Kansas pastor steps out of the closet and into the crosshairs

*Religion News Service video by Sally Morrow

EDGERTON, Kan. (RNS) The Rev. Cynthia Meyer said she was “called by God to be open and honest” about who she is. So, during her first sermon of 2016, Meyer broke the news: She loves another woman.

“I’ve been praying, and in a process of discernment for some time, particularly over the past few years, once I entered into a relationship,” said Meyer, pastor of Edgerton United Methodist Church.

Meyer, 53, was ordained in 1992 and served for 12 years as assistant dean of students at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, a United Methodist-affiliated school in Atlanta.

In July, more than a year after she and her partner, Mary Palarino, began living together, Meyer accepted the call to be pastor in this community of 1,700 just southwest of Kansas City.
The Rev. Cynthia Meyer says she was “called by God to be open and honest” about who she is. So, during her first sermon of the new year, Meyer told the small congregation at Edgerton United Methodist Church about her relationship with a woman.

This rural pastor knew as well as anyone the repercussions of coming out.

And indeed, soon after he received a copy of her Jan. 3 sermon, Bishop Scott Jones of the Great Plains Conference asked for Meyer’s suspension.

The United Methodist Church accepts gay and lesbian members, but its Book of Discipline calls the practice of homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

So far, the executive committee of the Board of Ordained Ministry has not approved the suspension, so Meyer continues to serve as pastor at Edgerton.

Meyer and the bishop, who has the authority to appoint and remove pastors, have began a “supervisory response process,” which involves meetings to work toward a “just resolution.”

If a resolution cannot be agreed upon within a certain time, the issue will be brought to a church trial.

“The church would be glad to have my services if I would be quiet and stay in the closet, and I think I’ve indicated that I will not do that. So, I recognize that I may have to leave,” Meyer said.

Meyer is well-versed in the ins and outs of her denomination’s policies regarding LBGT people.

Asked about the possibility of leaving a church she has been a part of for 40 years, Meyer was blunt:

“I’m not eager to leave. I’m not eager to stay in an abusive relationship, either.”

The ‘views of the people in the pews’ have changed

Although a few families chose to leave Meyer’s congregation, most have stayed and remain supportive of their pastor.

“The views of the people in the pews have changed quite dramatically in the last few years,” said Meyer. Even in rural Kansas, she said, she has witnessed a broad shift in opinion.

Several people she anticipated would balk at her announcement reacted positively. The day of Meyer’s coming-out sermon, she said, there were “more hugs than usual” at the end of the service. And people were sharing stories of their own family members and friends who have come out as gay.

“We’re very proud of her taking a stand, and having enough courage to go all the way with it,” said Rita Jones, a six-year member of the Edgerton congregation. “We’re very proud that she’s our pastor.”

And of those who left, Meyer said: “We hold all of those folks in prayer. Everyone will be welcomed back, and if not, they go with our love.”

The issue of gay clergy and same-sex marriage will be a focus at the denomination’s worldwide General Conference in May.

Advocates for LGBT rights have been swelling for years, and they point out that the 12 million-member UMC is the largest mainline Protestant group to reject same-sex marriage. But Methodists in Africa and Asia have resisted any moves to open the doors to LGBT clergy or to allow clergy to officiate at same-sex marriages, and those overseas Methodists now constitute a majority.

Meyer plans to attend the General Conference, and she is working with Reconciling Ministries Network and its campaign “It’s Time,” which asks members of the church to send letters to their delegation and share stories, in the hopes of influencing the conference vote.

‘Go ahead and do the wedding’

In a recent Kansas City Star article, Meyer urged others to join the movement toward equality.

“My voice alone can only do so much,” she wrote. “Together, we can move the church to fully affirm that all people are of equal sacred worth with equal opportunities in the church.”

Her advice to other gay clergy and to allies of the LGBT community within the church: Speak up.

Meyer wants other gay clergy to know “they too can take this step, and share who they are.”

She added: “I think they would be amazed at the support they would receive. Of course they have to look at the risk, but I think this is what will make the change — if more people are willing to speak up.”

And to clergy who are allies and want to offer full services, including marriage, to all of their members, Meyer said, “Go ahead and do the wedding, and let it be known.”

*Sally Morrow is based in Kansas City and is photo editor for RNS

 

Religion News Service

RNS is owned by Religion News LLC, a non-profit, limited liability corporation based at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Its mission is to provide in-depth, non-sectarian coverage of religion, spirituality and ideas.

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9 Comments on "Kansas pastor steps out of the closet and into the crosshairs"

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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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Wes Andrews
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She should have stepped out of the closet and turned in her credentials… THAT would have been honorable thing to do…

Paul W.
Guest
I wish UMR would just stop with the over-the-top pro-LGBT advocacy. In this “article”, there isn’t even a nod to the positions of those who disagree with this unfaithful pastor, with the implication that those who do disagree are just wrong. This is the bottom-line: You clearly don’t trust in the authority of the Scriptures when you choose to advocate for your personal opinion over the clear unequivocal teaching of Scripture — instead you are placing your faith in convoluted esoteric arguments that twist Scripture to make it mean the opposite of what it says, bad (and non-Wesleyan) theology, and… Read more »
Sherrie Lynn Robertson
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Sherrie Lynn Robertson

I didn’t see any advocacy there, just the facts. I can’t really reply to the convoluted rhetoric in paragraphs 2 and 3 because none of it makes any sense. I wouldn’t say those in favor of official heterosexism are so much “just wrong” as wrong because of the hatred in their hearts.

jimmie shelby
Guest

This writer is very distressed at the continued dominance of this discussion. This writer hopes and prays that: at this general conference the United Methodist Church will experience an amiable split and that those congregations in this country who wish to do so may affiliate with those faithful bothers and sisters in Africa who have been so instrumental in keeping the United Methodist Church on the narrow path.

Richard F Hicks
Guest

She & I were in the ordination process together. I never broke church law but was still rejected. Apparently in plains UM conferences law breakers are protected if they are the right people. It is just like dogs behave – Who is in? Who is out? Who is up? Who is down? This reflects the mandates of the Gospel how? Thank you, Richard F Hicks, OKC

Kevin
Guest

Another story about another schismatic oath breaker. The leadership failures of our UMC leaders continue to multiply.

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[…] to the resolution passed by that conference this past weekend asking the legal counsels in the Cynthia Meyer case to ask Bishop Jones to seek all possible solutions through a Just Resolution process as outlined in […]

Skypilot54
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This is blatant deception, as this didn’t happen over-night. This kind of action only perpetuates serving in Holy Orders taking a backseat to “I need a job”.

Christine J Baxter
Guest

God bless you in your witness Rev. Meyer

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