Dear Bishop Webb,
I am writing to show you my support for Reverend Heiss. My name is Rebecca Shefler. My wife Jessica and I were married on April 4, 2013. I couldn't be happier knowing that my best friend and soul mate is now my partner for life. Let me tell you a little about me. I was raised in a "normal household". This is by all societal standards. I have a mother and a father who love me very much, I have siblings that I often argued with, and I played outside with my friends. We attended church and Sunday school almost every Sunday in a Methodist church. I participated in the youth group. During high school and my dating years, I always dated boys because that is what we were supposed to do. I was never truly comfortable with my life or myself. At 18 I got married and had my first son at the young age of 19. As I grew into an adult, I found that I was increasingly unhappy with myself. My marriage failed, and I just couldn't find someone I wanted to spend forever with. I met a man that I was engaged to be married to, I had my second son in 2006 and a year later, that relationship also failed.
It was at this point in my life that I began to re-examine my life and its direction, or lack thereof. My past relationships had changed me and for once in my life I began to make me happy. I fell in love with my first girlfriend in 2007. We dated until 2009. My next girlfriend was my everything. Our relationship, while troubled at times, outlasted through thick and thin, happy and sad, good and bad. We stayed by each others side through the best and worst of life. The commitment we had and shared was everything I was looking for in my life. We spoke vows to each other on a private level, we exchanged rings to show our commitment to one another. This relationship ended very abruptly with her death in February of this year.
Right as I was about to lose hope of ever finding someone again, Jessica came into my life. I say this lightly because the fact is Jess and I had been friends for years. She has always been by my side and supported me through challenges as I have for her. We got together, and my world changed for the better. I can not imagine my life without her. She is my rock, my best friend, my love, my soul mate and so much more. The love we share is undying and can never be broken. I have never been happier in my life. A weight has been lifted since I can now be myself. My family has been supportive and has welcomed Jess into their hearts, as well as our family.
You see, it is my belief that God loves all of us. He loves us whether we live and love someone of the same sex or not. God is a very big part of my life and I know that I can turn to Him with all burdens and thanks. I thank Him every day for bringing Jess into my life as my wife and partner. I do not believe that God would turn me away because I married a woman, yet the churches seem to be doing this more and more. I believe it is fear due to lack of knowledge that drives people to judge others. In other words, people do not understand how I can love someone of the same sex so comfortably and willingly so they rebuff the idea. They turn against homosexuals because we are different than what they think we should be or how they think we should live. God taught us "love thy neighbor" He didn't specify unless your neighbor is homosexual.
I believe that The Bible was written as a guide. However it is quite dated. I believe that the standards can and should be updated to match the current environment. Reverend Heiss should be recognized for his activities and acceptance of all people regardless of their sexual preference. Bravo to him for standing up for all people regardless of their sexual orientation or lifestyle. If God is as forgiving and loving to ALL as I was taught He is, then is this not exactly what He would want for his people? Acceptance and peace have to begin somewhere, why not within our churches where all are supposed to be welcome? I think it is ridiculous that this is even debatable. My sexual orientation does not define my character, change my faith, or undermine anyone else's marriage in any way shape or form. Let us set the example for others, let us show the world that acceptance and understanding begins with us, and discrimination because of sexual preference will not be allowed.
Reverend Heiss- I commend you and your efforts to bring acceptance to the church, and congregation. Please do not let this experience and criticism change you. You have a lot of support from your community and congregation. I am sorry you face this criticism and hardship, but we stand with you as people of God, fighting for what we believe. Thank you for doing your part and making a stand. You are within the thoughts and prayers as you face this battle.May God be with you always!
Rebecca L Shefler