Diane Vogel Ferri is a teacher, poet and writer. Her essays have been published in Scene Magazine, Cleveland Christmas Memories, Raven’s Perch, and by Cleveland State University among others. Her poems can be found in numerous journals. Her chapbook, Liquid Rubies, was published by Pudding House. The Volume of Our Incongruity was published by Finishing Line Press. Diane’s essay, “I Will Sing for You” was featured at the Cleveland Humanities Fest in 2018. Her novel, The Desire Path can be found on Amazon. She is a graduate of Kent State University and holds an M.Ed from Cleveland State University.

Monday, March 4, 2019

The Church Has Broken My Heart Again

First I was angry, indignant, now I’m heartbroken. The United Methodist Church has proven it is Divided—no different, no better than our riven country. A few verses taken out of context in the Old Testament have superseded the words of Jesus. (Verses that are surrounded with other dictates we do not live by any longer.) Jesus came to bring a new covenant. His message was love, acceptance and non-judgement. But fear wins. Judgement wins. I hope our denomination loses a significant amount of members. I hope there is a schism.

Bishops have voted to continue a ban on LGBTQ persons from marrying or serving as clergy in the United Methodist Church and to enforce this ruling. I wept throughout the service yesterday facing my choir director, a man devotedly and happily married to his husband. A man who has made my life better in every way; a friend, a mentor, a spiritual leader every single week. He draws people into the choir of every age, race and creed. He has done ten times more for others  than anyone else I know. He was crying too, and it broke my heart.

My pastor gave an impassioned and powerful message that our church would never exclude anyone. That we are the same diverse and loving church we were last week.  Of course, LGBTQ people are welcomed at our church. But what if two men or two women wanted our pastor to marry them in their beloved church home just as most of us have done? What if he did? Would he lose his job? Would we all lose his spirited and energetic leadership? Our church has continually grown over the years of his tenure—something rare in a mainline church. 

Many years ago an ego-driven minister moved my childhood church out of town. It was the place where three generations of my family met every Sunday. He took that from us and I grieved deeply. It split up friendships and left people without a church home and it was completely unnecessary. My children left the church which broke my heart. I told them that the church is not God. God does nothing to hurt His children. The church is made up of flawed human beings, and while I know that I still don’t understand why church leaders willingly choose anything that hurts its members. 

I hate the platitude: we love the sinner but hate the sin. No, you don’t love someone you are willing to deny basic human rights. Would you deny your own child food, shelter, love, acceptance?  From Corinthians 13: love is kind, love keeps no record of wrong, it always protects. Banning people from what brings them joy and fulfillment is not love. At the conference a young gay man gave a beautiful speech telling of his lifelong dream was to be a Methodist minister. He will be denied that dream.

I don’t believe those of us in the majority understand what it’s like to be marginalized, discriminated against, denied what the rest of us so freely take for granted. This country is fueled by fear right now and Jesus told us repeatedly to not be afraid. Laws are made to protect us. When has a person who is gay hurt you? How have they taken away your rights or ability to live out your own life the way you see fit? They haven’t? Well, that’s what we’ve done to them.