Written by United Methodist Bishop Melvin G. Talbert
“I am a life-long United Methodist.
Early on in my ministry, I did not approve of gay and lesbian people because I thought I knew God’s Word regarding this issue.
While attending a church gathering in Boston in the mid-1970s, I met a very charming young lady, let’s call her Jane. She did not fit the stereotypical image I had of gay people. The event was designed to allow straight and gay people to get to know each other without knowing our vocations or sexual orientation. During our final session together, we were invited to divulge our vocations and our sexual identity.
When Jane shared that she was gay, she shook the foundation of what I had always thought and been taught about gay people. I had to reexamine my beliefs.
In Matthew, Jesus says, ‘Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.’ Then and there, I promised God that I would never again discriminate against any persons because of their sexual orientation.
Reflecting on my involvement with the Civil Rights movement, I was reminded of how it feels to experience marginalization and oppression. I have always had a loving quarrel with my church because of what it did to my people over the years.
I slowly came to realize that, like the disciples, I had been blind to the truth that was right in front of me. Gay and lesbian people, just like people of color, are members of God’s human family.
So, I have come to the realization that we are all children of God in the process of being saved by God’s grace. Therefore, we do not have the right to deny another child of God his/her place at God’s table. By God’s grace, we are granted the privilege to invite all people to God’s table. But it is not our call to judge who is worthy. Only God can make that call.
Reflecting on scripture, tradition, experience and reason, my mind was changed on the issue of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians in the church. We all belong to God.“