Lay of the Land: Getting to know gay people makes big difference

By Richard Hearne, UMR Columnist…

In the roughly 30 years I have been involved in local church, annual conference, jurisdiction and General Conference activities, I have been in many contentious meetings. The most contentious meeting I ever attended was over the topic of the marriage policy in my local church.

Every parent that had an unmarried daughter or son had a strong opinion and the debate lasted almost two hours. No one left the meeting happy with the final policy and many feelings were bruised. The fallout had the senior pastor seriously suggesting the church get out of the wedding business.

Richard Hearne

The fact is that weddings have become for many a very secular event. Marriages sanctified in the church fail at almost the same rate as non-church weddings. In other words, it appears that the vows taken before the altar have little impact on the lives of the people making their pledge before God, family and friends.

I often think, especially when I hear of the cost of these weddings and the big party that comes afterwards, that my pastor had the right idea.

All of this comes to mind as I consider the debate over the possible ruling by the Supreme Court on same-gender marriage.

I have watched dozens of my Facebook friends change their profile picture to a two-tone red equal sign to support same-gender marriage. Others have lifted up Scripture and tradition as reasons for opposition.

My journey on the issue of same-gender marriage has been difficult and uncomfortable. As recently 10-12 years ago, I was a 100 percent opponent. I would listen to all the comments and arguments from my more progressive (we don’t use “liberal” anymore) UMC friends, and I remained unmoved.

All of that began to change when I was elected to the board of the General Board of Church and Society and continued to serve on the Church and Society #2 Committee at General Conferences 2008 and 2012. I began to relate to LGBT folks as colleagues and soon developed personal friendships with not only those that supported LGBT folks but actual LGBT folks themselves.

The change really happened for me after I became close friends with a colleague on GBCS and the Association of Conference Lay Leaders, Ms. Amory Peck. When folks would try to demonize LGBT people, I would think of Amory. When folks tried to tell me that LGBT people shouldn’t have the same rights as heterosexuals, I would think of Amory. When folks told me that LGBT people shouldn’t be able to marry, or even have legal protection as couples, I would think of Amory.

I saw how important this issue was for Amory and her longtime partner, Linda Lambert. At GC 2012 I finally got to meet Linda and it helped me to understand why Amory felt so strongly that she and Linda should have the right and privilege to pledge their love and commitment to each other, and enjoy legal protections as a couple. There is nothing evil or sinful, in my theological understanding, about the relationship between Amory and Linda.

On March 16, they got married in Washington State. I regret that a business commitment kept me from surprising them by attending. I am so happy for them.

My position now is one supportive of states recognizing same-gender marriage. I am still conflicted on having such marriages in the church, but as I said, I am totally against any church wedding that is just a preamble to a big party.

So what has been the result of this change of attitude? I no longer have a group that will claim me. Some progressives I’ve talked to question my sincerity and seem unsatisfied that I don’t fully embrace their position. My conservative friends feel I have betrayed them. However, my conscience is clear and I think I am responding to God’s call on my life.

I have discovered I don’t have to understand why people are the way they are, but I am called to “love my neighbor as myself.”

How about you?

Mr. Hearne is former lay leader of the North Texas Conference


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15 Comments on "Lay of the Land: Getting to know gay people makes big difference"

The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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I'm thankful for the distance you've come on this issue. But, yes, if you still feel that gay folks' marriage rites would somehow pollute your sanctuary, then you still have a ways to go in learning not to treat your gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as second-class.


May I suggest securing a copy of the Aramaic English New Testament? As that indicates–that New Testament translation is one directly from Aramaic to English.

"Marriages sanctified in the church fail at almost the same rate as non-church weddings. In other words, it appears that the vows taken before the altar have little impact on the lives of the people making their pledge before God, family and friends." Richard – why do you feel the need to slander other groups while attempting to support your friends. Your article offends me because you try to say if we "know" LGBT community, we would what? Love them more? Jesus calls us to love everyone —– support gay marriage laws? If this is your purpose, I would suggest… Read more »
Sister Lawna, the Bible you condemn is the same one that states Jesus being the way, the truth, and the life – you can't have it both ways. The barest of minimum requirements of the New Testament, related in the Book of Acts to Gentile believers, STILL condemns sexual sin. The simple "eye test" tells us, logically, that male anatomy is not DESIGNED to merge with other men, nor women with women. Nonetheless – can we PLEASE amicably split the UMC, and mercifully bring this stalemate to an end? There are two ways of doing this – first, by agreement… Read more »

Thank you Bob for standing up to Truth.

sister lawna
For those condemning the author of this article; when was the last time you wore garments made of multiple fabrics, consumed pork or shellfish, or had lustful thoughts? I believe a wise man once said "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone!". Which of the sinners condemning the author engaged in intimate relationships with someone other than the person they were married to? Which of these lovely ladies who feel opposition to Mr. Hearne's "love thy neighbor" approach has failed to remove herself from the presence of men during her menstruation cycle every month, as the Bible… Read more »

Mr. Hearne,

As a 50+ lifelong UM who also happens to be a lesbian, I applaud your courage, not just for making your statement, but for being open to growth in your understanding. You have not let an ideal blind you to the sacred worth of the human beings involved. I, for one, am proud to claim you as a member of the family of God!

Richard, Thanks for your candor about your awakening via Amory and Linda. Amory, and later, Linda, have been dear friends since we worked together organizing PFLAG in Olympia, Washington some years ago. I was privileged to condust their Holy Union some months ago, and then attend their legal wedding in their home church, Bellingham WA Garden Street, conducted by their home pastor. It was heartwarming, thrilling, and the culmination of years of work and friendship–personal and professional, local and national, secular and church. Do keep up your witness. –Paul Beeman (Rev.), PNW Conference, former General Conference member long ago, and… Read more »

Because getting to know LGBT folks changes God's definition of sexual sin?


This is another example of a person letting his personal experience and feelings override scripture. Just because the GLBT people he knows are fine, upstanding and personal doesn't relieve them of the fact that they are living a sinful lifestyle. We don't five that discretion to thieves, alcoholics, murders,etc. Rather we tell them to repent and change their lifestyle or suffer the consequences. All of us are born sinners, however we are not to act out those sins.

pastor ed

thank you for your insight Mr. Hearne. I am curious though, you say "My position now is one supportive of states recognizing same-gender marriage. I am still conflicted on having such marriages in the church". May I ask why one and not the other?

Also being ostracized for taking a "love your neighbor as yourself" is nothing new. I believe you are in some VERY good company.

pastor Ed

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