Coming out isn't easy, especially when you're a pastor in the Methodist Church.
When members of the Edgerton United Methodist Church in Edgerton, Kansas, filed into their pews on Jan. 3, 2016, they had no idea they were about to hear their pastor give the most controversial sermon of her life.
For 25 years, the Reverend Cynthia Meyer had held a secret she was finally ready to share: She’s gay.
“I’ve been growing in my understandings and thinking and praying about all this for some time,” Meyer told Welcometoterranova. “I’ve really felt led by the Holy Spirit and inspired to take a pretty bold step to be open about who I am in my identity and my relationship.”
Meyer's sermon was incredibly brave. After remaining silent for such a long time, she finally spoke her truth:
Many LGBTQ folks know the difficulty of coming out in a non-affirming denomination, but few know whats it's like to do this as clergy and at the pulpit.
As with many traditional Christian denominations, the United Methodist Church (UMC) believes that homosexuality is “incompatible” with Christian design. In theory, the UMC welcomes LGBTQ members as participants of the church, but with restrictions. Clergy can’t perform same-sex marriages, same-sex weddings can’t be hosted in a UMC church, and pastors definitely can’t identify as LGBTQ themselves.
When Meyer stood in front of her congregation and came out, she was risking her career.
There are over 32,000 active United Methodist churches in the United States. While Meyer certainly isn’t the first to clergy to come out, as UMC clergy have been coming out for decades, she could be in a particularly precarious situation.
The risk of repercussions for her announcement could be quite high. She’ll have to go through a church trial, and she could lose her credentials completely.
But Meyer believes that "it’s time" for the United Methodist Church to change its anti-LGBTQ policies, which is why she came out at the pulpit specifically.
She worked with a campaign called "It’s Time," organized by Reconciling Ministries Network, an LGBTQ organization working for change in the United Methodist Church.
“It’s soul-crushing to speak to my congregation each week about God’s love for them as they are, while being unable to speak of my own God-given identity, my loving relationship, and much of my day-to-day life,” she said. “I do this not only for myself, but for my partner, for my daughter, for all those who are excluded, and for the good of the church.”
Thankfully, the response from her parishioners has been overwhelmingly positive, Meyer says.
“I’ve been a leader in the United Methodist Church for the past 25 years, but coming out to my congregation in January was the first time I have been able to publicly present my authentic self,” Meyer said. “I am overwhelmed by the outpour of love and support from many of you as I declare my truth to the world.”
Sharing her truth may have been the best gift Meyer could have given to her church. After coming out, she says she’s heard from seminary students, clergy, and other parishioners across the country who also participate in the church while in the closet.
Sometimes all it takes is one brave person standing up and announcing their truth to give others the strength to do the same.