This is what I was taught growing up as a UMC member in a small town within the Wyoming Conference. I attended church every week for about 10 years during my school aged years. I then worked at Sky Lake for two summers once I was in college. Those summers live on in my heart as two of the most meaningful, faithful, yet confusing summers in my life because at the same time I was struggling with my sexuality. I was struggling, not because of what was being preached around me, because what I was hearing was "love all people, love is just, love is equal, etc. I was struggling because the "church" was not affirming those who identify as gay and lesbian. As a product, I kept the personal details (aka. the fact I am a lesbian) very far from my role as staff member and far away from most friendships I created during those summers. This rang true in my college life as well. You see, I had been invited to multiple "Christian" functions in which pastors would stand in the pulpit preaching things like sinning is fine as long as it is not being gay/lesbian because that would make you go to hell. I just couldn't make sense of the fact that gay/lesbian and Christian could never be in the same sentence unless it was about sinning.
It has taken me 15 years to return to a Methodist church community. I now live in a Boston, Massachusetts and have somehow found an opening and affirming congregation, that not only proclaims it by writing it in the church bulletin or having a rainbow on their church sign, but also LIVES it. I have been welcomed, truly welcomed, into the church by way of a pastor who adds in the equality of God's love within every sermon he preaches. Whenever, "man or woman, black or white, rich or poor" is spoken, "gay or straight" is too. This Methodist church has not been struck down by lightening because of their stance. They instead have enveloped true discipleship. They have called those looking to further their spiritual journey to praise our God among them, regardless of their walk in life (i.e. gender, race, sexuality, etc).
Coincidentally, I found this above mentioned church in the absolute hardest times in my life. I walked in to the congregation drenched in grief, despair, and sadness due to my current circumstance of enduring three untimely deaths of very close family members, a divorce (from a partner who truly struggled with identifying as lesbian because of her conservative Christian upbringing), and single parenting a child with special health care needs within this past year. I walked out being more sure about God's love for me. All along my life's path, there has been one constant - God has been alongside me the whole time. I am not perfect by any means, but in the darkest of moments I have endured, God's light has shined on. My faithfulness has only increased as I've faced my trials and tribulations, most not relating to the fact that I identify as lesbian. Yet until recently, I could not bring myself to worship within a community of Methodists because I did not want more grief/hurt/shame brought upon myself for being who I am. It is honestly shocking that I made it back to the Methodist church, as I had pretty much given up searching because of the constant inequality that is proclaimed within many churches.
I hope for more equality within my "home area" of NY.
I ask you, Bishop Webb, to look beyond circumstance - to look beyond doctrine - to look beyond our human interpretation of Bible text.
I ask you, Bishop Webb, to think of your brothers and sisters who suffer every day because of decisions made by "church."
To think of God's unconditional love, that goes beyond human understanding.
To think of discipleship, as those who are gay/lesbian or straight, who walk in the light of Jesus Christ.
To think of John Wesley's words "Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can."
I ask you to remember we are ALL made in the reflection of God, regardless of identifying as gay/lesbian or straight.