Wednesday, April 2, 2008
David S. is a former Southern Baptist pastor who found God's love in a Methodist church. He shares his story below.
I am a relatively new Methodist. I came to know and love United Methodists one day about ten years ago when I stepped into St. Mark United Methodist Church in Atlanta for the first time.
Church wasn't a new idea to me. I was raised in a Southern Baptist Church and home...they kinda went together. My family was in church every time the doors were open: twice on Sunday, Wednesday night, Mission groups, two full weeks of revival in the summer twice a day. I loved the church. I loved God and Jesus. I remember with joy the family devotion times with my mother reading the Bible and praying for us. I learned to sing in those family devotion times.
It was later in life that I tried more and more to please God. I earned my Master of Divinity Degree and became a Southern Baptist pastor serving two churches with distinction. Even that though was not enough to make me feel at ease with my relationship to God. Because at age 45 after struggling for most of my life to figure out who I was I came to understand that I was a a gay man. When that happened all the rest of my life made sense.
But now I am OK with who I am but now I don't fit into the church hierarchy anymore. I had heard it plainly since my earliest days that you cannot be a homosexual and a Christian-those two ideas are incompatible. But how could this young man who loved God and people with all his heart, mind, soul and body (and that is all that Jesus required) not be loved by the God who made him. This was incompatible for me in my head. So I had to be reconciled to the fact that I was going to be outside the loving arms of God whom I love and adore. I felt that God created me just the way I am.
At that time I wasn't in a relationship.....this was just who I am as a person. Four years went by and I wandered around from church to church and then even stayed out of the church for awhile. But I needed to be in a church ...in a worship hour...be around other Christians. So one day, I was on my way to try an Episcopal church and was late and I drove by Saint Mark noticing their service started at 11:15. I stopped. When I walked through those red doors I was greeted by people who acted like they had known me forever. I really felt like I was Home.
One of the Hymns we sang that Communion Sunday was This is a Day of New Beginnings by Brian Wren. It’s hymn #383 in the Methodist Hymnal if you want to read it. I was told that day that I was welcome no matter where I had come from or who I was , because this was the Lord's table, not even a United Methodist table, but the Lord's. And I was His, so I belonged here. This is a day of new beginnings, time to remember and move on, time to believe what love is bringing, laying to rest the pain that's gone.
I don't remember crying through an entire worship service ever but that day I did. My heart was so broken. That night My mother asked me on her regular Sunday night call, Son, did you go to church today? I had been lying to her for years, but today I told her that I had found the most wonderful body of believers ever. I talked about Saint Mark for 30 minutes. She couldn't believe that I was that happy over one visit to a church service. Later after I was member she would say "i wish I were able to come and experience that with you, Sounds like a wonderful place." I am 59 now and Mom had been gone for four years but would she ever be proud that her boy is an active part of an alive church that loves people and actively seeks to serve God in all of His creation.
Whosoever really does mean me. It has been over ten years and I cannot find enough ways to serve God in the church that loved me back into the waiting arms of God. Every United Methodist Church should be a place of acceptance and healing for broken hearts. I am so eternally glad that there was one on the corner of 5th and Peachtree in Atlanta that day that lives out our motto Open Hearts, Open Minds and Open Doors - wouldn't you like to be part of that kind of fellowship?