By Rev. Dr. Thomas Logsdon
I love my son and he’s gay.
I don’t love him because he’s gay and I don’t love him despite his being gay.
I love him because he’s my son.
Being gay is not all that he is, and he didn’t choose to be gay.
Being gay is an integral part of who he is however, and I love all that he is, so I love his gayness as much as I love his irritating sense of humor that he got from me.
For more than four decades I have sought to be in loving and effective ministry to and with everyone God has put in my care as a parish pastor, mission executive, and conference staff person. I have had gay, straight, and questioning folk in every church that I have served, and I have sought to serve them equally in love to the best of my ability as God through the Holy Spirit gave me strength.
Where I failed, I asked forgiveness, sought to learn from my mistake, and tried to do better the next time.
The only thing my denomination limited me in ministry was that I was not permitted to perform same-sex marriages (illegal in my state for most of my ministry) or to ordain or appoint “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.” Since I’ve never been a Bishop or Superintendent or served on a Board of Ordained Ministry (except for a short time on a District Board of Ordained Ministry which I hated and quickly got off of), that second part never applied to me.
I’d much rather mentor, coach, teach, and cheer-lead candidates for ministry than serve as a gatekeeper, important as gatekeepers are.
Once same-sex marriages became legal in my state, I made sure I always had someone I could refer couples to who came to me for marriages I could not perform, while remaining supportive throughout the process, assuring them that it was my denomination, not me, preventing me from officiating at their wedding, but that I was praying for the day when that would change.
The same was true of being able to use our church for their wedding but, I assured them, “Wherever you are married, God will be there with you.”
Whenever a gay or questioning United Methodist came to me struggling with a call to ministry, I listened with compassion and gave them the same advice I gave to women who were called to ministry in the Roman Catholic or Southern Baptist Church. “God’s Church is not limited to the denomination which has nurtured your faith up to this point,” I said. “If God is calling you to ministry, you might be more comfortable in another denomination.”
Last December my son got married. It was a beautiful service, but it was not in a United Methodist church because my denomination does not permit such services in any of its buildings or on any of its property. The Unitarian pastor did a beautiful job. I, of course, was not permitted to do the ceremony, nor was any of my United Methodist clergy friends, despite my son having been an active United Methodist his entire life, but we refused to let that ruin his and his husband’s special day.
I read scripture and said a prayer and it was a United Methodist clergy friend who did their premarital counselling, but we carefully avoided anything that would violate our clergy covenant.
I love my son. I love my new son-in-law. I wouldn’t have missed that day for anything.
Many folks have asked why they didn’t wait to see what would happen in St. Louis this last week at the special-called session of General Conference. As it turned out, it was good they didn’t.
Like many, we were hoping and praying for different results, for a broader tent where people who disagree can coexist because of a common love for God through Jesus Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit and a common mission.
A lot of folks are talking about leaving. I hear their pain and ache with them, but I’m staying. I do have a special love for the United Church of Christ, having graduated from their premier seminary in Chicago, but The United Methodist Church is my home. It has its weaknesses – we saw them on full display this last week – but it’s my family and you don’t quit on family. It’s the church that taught me about Jesus and risked licensing a 16-year-old to preach and giving him four churches (with proper supervision) at 17 and sending him to seminary at 19 and ordaining him Deacon at 20, an Elder at 23, and making him a Mission Executive at 35 and giving him the corner office at the Conference Center until he could no longer walk.
It’s my home and I’m staying. I’m staying in ministry to all people as God through the Holy Spirit gives me strength.