Friends: Clyde and I have made the hard decision to find another church home.

This breaks our hearts. Most of you know that Clyde grew up here, and that his family has been a part of the First United Methodist Church of New Albany for almost a century. In the twenty-nine years Clyde and I have been together, we’ve never missed a single Christmas Eve service. Since moving to New Albany, we’ve loved attending Sunday school and singing in the choir.

But in a recent meeting, church leaders reminded us that the United Methodist Church teaches that people like us are not suitable to serve as ministers, and that our marriage is not recognized by the church. (The UMC is expected to drop this harsh position, rooted in a prejudiced reading of a handful of scriptures, in 2022.)

In the same meeting, and now in a letter to all members, church leaders said that, in anticipation of that change, the New Albany FUMC has joined an organization called the Wesleyan Covenant Association — a splinter group teaching that people like Clyde and me should never be fully embraced by the church. We were also assured that in 2022 or sooner, the congregation in New Albany, without even being given the option of a congregational vote, will leave the United Methodist Church to join a new denomination (the “Global Methodist Church”) that will continue to teach that people like us are unworthy of ministry and marriage.

Church leaders did not deliver these messages in a spirit of anger. In fact, as they told us this news, they insisted that Clyde and I were loved and welcome to continue attending, teaching Sunday school, and singing in the choir.

But as Christians who are confident in our relationship with God, we struggle with the idea of being loved and welcomed by those who teach we are unworthy of participation in ministry and marriage. As United Methodists, we hesitate to remain in a congregation that, having joined the WCA, is now a United Methodist church in name only. And as people concerned with how our lives impact the lives of others, we worry that staying would send a message to young people like us who might be in the church: that they should, when God calls them to ministry, reject that call … or that they should, when God blesses them with a loving partner, give up on having their marriage blessed by the church they attend.

And so, while we have loved our Sunday school and our time in the choir, with an eye toward our own spiritual and emotional health, we must go elsewhere. We are encouraged to learn of nearby United Methodist Churches that are not aligned with the WCA. We’re told we’ll be loved and welcomed there by members who, like us, want to remain United Methodists. And in these congregations, we have hope that, as soon as next year, we could be welcomed into the full life of a church that no longer considers us second class citizens in the kingdom of God.

We love the New Albany First United Methodist Church. We are deeply grateful to so many of you who have genuinely loved us, welcomed us, spoken out for us, and celebrated who Clyde and I are together. We will miss being a part of a church family that includes you, and we plan to do everything we can to hold you close.

In the meantime, without spite or judgment, we ask you to think deeply and pray often about your role in this church and its future. If God can use our departure from FUMC New Albany in any way, Clyde and I hope it will be to start conversations about the church’s alignment with the WCA and what leaving the UMC for Global Methodism means for you, your families, and the future of the church.

With hope and love,

Mark and Clyde

Mark McElroy: lives in Mississippi | is blogging again | is author of a dozen books | works as a professional storyteller | has a husband | is working on a novel | is an engaging public speaker | lost fifty pounds in 2017 | is a little obsessed with pizza.

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