As the United Methodist Church prepares to debate the acceptance of LGBT clergy and same-sex marriage in May, a Methodist pastor in Kansas has come out to her congregation.
"The Lord has led me here to share my whole truth with you," Rev. Cynthia Meyer told her congregation at Edgerton United Methodist Church Sunday. "It's time! I have been an ordained UMC pastor for 25 years. At last, I am choosing to serve in that role with full authenticity, as my genuine self, a woman who loves and shares my life with another woman."
"It's Time" is the name of a campaign launched by the Reconciling Ministries Network, which advocates for LGBT equality within the church. The network is encouraging LGBT clergy and members to share their stories ahead of the denomination's General Conference in May, where delegates will debate whether to change policy on LGBT clergy and same-sex unions. Both are officially banned, although there are many LGBT Methodist clergy members, in addition to clergy who perform same-sex unions. Some have been fired or otherwise disciplined for their identity or actions.
"My serving as pastor while living fully into the life that God has created me for and called me to, as a woman in a committed loving relationship with another woman, will seem to some to challenge church policy," Meyer said in her coming-out sermon. "Certainly, many in both ordained and lay leadership in the UMC see those restrictions to be unjust, discriminatory, and not to exemplify the loving, inclusive way of Jesus. Yet there are discriminatory restrictions in place in the Book of Discipline. It's a 'don't ask, don't tell' system, so my openness with you, my desire to live authentically in every facet of my life, serves as an act of civil disobedience."
The Methodists' General Conference convenes every four years. At the last one, in 2012, delegates voted 61 percent to 39 percent to maintain the doctrine that being gay is "incompatible with Christian teaching." The church is the largest mainline Protestant denomination in the U.S., with more than 7 million members, and stands out from its brethren in its LGBT-unfriendly policy. The Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the United Church of Christ are much more accepting.
The Reconciling Ministries Network, which posted Meyer's sermon on its website, praised her action. "We are so proud of Cynthia, who has influenced so many of us who studied with her in the seminary," said executive director Matt Berryman in a press release; he studied with Meyer at Candler School of Theology at Atlanta's Emory University, where she was once assistant dean of students. "Her brave decision to live her truth will reverberate beyond her church and touch many Methodists who have long admired her gifts to the UMC. While the Supreme Court has made marriage equality the law of the land, it is still not an option for all people of faith, nor is it possible for LGBTQ persons to serve authentically and openly as ordained clergy. We hope Cynthia's story inspires others to join us in bringing justice to our church."
Watch a clip from Meyer's coming-out sermon below.