Last weekend was Pride in Austin, Texas, the place I left a year ago to move across the country with my spouse and child to work for NCLR. My Facebook feed was filled with pictures of friends and loved ones celebrating over 1,700 miles away. As a lifelong member of the United Methodist Church, I was particularly moved by a photo of over 400 rainbow-shirted Methodists marching in the parade, including many church leaders who had embraced my family and unfailingly loved and supported us just as we are.
I saw Sid Hall, the Senior Pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church, who blessed our daughter Beatrice in the hospital when she was just a day old. I saw Paul Escamilla, the Senior Pastor of St. John’s United Methodist Church, who held Beatrice during her first Easter egg hunt and, along with our friend Hilary Marchbanks, baptized my spouse Carolyn and Beatrice on the same day. Unbeknownst to us, it was the first baptism of a child with same-sex parents at St. John’s. I’m happy to say that many more have followed. I saw Mike Renquist and Sheri Jones, who taught the Bible study class that Carolyn and I attended. And I also saw Georjean Blanton Renquist, our former pastor, who always greeted us with warmth and love.
Although Georjean is now retired, she gave the sermon at St. John’s the morning of the parade. She boldly and bravely declared that she will now bless same-sex families despite the fact that Methodist pastors are not allowed to do so. They can love us, pray with us, baptize our children, serve us communion, preach at our funerals when we die, and even publicly proclaim their church as a welcoming place for LGBTQ folks, but they cannot marry or bless us. The pain of this injustice and the church’s refusal to sanction our commitment to each other has left my family second class in the church community we love. Listening to her sermon while commuting to work earlier this week overwhelmed me with joy and moved me to tears.
The truth is that I don’t talk about being a Christian much because of the horrible scars the church has left on so many LGBTQ folks. People have asked why my family would stay in a church that continues to abuse LGBTQ people and deny us full membership. We’ve also asked ourselves that question – is it harmful to our child to be part of a place where our very existence is under debate?
But the United Methodist Church is my church too–where my family and I have found healing and peace and joy and hope and a loving community. Let it be no doubt that I am outraged at their abuse of LGBTQ people, but no one is going to run my family off just because we make them uncomfortable. By showing up and staying part of the church in a time of struggle, we are a living witness to what a loving, committed, legally married, faithful Christian same-sex family can look like.
I am proud of our choice not to run away from that responsibility. We are teaching our young daughter to stand up–for ourselves and for what we believe is the Christian thing to do. In these days of change, I am moved beyond measure by Georjean, those 400+ Methodists who marched in Austin Pride, and all the brave folks who are standing up with us. And I am honored to get to spend my days at NCLR – fighting for LGBTQ people to be able to fully and freely be ourselves everywhere.