It’s finally time for me to write about something I have been working on for the past two months. To those who are close to me, thank you for listening to me cry and worry about this story and how others would interpret it. I hope this blog post gives you a little insight to where my brain was at during the process of investigating this topic and how I had to do a little soul searching of my own.
Let’s talk about faith.
I was raised in the United Methodist Church since I was little. I always felt like it was the right fit for me based on how open and accepting the church was and I loved all of the staff and people I made close relationships with. My experience in my youth group really lead to me coming to terms with what I believed and how I saw the world.
Fast forwarding to Christmas break, I was back at my home church for the usual Sunday service with my parents. One of the pastors brought up an event called the General Conference 2019, where the topics of LGBTQ people and ministry would be voted on. I was very taken aback to hear those words spoken aloud in a worship space. In my experience, the topic of human sexuality is never explicitly discussed through sermons, the reason being that so many people believe different things.
After I got back to school and the conference began, I was frequently checking the hashtags and browsing the chatter about what was happening. I even hopped on the live stream to listen to people debate about where the denomination should go as far as including LGBTQ persons.
When the decision came out that the Traditional Plan was passed, I couldn’t shake a feeling that came over me. It was like a thousand pound weight sitting on my chest and it wouldn’t let me sleep. Shortly after 3:00 a.m., I was determined to write a story about it.
Something about telling stories through words and photos is so cathartic to me. Some people find it difficult to sit down and read through an entire news article or a full documentary, but I can’t tear myself away. I feel so attached to the subjects for just a few moments: I cry with them. Granted I cry at the Extra Gum commercials (you know the ones I’m talking about. If you don’t look them up), but there is something so raw about realizing the humanity of other people that just makes my tear ducts get a little over-excited. I feel like I know them for just a second, and that’s what I want other people to feel when they read or look at work of mine.
I probably sent over thirty emails and facebook messages to people in the Columbia, Missouri area to try and talk to them about the decision and what it meant to them. To everyone that reached back out to me, thank you for pushing through the undoubtable pain and confusion you were feeling at the time. Craig, Jen, Kimberly, Madi and Jacob, the entire congregation of Hallsville UMC, MUMC, and Community United Methodist, thank you for letting me into your lives and your sanctuaries for a short moment. Your voices will hopefully echo across many towns, and be heard by people who are also struggling with this decision.
I want to say that I still love the Methodist church despite this decision made at the General Conference. I feel lucky to be a member of a faith where people can have different opinions.
Writing this article wasn’t about how I feel about the decision, but about how the decision was affecting the community I live in. There is real pain here. I think it’s easy for so many people to dismiss this issue as something that doesn’t affect them. But once you know someone that feels less than because of this, it breaks your heart in half. I don’t know a lot of people in the LGBTQ community, especially older adults. But as I got to know Kimberly and Jen it struck me how insanely great parents they were. They love their kids, they love each other, they want to make people happy and do good for the world. They remind me of my parents or my grandparents. And after talking to them about some of the struggles they have endured both internally and externally, I cried in my car on the way home.
There is also real hope here. Madi Denton and many of the other pastors I spoke to are gifted with patience and understanding, and promoting honest and open discussion over something I know Christians struggle with every day. This story goes way beyond my article and is something I know many congregations are grappling with.
My hope is that Methodism can overcome this. I know the God that I believe in is one that ultimately believes in love, and that love is for everyone. This story is not to shame anyone or present the Christian faith in a negative light. The Methodist church does amazing things for this world, maybe just as a denomination it has a little more soul searching as to what Jesus and John Wesley would tell them to do.
This entire experience is a prime example of what makes me feel fulfilled. I genuinely connected with my sources and gave people a way to share their voices with the rest of the community, and that’s what journalism is all about at the end of the day.
To close this absurdly long blog post I want to include a quote that I read somewhere in the literal hundreds of tweets I read about this decision.
“I would rather be excluded for who I include than included for who I exclude.”
Read my story here. A special thank you to Jeanne Abbott and Brian Kratzer, as well as my hero Liv Paggiarino for spending hours helping me edit this story.
That’s all for now!