Two weeks ago, I wrote in this space https://drcindyryanblog.com/2019/03/05/this-is-my-brother/ about my brother and the heartwrenching decision of the United Methodist Church at General Conference regarding the worthiness of LBGQT persons.
I shared my anger, disappointment and grief over the decision. From my perspective as a clergyperson who served in the United Methodist church the better part of the last 30 years the vote felt like a gut punch.
But mostly I wrote from the heart about my brother, Russell, and my need to personally apologize to him for the organization I worked for and the harm and hate dished out on him and so many others with this backwards, exclusive decision.
It was probably the truest and most vulnerable piece I’ve ever written, touching on my love for my brother, God, ordination and the church.
What happened since then was stunning. At this writing, the blog about my brother has been viewed over 17,300 times. My blogs normally have about 500 views. I don’t even look to see how many people are reading but when I started receiving comments from all over the world, I knew something was up.
I read every response sensing we were standing on Holy ground. My blog responses come through in a variety of places, on the blog itself, on two Facebook pages and on Twitter. I also received a large number of emails. I read each one and responded personally.
99% were positive, filled with stories similar to mine, with questions, support, grace and shared pain. The support and love came from both conservatives and progressives.
A handful of Christians were the exception. I was accused of not understanding scripture and told that I should not be ordained. I was informed that I wasn’t a Christian and that no doubt my brother and all those like him were going to hell. I marveled that people could be so absolutely sure about me, my faith, calling, credentials and the eternal destiny of my brother and others. How sure would you have to be to tell someone that? I was told I was too judgmental about the United Methodist Church and that it was really just the Third World Countries who swayed the vote. I replied to that commenter that there were plenty of politics of exclusion right here in America, including in the area she and I live in.
I shared with those closest to me that this blog was exploding because it seems so strange to me. Plenty told me “good for you.” That was not how I experienced it. It did not feel like it was about me or anything I had accomplished.
Finally a clergywoman friend said she was not surprised because “deep calls to deep.” She came the closest to helping me find words for what I was feeling. It was not that I was being deep as in intellectual. Rather, I shared from a very deep and vulnerable place and that elicited a deep, vulnerable and widespread response.
In these two weeks strangers shared about their siblings, aunts, parents and friends…and the struggle so many have had to come out with integrity sexually and still love and serve God. I’ve was asked for counseling referrals as they or their loved ones come to terms with their sexuality. I am glad they asked me instead of one of the harsh negative commenters I encountered. Can you imagine? I received notes about 90 year olds and 12 year olds. One of the most haunting lines I read was, “My father did not leave the church, the church left him.”
In spite of the real pain and struggle, I find hope. I do not believe this chapter is over in the United Methodist Church. I do not believe we should all give up and leave. I believe God wants us to wake up, speak up and keep working for a new day.
Sunday, right here in Texas, a full page ad appeared in the Dallas Morning News from United Methodist clergy to the LGBTQ+ Community. It held within it an apology, much like the one I offered my own brother. It was signed, with love, by 177 United Methodist clergypersons from this area.
Over these last 14 days, I shared with my brother what was happening with the blog entry. He was surprised as I was at the explosion of readers. At one point he said “Maybe change will come one heart at a time.” Around 15,000 views he commented simply, “That’s a lot of hearts.”
All these open hearts give me hope. I stand amazed and grateful.
Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, sister, sibling, mother of three, Mimosa/Mocha to Keller and Pace and breast cancer surv