Twenty-three years ago, I surrendered my ministerial credentials rather than lie to a church I felt called to and which was an integral part of my being. My EUB and then UM church had taught me that lying wasn’t normally an ethical or healthy experience, and I knew I couldn’t survive living a lie. So I left.
This past Sunday I finally had the incredible joy of going to Washington, D.C., and marrying the partner with whom I’ve cohabitated for the last 24 years. We’ve raised two incredible children (both married by the way—our influence was minimal!), and we were the first to babysit our first grandchild, which we do now on a very regular basis.
Life is incredibly good for us: Families have been accepting, and friends have been supportive. To be honest, we’ve been Ozzie and Ozzie; there’s just been no Harriet. We’re good people, good citizens, incredibly fortunate people. But, all these years later, there’s still a void in my life. I’ve moved on, but as a spouse who will never fully get over the loss of their significant other, and occasionally think of them with sometimes a smile, sometimes a tear, I still miss my church.
My relationship now meets “fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness” criteria, but my guess is I’m still not welcome back in the way I believe I am called to be. I could go to any other mainline Protestant denomination now and serve fully in the way God has called me to serve. I still can’t in my own United Methodist Church. I’ve not been an active church member because for me it has been too painful. I am writing because I don’t want you to forget about me and the many people like me. Just because we aren’t there doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten the church we love. Will your doors ever fully open to us? That is my prayer!
Gregory A. Wise
Former member, Baltimore-Washington Conference