Dear Bishop Webb,
I am writing this letter to ask you to support Pastor Heiss' action regarding marrying same sex couples. Unlike many of your flock, the Methodist Church is not my "birth religion". I had separated from that church due to my perception of discrimination for being born female and gay. After 9/11/2001, I felt the need to find a church and a church community to help me make sense of a horrible tragedy and to find a way to make the world a better and safer place to be.
I found FUMC of Schenectady. It was a progressive,reconciling congregation that welcomed me and my partner with Open Hearts and Open Minds. For the first time in my life, I was able to openly worship my God as the person I am ! I am actively involved in the life of the church. I am on the Board of Trustees. I play in the bell choir. I have also served as a Lay representative at conference.
In June 2011, the state of NY passed legislation that allowed for same sex couples to be married. My partner and I had been together for 30 years. We celebrated the opportunity for our relationship to be acknowledged and equal with the relationships of our heterosexual friends and family members.
Of course, we wanted to get married at FUMC of Schenectady. This was our church ! Unfortunately, we could not due to the rules in the Book of Discipline. It is hard to describe the feeling of inequality felt when a 30 year relationship cannot be honored by one's own church.....
My partner and I feel our relationship is no different than the relationship of married friends and family members. We have supported each other through good times and bad, through sickness and health. We have lived as productive members of our community. (My partner was a teacher. I work as a physical therapist.) We are supportive of our families. (We had my partner's ailing mother live with us for 4 1/2 years. We took care of her needs in our home until she died.)
Our families and friends recognize the love and commitment we have for each other. It is unfortunate that our church does not!
Bishop Webb, you have the opportunity to change that ! You have the opportunity to support a pastor who is willing to act on his belief in the love of God for all of his children. I ask you to support Pastor Heiss as an ambassador of God's love. Allow him to continue to do God's work !
As an aside, I want you to know that my partner and I were married on Oct. 15, 2011. We were surrounded by family and friends. We feel that God's blessings were with us on that day and continue to be with us in our relationship. God knows that love is love.
Bishop Webb, I ask you again to support Pastor Heiss. I will keep you both in my prayers.
Peace to you and your loved ones,
Jean M. Gustafson