April 21, 1959, I was born into the family of James and Nadine Little who attended the Methodist Church in Douglass Kansas. Some months later the family traveled to Meade Kansas and my baptism by a family friend. I grew up in the Methodist Church and along that journey my father entered into the ordained ministry of the Methodist Church. He was in seminary when the merger happened in 1968 and we became the United Methodist Church.
Following dad’s graduation from seminary, as chance and the bishop at the time would have it, dad was appointed to the Meade United Methodist Church in Meade Kansas. At the age of thirteen I went through confirmation classes and at the end of the classes was called to the “pastor’s” office, as were all of the confirmands. I had been called to his office before, but it had always been as son rather than potential church member.
My pastor and I discussed the faith and what I had learned in my confirmation classes. I was never asked if I was gay or straight, if I smoked or drank, overate or cheated on tests. I was asked if I believed in Jesus Christ. I was asked if I would resist evil in whatever ways it presented itself. I was asked if I would support the church with my prayers, presence, gifts, and service. I said yes.
On Confirmation Sunday we spoke of the same things, we were asked the same questions, and still none of us were asked those questions of sexual orientation, lifestyle, or character. We all answered yes and were welcomed with joy and gladness into the United Methodist Church of Meade Kansas, the church of my baptism.
My own journey of life and faith was and is shaped by being a “preacher’s” kid. After high school I wandered away from the church for a time, wandered away in attendance but not who I was at the very core and that was always United Methodist. After TruDee and I were married we began to get back to being involved in the church in Johnson Kansas, to make a long story short I began to feel the call to ministry and though I ran from it for several years knew that at some point if I were to be happy I would need to answer the call of God for my life. I began my college education, received my first appointment in 1992, finished seminary in 1998 and was ordained an elder in the United Methodist Church in the spring of 2000. I am a United Methodist through and through, this is my church and I am saddened to watch it struggle to “be” an inclusive and welcoming church.
In my life, faith, and ministry I myself have been told by not only members of the United Methodist Church, but those outside the UM church as well, that perhaps because of my stances on particular theological and social issues that perhaps I should consider leaving the United Methodist Church. I have held conversations with members of the churches I have served who have felt the need to consider leaving because of the church’s stance particularly the negative and restrictive language in our Discipline regarding gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, and queer persons. These are persons who, like me, were raised, baptized, confirmed and have served in the UM Church for 10, 20, 30, 40 plus years, who have just as much claim on the UM church as I or anyone else.
I was raised, baptized, confirmed, and have remained connected and served in the UM Church for nearly 55 years as of this coming April. I serve in a United Methodist denomination who claims to exist for the purpose of Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World. A purpose which it has been suggested is more important than removing the restrictive language in our UM Discipline and being a church that welcomes, includes, ordains, and marries LGBTQ persons. Let me just say this, I believe the church is wrong, and not only wrong, but doing harm to the very disciples of Christ it has called to faith.
I am blessed, honored, and humbled to serve in a church that became a Reconciling Congregation before I arrived. College Hill United Methodist Church works tirelessly in service to our community, reaching the poor, feeding the hungry, providing resource and counsel to those in need, actively participates in the neighborhood and community to make this world a better place. The Community College Hill UMC is faithful in claiming and following Christ, resisting evil in whatever form it presents itself, and is faithful in prayer, gift, presence, and service.
As a member of the United Methodist church, birthed, baptized, confirmed, educated, and ordained, I take seriously what it means to work and live in a community of faith and in particular in the United Methodist Church. Removing the restrictive and hurtful language in our Discipline is not only crucial to living a life of Making Disciples for the Transformation of the World; it should be a priority in our work and place in the world.
Let me put it this way, as a clergy ordained and serving in the United Methodist Church I have promised to uphold the Discipline. But our Discipline is conflicted and contradictory. In one place it says I am to be in ministry to the whole church and in another it limits my call to serve the LGBTQ members of the churches I have served and the church I currently serve. When two members of the church I serve, who have been together for 15, 20, 30, even over 40 years and members of the church for 15 plus years comes asks me to do their wedding and I have to say no because they are of the same gender, such a response on my part because of the church’s stance is not only damaging and harmful to the very persons who have been a part of our community working to feed the hungry, care for the poor, comfort the hurting, and calling persons to faith in Christ, it diminishes the very purpose for which we as a United Methodist Church claim to exist.
I love the United Methodist Church and I am blessed to be a part of it and serve the people of the church and our Conference. And though the church is wrong on its stance regarding being fully inclusive of LGBTQ members, I will not be leaving. Nor will I encourage any members of the UM church to leave. I have been energized and recommitted to find ways to organize our numbers, our voices, and our votes until we become the church the Spirit is calling us to be. I will not be leaving, because the story of my life and faith is deep and strong in this United Methodist Church just as many of you who may read this, if we leave who will be left to participate with the Spirit in struggling and fighting for the soul of the church? Who will remain to live and work in ministry with and alongside our LGBTQ brothers and sisters who were also baptized, confirmed and serve to transform the world, for who this church is home and whom we love?
I am United Methodist called to serve the church, called to love God and neighbor, called to work for justice and love in order to Make Disciples of Christ that we may all be transformed for the work of Christ in the church and in the world around us that the walls of exclusion might fall at and by the love of God in Christ, and I am here to stay. I am committed to Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World. If you would stand with me in finding ways to not only Transform Our World for Christ but Transform our Church for Christ, to engage, share our stories, embrace in grace, and trust the Spirit to change the hearts and minds of those who would continue to hold our LGBTQ members captive and outside the ministry of the church I hope you will add your voice to mine and join me. Silence is assent and it is time to speak and be heard.
Peace and Light for Your Journey
Rev. Kent H. Little