In response to the United Methodist Church’s recent decision to continue to disallow the ordination and marriage of LGBTQ people of faith, Union Theological Seminary is telling the stories of its students, faculty and staff who are part of those communities. Their words and photos are published online as Queer Faith.
After the United Methodist Church voted to entrench its rejection of LGBTQ people, the pain in our community was palpable. We knew we had to respond. We could talk about how homophobic theology is damaging. We could condemn bigotry masquerading as God-talk. But that’s not the story we see every day at Union. We see a vibrant queer, community of faith—alive and flourishing. We see radical love that transcends every sinful boundary humans create. And we thought we’d tell that story instead, in their own voices.
If you’re growing up in a Church that isn’t affirming;
if you’ve ever been told that who you love or how you identify is sinful;
if you were taught that God rejects you;
if you struggle to fully love yourself—in all of your God-given beauty:
This project is dedicated to you.
Some of the voices:
Hannah Ervin, M.Div. student
My name is Hannah, I’m a queer person of faith currently discerning ordination in the United Methodist Church. I fell in love with the Wesleyan quadrilateral, which urges Methodists to consider tradition, reason, and experience alongside a deep respect and love for scripture. The UM communities I have been a part of are fiercely committed to creating justice and joy in their congregations and in the world.
Recently, the institutional church voted to uphold and further restrict LGBTQ inclusion in the church, in all ministries, including ordination. The institutional church is leaving out a crucial part of the Church, it is distancing itself from its commitment to lived experience. Queer ministry, as a queer United Methodist, looks like working for justice and full inclusion of all people in a tradition that is working to leave out people like me, and committing to recognizing the sins of racism, colonialism, and white supremacy in our church. It is working to fulfill the faithful promise of my baptismal vow to accept the power that God gave me to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms the present themselves, especially within the church I call home. Queering faith means trusting in God when systems fail to assert the worth of all peoples. My faith in God keeps me going when institutions and denominations fall short.
Christina Ellsberg, M.A. Student
Throughout my life, I practiced prayer in my daily communion with animal life. While refilling water buckets floating with hay, while scrubbing out tanks that housed breeding frogs or nickel-sized turtles, while feeding peanuts, one at a time, to my fat, curious rats, I knew my hands were praising God.
It felt like a cosmic joke when I felt the undeniable call to a Roman Catholic priesthood that would not accept me. I still long for the vows that would make my body a cloister and my soul a row of Dogwood trees shading the throne reserved for God—vows which are doubly unattainable to me as a gay woman. People tell me all the time it’s as easy as switching denominations. But I love my communion of Saints. I love my Pope. And I am never closer to God than when my hands are busy in the care and study of animals.
So I defer to that old Catholic maxim: “Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.” I’ll never wear a collar, but I can wear barn boots. I’ll never break the eucharist, but I can scoop grain into a trough. While the institutional Church may reject the form of my love, the form of my body, and the forms of my prayer, I will live out my ministry by living fully into all three. And I will live out my ministry by continuing to share and rejoice in the diversity of small perfections that abound in all creation.
Miguel Escobar, Director of Anglican Studies
Working for the church as a Latinx gay man, I come face-to-face with hateful individuals and theologies that aim to circumscribe the lives of LGBTQ people. Through this, I’ve come to believe that the most important thing we can offer one another are our unvarnished stories about how we are – or aren’t- making it through. Yet this feels like such a radical and even dangerous act because so much of our safety has depended on keeping secrets. As the Methodist Church reaffirms its commitment to sidelining the lives of its LGBTQ members, I pray that people can find safe places where they can simply be who God made them to be, and that we start sharing stories of how we are making it through.
Union is inviting others to contribute: “If you feel called, post a photo and reflection on social media, and tag it #queerfaith.”
Episcopal Cafe stories on the UMC decision: