Moving Forward: A Heartfelt Member Testimony
March 13, 2019
In the past 10 days, we’ve heard from members and non-members alike on the personal thoughts, opinions and emotions that resulted from the General Conference vote. As you can imagine, that feedback has run the gamut; people have expressed everything from confusion to anger to hurt to optimism for the future. Yet, member Rick Martin’s email to Rev. Willet and Dr. Stoker presented a new articulation that was vulnerable, transparent and moving. With his permission, we are sharing it with you as this week’s blog post. A huge thanks to Rick for his willingness to share his thoughts publicly.
Dear Ann & Andy:
Reba and I want to thank you for the All-Church Meeting on Monday night regarding the 2019 Called General Conference. We felt the tone, tenor, and agenda were dead on. I was particularly impressed by the cathartic effect of the open mikes which permitted the members (and some visitors) to express their feelings at this critical juncture.
While I really wanted to say something during the meeting, I was still too much of a muddled mess of feelings to string together even a minute of coherent sentences. Following the conclusion of the meeting, I have been giving a great deal of thought and prayer to crystallizing (in my own mind) how I feel right now about being a Methodist at First Church. If the meeting was tonight this is what I would say:
“Good Evening, my name is Rick Martin, and Reba and I have been members here at First Church for 2 years.
I am ashamed.
I am not ashamed of you. I am not ashamed of First Church. I am not ashamed of the United Methodist Church (though I am profoundly disappointed and hurt by the recent decisions on human sexuality). I am ashamed of me.
I am ashamed that the decision of the General Conference made me so very angry that I questioned my commitment to this Church and to my faith.
I had invested time in understanding the human sexuality issue before the General Conference:
- I read and prayed on the six references in the Bible to homosexuality.
- Reba and I, like many of you, attended the meeting held by Andy and Ann to explain the structure of the United Methodist Church, the applicable portions of the Book of Discipline and the One Church Plan.
- I pondered and prayed over the One Church Plan and concluded it to be an elegant “Methodist” solution to the issue.
- Consistent with the loving big tent, I felt this plan permitted each member, church, and clergy to address the issue of human sexuality at their own pace. Each member and clergy could be a part of a church which was compatible with individual beliefs.
The week before the General Conference, I called Andy, wished him well, assured him of our thoughts and prayers and my heartfelt belief the One Church Plan would prevail.
When Conference determined not only to reject the One Church Plan but to make the Book of Discipline even more severe on the issue, I was outraged. How could “they” do this to my church and to me? How could a church with an open table and based on love, make such a hateful and exclusionary decision? I began to question my affiliation with “those people”.
Thank God for First Church and our clergy. My heart started to return to Christ and his message of love. The path back started with emails from the Church but was driven home by:
- Andy and his story of Scott’s robes.
- Andy’s sermon on Sunday about the resiliency of First Church, God’s intention of love and that every person is a beloved child of God reminded me of where my heart and mind should be.
- Tonight I came up to Ann and my question of “Are we still Methodists?” was greeted with a big smile, big hug and a response: “Of course we are still Methodists, we will work through this.”
- Tonight’s message that we will move forward in dialogue with love and respect with our fellow Methodists who supported the Traditional Plan, but we will not be dissuaded from what is consistent with Jesus’ message of love and inclusion. The creation of second class members will not be tolerated.
I am “all in”. I am so very proud to be a part of First Church. Thank you for putting me back on Christ’s path. We must move forward as individuals and as a church. We must be:
- Persuasive and not argumentative.
- Patient of others beliefs but undaunted. This wrong must be corrected as soon as possible.
- Respectful to all but no longer silent and hoping for others to “do the right thing”. We have to drive the “right thing!”
I know there really is not any reason to send this email to you as you and First Church were so very far ahead of me in understanding the proper path forward.
Perhaps it is partially selfish as this email and the thoughts and prayers which went into it were perhaps necessary to my cathartic path to peace on this issue. I intend this email to be supportive of you and to confirm my commitment to a love-filled activism to help bring the United Methodist Church to a message of inclusion and love on this issue. Reba and I want to be part of the solution. Let us know what we can do, where can we show up, what can we say to support and drive this issue.
More than anything, thank you for helping me find my way from anger and disillusion back to love and peace.