On August 1, the parties involved in the complaint against Rev. Cynthia Meyer met to have conversation about the possibility of a just resolution. The parties worked for 12 hours and made a good-faith effort to find common ground. At the end of the day came to the following agreement:
“After 25 years of leadership in the United Methodist Church, I recently chose to do what some may deem unthinkable: I came out as a lesbian to my small-town Kansas congregation.
The disconnect between my gay identity and my church's policies has distressed me for many years. I’ve long recognized and now assert that it’s past time for the denomination to change. It’s my time to share my story as a part of that change.
By treating lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer members as “less than,” the United Methodist Church turns faithful people into victims rather than celebrating all as beloved children made in the image of God. The church has lost countless gifted members and leaders by not valuing the sacred worth in everyone.”
I wrote these words in January 2016, for publication in conjunction with the sermon I preached to my Edgerton, Kansas United Methodist congregation on Epiphany Sunday, January 3. A charge was filed against me for violating the Book of Discipline, asserting that I am “a self-avowed practicing homosexual.” None of my actions or statements have met the standard required for charges or punishment on these grounds. Nonetheless, as required, I have participated fully in all processes required following the charge, including efforts toward just resolution, a hearing with the Great Plains Conference Committee on Investigation, and finally the lengthy, intense process facilitated by JustPeace, which has resulted in the attached agreement.
When I spoke my truth in January, my hopes were many, including that of joining with other bold spirits in advocating for the UMC to better follow the way of Jesus, the ways of justice, love and full inclusion, particularly for those often marginalized, judged, and harmed. I acted, then and now, out of love for and commitment to the United Methodist Church. I'm honored to have joined in action with so many faithful UMs striving for the betterment of the church they love, even as it excludes them, fails to live into the covenant made to them in baptism, denies them the right of holding their weddings in UM church sanctuaries and forbids their open service as clergy.
These injustices continue, because the 2016 UM General Conference chose not to remove discriminatory policies and practices from its Book of Discipline. The denomination is now in a liminal moment, filled with possibility. Even as I accept this agreement, recognizing it as a resolution to the charge against me, not a just response, I move ahead in hope. I hope that the UMC, through a fully representative, inclusive commission, then a focused General Conference, will intentionally, prayerfully remove all discriminatory language and practice from its Book of Discipline. Then the Church may welcome the gifts of all who are called and gifted for ministry and all members may receive all the graces and services of the church, including marriage in their sanctuaries, performed by their UM clergy.
I continue to live in hope, even as I seek new ways to live out at least part of my calling, while I am forbidden for administering the sacraments and other duties and ministries of ordained elders.
As we ended our thirteen hours of conversation and negotiation on August 1, I added this to my notes from the day: “I've signed away my right to live out my calling – to be most fully who God has called me to be – I hope only for a time. My heart is broken, yet I trust that God will work through even this for good. Through this small act of reconciliation, this act of hopeful love, may greater reconciliation come in the UMC. Harm continues to be done, even through this agreement. This doesn't get us to justice, but perhaps it bends the arc just a bit closer.” I pray it may be so.