also think clergy need to act with integrity. Rev. Meyer, and any other clergy who are currently living lives surrounded by lies, can begin that process. A voluntary relinquishing of credentials will make a profound statement for truth. It also spare us from further expensive and time-consuming trials. This frees energy to address the real issues that are about to tear us apart.