You don’t know me, and I’m not usually in the habit of writing open letters, but this is a special occasion.
You’ve been the pastor of Alliance United Methodist Church for two Sundays now. Last Sunday you gave a sermon about the authority of Scripture. About halfway through the sermon, you said some things that hurt a lot of people very deeply. Towards the end, you mentioned that you don’t care about hurting people’s feelings (which doesn’t strike me as very pastoral, but that’s another letter).
Long story short, my parents are leaving Alliance.
Here are some things you should know: we’ve been members for 13 years, since I was ten years old. My brother and I were confirmed there; I preached for the first time there; until recently, I thought I would get married there.
Another thing you should know: I am a lesbian. I came out this year, after many years of trying to deny who I was. My parents love me unconditionally. My mom cried through your sermon last Sunday. My dad calmly collected his things and told the choir director we wouldn’t be back.
I’m writing to you because I love my parents. In many ways, I feel guilty for the choices my sexuality created for them: choices between me and the rest our family, between me and decade-long friendships, between me and our church. I haven’t asked them to make these choices, but I never had to. When I called my mom on Sunday, after hearing about your sermon, she told me that she cancelled helping with VBS, couldn’t even go back in the building after that.
I’m writing to you because I want you to know who you are losing in my parents.
My dad, Greg, recently re-joined the board of trustees. He plays guitar in the praise band and leads an adult Sunday school class. He was the construction coordinator on the youth mission trip this year and has been since I was in high school. In a couple of weeks, he’s going back to Kenya with another Methodist church, to work at a hospital Alliance supports. My mom, Kathy, founded the Stephen Ministry team at Alliance, and still has a full roster of people to whom she offers lay grief counseling. She was a cook on the youth mission trips when my brother and I went. She helps with the elementary after-school programs and Vacation Bible School and is the first to make a meal for anyone who needs one.
We are those church people. We weren’t always that family, but then Alliance let my dad play guitar, and showed up with fried chicken when my uncle died, and quite literally saved my life. The church grew up around us like ivy over a wall. Or maybe, streams of living water in a desert.
I’m not saying all this to brag, but to show you who we are: a family whose life has been shaped and guided by our membership at our church, who have found time and again that our church family is strong where we are weak.
Tell me who sinned, my church or my parents, that I grew up believing that I was loved beyond reason?
My parents will tell you that I’m really good at feelings. But here’s how your theology actually hurts LGBTQ+ people:
One-third of LGB youth will attempt suicide. This is four times higher than the average for heterosexual, cisgender teens, and when LGB youth attempt suicide, the attempts are 4 to 6 times more likely to end in injuries needing serious medical treatment.
Your theology literally kills people, and you wantonly condemned queer people because you felt safe in the authority of a pulpit and the assumption that everyone agreed with you.
That is not love. That is not Biblical.
That is not how I learned to live out my faith, in the very Sunday school rooms of the church you now pastor. My church raised me to fight for the least of these, to be the hands and feet of Christ, to pray and strive for justice to roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
There’s an argument to be made for co-existing in difference of opinion, but I refuse to do that when your opinion is actively working to kill me and my siblings in Christ. Thanks be to God, my parents feel the same.
Ultimately, this is who you lose when you lose my parents: the best people in the world. The ones who will show up at your house in a crisis, who will drive for hours to fix your car, who will give money to your mission trip, who will love you and love you and love you until you can love yourself again.
When you lose queer people, you lose these same things. We are just church people, like my parents. We are those church people.
We can talk, if you want, but know that I am volunteering to have these conversations so my parents don’t have to. So the gay kids in the youth group, closeted or not, don’t have to.
I don’t want to have the Bible debates with you. I don’t want to hear you say you love me, but not my sin. I don’t want to have to sit and defend my humanity to you, but I will defend the humanity of others all day long. It’s how my church raised me.
I truly pray this isn’t the final goodbye to Alliance for my parents. But the family of Christ is big and the kingdom is wide, and they will find another place to call home.