It’s the first full week of June! It’s definitely hotter and people are spending more time outdoors with family and friends. I on the other hand get a little cranky this time of year because of heat. It’s also annual conference time for the Indiana United Methodist Church, and its Pride week here in Indianapolis. Why are there Pride events across the country during the month of June? Did you know that only 4.1% of our nations’ population identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Queer. Of course that was according to a recent Gallup Poll. Will you pray with me?
Expression filled and all affirming God, grant us the courage to reach out to those we see as the other. Use our mouths to speak words of Christ’s love for each other, our hands to lift people up, our ears to hear your words of encouragement, our minds to mediate on what we see and hear from you, and our hearts to light-up with your ever present light so that we can be refreshed and renewed in your grace and love, Amen.
During this year’s Indiana annual conference, there will be a special time for critical conversations. The conversations taking place around a room full of round tables will focus on human sexuality. The Church is preparing for a special general conference in 2019 to act on the recommendations by the Commission on a Way Forward. The United Methodist Church as a whole does not condone homosexual behavior as, according to the church’s Book of Discipline, it’s incompatible with Christian teachings. However, the Church asserts that God’s grace is available to all. But, self-avowed practicing homosexual people cannot serve the church as clergy. What about the 4.1% of people who identify as LGBTQ? This back and forth makes my head spin.
I have been blessed to serve at Roberts Park for 4 years as an openly gay man who is married to a man. Todd and I feel loved, affirmed, and welcomed here.
I grew up un-churched. My first experience in the United Methodist Church started in college where, after being invited, I served as a tenor section leader in the choir at College Avenue United Methodist Church in Muncie. I felt called to further my gifts and after some time there, I found myself directing a church choir in a small rural church just west of Muncie. At that time, I wasn’t open about my sexuality. However, I’ll never forget my Pastor and their spouse saying, “We love the sinner, but not the sin”, where by some, I believe, divine reason we were talking about the LGBT community. I felt it was time to go. Without making a fuss and still carrying the weight of my own sexual identity around, I was called a few months later to serve in Anderson, IN.
That Christmas, I decided it was time to come out to my family on Christmas Eve, against the recommendation of my Pastor who encouraged me to come out at another time, I did it anyway. I remember the strong and hurtful words my Dad used and how my Mom tried to restore peace and joy at Christmas. I left in a hurry and drove from Lebanon where my brother lived at the time to the church in Anderson on Christmas Eve. Pastor Jake was there to comfort me at my most vulnerable time. As I sat there, broken on the back row, trying to make the sounds of “Hark! The Harold Angels Sing”, I found refuge at St. Matthew United Methodist Church.
I encourage you watch the short video entitled, “Always My Son”. The film tells the story of transformation, hope and love that shows a diverse family integrating deeply held religious and personal values with love for their gay son.
The truth be told, I am 1 of the 4.1% friends and I’m here because I know God loves me, accepts me, and uses me to share my story in hope that it will reach another child of God who is searching for acceptance and love. I believe that’s what Pride month is about – providing refuge to those who often live in secret and unnecessary shame. Why can’t all of our churches be a place of refuge for the broken?
– Jason Fishburn