Many years ago--I think sometime in the 1970s--I was at a national conference, maybe General Conference, when debates about homosexuality were heating up in the church. I was up in the balcony where a great many gay men were seated. I remember one elderly, gay man from Hawaii was there as well. At one point, spontaneously, we all stood up, joined hands, and broke into song--"We Shall Overcome." I shall never forget the Hawaiian man singing with tears rolling down his cheeks. I can only imagine the pain he must have felt as he watched his church become increasingly unwelcome to gay people. It was after that I became involved in groups wrestling with questions regarding homosexuality and the church. It's been a long struggle, and I hope I live to see the day when United Methodism fully lives out its motto "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors."
I stand firmly on the commandment Jesus gave us to love and serve God by loving and serving our neighbor. I believe that here "love" means wanting the best for the neighbor, as God seeks the best for each of us. In addition, I firmly believe that homosexuality in all its manifestations is a natural condition. If, as I have heard, penguins and other animals are known to have members with homosexual traits, it seems reasonable that same-sex attraction is simply an innate characteristic of some human animals as well. Such persons should not be prevented from participating in the fullness of life as the rest of us know it. That is why I appreciated being involved with the wedding at Arch Street, and why I continue to work, in whatever way I can toward complete acceptance for LGBT persons.
Editor's note: In 1972, a four-year denominational study on United Methodist Social Principles presented the following statement to be added to the Book of Discipline: “Homosexuals no less than heterosexuals are persons of sacred worth, who need the ministry and guidance of the church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship which enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. Further we insist that all persons are entitled to have their human and civil rights ensured.” In the floor debate of General Conference, the following phrase was added to the above statement: “although we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider the practice incompatible with Christian teaching.” Just a year after this General Conference meeting, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from it manual that identified mental and emotional disorders. In 1975, the American Psychological Association passed a resolution supporting its removal. In the decades that followed, United Methodist Church doctrine and polity would grow increasingly at odds with the findings of the social scientific community.