The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

I think Dad would still love all

 

March 6, 2019



News item: The United Methodist Church voted on Feb. 26 to reinforce its ban on openly gay clergy and same-sex marriages, leaving in place a longstanding policy that states, “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”

The United Methodist Church is built on a connectional structure that ties all its leaders and congregations together. Local churches share their ministers and their money in such a way that ties people together in meaningful ways.

I grew up living under that big tent, as a preacher’s son in Arkansas and beyond.

The church was extremely important to my family growing up. My father was a Methodist minister for 60-plus years, and my mother was the consummate preacher’s wife (in addition to numerous other roles, from den mother to math teacher).

I grew up hearing the story of Jesus in Sunday school and learning how to sit still in the worship service that followed. Even my first kiss was on a church bus, traveling home through the dark of night from a statewide United Methodist Youth rally, where my own “connections” to a large church community were first forged.

I have since lost, or at least misplaced, those ties that bind but, still, the United Methodist community holds a special spot in my heart of hearts.

It’s where I learned about a God of love.

It’s where I felt the power that comes with accepting people “right where they are and just the way they are.”

It’s where I made some of the dearest friends I’ve ever had.

Some of those friends were gay and lesbian, and a few of them had a lasting impact on me — because I witnessed how their love for others transcended their sexuality. I learned from them how sexual orientation is secondary to the human within.

My father, like others in his generation, was raised to abhor homosexuality as a deep and dark sin against God, but by the time he was a middle-aged minister his attitude began to change. A young church leader named Dick Cash had a big impact on him. Dick fell to AIDS when Dad was in his early 50s, but before he died he touched my father’s soul. I don’t think Dad ever judged another gay or lesbian person after that.

My father was a wonderful work-in-progress, just as all good people are. From his faith in a loving God and through his experiences in the Methodism, he progressed far beyond his Southern white roots to become a minister and a man who embraced just about every civil and equal rights struggle of his time, from the 1950s on.

Through it all, he loved his church dearly, thrived on the relationships it gave him, and felt the presence of a loving God in its sanctuaries.

If he were alive today, he would be deeply disappointed in the decision his church just made to continue to exclude the LGBT community as it has. He would cry for the pain caused by such a lack of acceptance. He would remember his friend Dick Cash.

But he would never stop loving those who still reject homosexuality as an abomination to their faith.

Tom McDonald is editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange. Contact him at:

[email protected]

 
 

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