Kansas pastor steps out of the closet and into the crosshairs (VIDEO)

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Religion News Service video by Sally Morrow

EDGERTON, Kan. (RNS) The Rev. Cynthia Meyer said she was “called by God to be open and honest” about who she is. So, during her first sermon of 2016, Meyer broke the news: She loves another woman.

“I’ve been praying, and in a process of discernment for some time, particularly over the past few years, once I entered into a relationship,” said Meyer, pastor of Edgerton United Methodist Church.

Meyer, 53, was ordained in 1992 and served for 12 years as assistant dean of students at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, a United Methodist-affiliated school in Atlanta.

In July, more than a year after she and her partner, Mary Palarino, began living together, Meyer accepted the call to be pastor in this community of 1,700 just southwest of Kansas City.

United Methodist Church minister Cynthia Meyer says she was “called by God to be open and honest” about who she is. So, during her first sermon of the new year, Meyer told the small congregation in Edgerton, Kan., about her relationship with a woman. Religion News Service photo by Sally Morrow

The Rev. Cynthia Meyer says she was “called by God to be open and honest” about who she is. So, during her first sermon of the new year, Meyer told the small congregation at Edgerton United Methodist Church about her relationship with a woman. Religion News Service photo by Sally Morrow

‘So, I recognize that I may have to leave’

This rural pastor knew as well as anyone the repercussions of coming out.

And indeed, soon after he received a copy of her Jan. 3 sermon, Bishop Scott Jones of the Great Plains Conference asked for Meyer’s suspension.

The United Methodist Church accepts gay and lesbian members, but its Book of Discipline calls the practice of homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

So far, the executive committee of the Board of Ordained Ministry has not approved the suspension, so Meyer continues to serve as pastor at Edgerton.


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Meyer and the bishop, who has the authority to appoint and remove pastors, have began a “supervisory response process,” which involves meetings to work toward a “just resolution.”

If a resolution cannot be agreed upon within a certain time, the issue will be brought to a church trial.

“The church would be glad to have my services if I would be quiet and stay in the closet, and I think I’ve indicated that I will not do that. So, I recognize that I may have to leave,” Meyer said.

Meyer is well-versed in the ins and outs of her denomination’s policies regarding LBGT people.

Asked about the possibility of leaving a church she has been a part of for 40 years, Meyer was blunt:

“I’m not eager to leave. I’m not eager to stay in an abusive relationship, either.”

The ‘views of the people in the pews’ have changed

Although a few families chose to leave Meyer’s congregation, most have stayed and remain supportive of their pastor.

“The views of the people in the pews have changed quite dramatically in the last few years,” said Meyer. Even in rural Kansas, she said, she has witnessed a broad shift in opinion.


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Several people she anticipated would balk at her announcement reacted positively. The day of Meyer’s coming-out sermon, she said, there were “more hugs than usual” at the end of the service. And people were sharing stories of their own family members and friends who have come out as gay.

“We’re very proud of her taking a stand, and having enough courage to go all the way with it,” said Rita Jones, a six-year member of the Edgerton congregation. “We’re very proud that she’s our pastor.”

And of those who left, Meyer said: “We hold all of those folks in prayer. Everyone will be welcomed back, and if not, they go with our love.”

The issue of gay clergy and same-sex marriage will be a focus at the denomination’s worldwide General Conference in May.

Advocates for LGBT rights have been swelling for years, and they point out that the 12 million-member UMC is the largest mainline Protestant group to reject same-sex marriage. But Methodists in Africa and Asia have resisted any moves to open the doors to LGBT clergy or to allow clergy to officiate at same-sex marriages, and those overseas Methodists now constitute a majority.

Meyer plans to attend the General Conference, and she is working with Reconciling Ministries Network and its campaign “It’s Time,” which asks members of the church to send letters to their delegation and share stories, in the hopes of influencing the conference vote.

‘Go ahead and do the wedding’

In a recent Kansas City Star article, Meyer urged others to join the movement toward equality.

“My voice alone can only do so much,” she wrote. “Together, we can move the church to fully affirm that all people are of equal sacred worth with equal opportunities in the church.”

Her advice to other gay clergy and to allies of the LGBT community within the church: Speak up.


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Meyer wants other gay clergy to know “they too can take this step, and share who they are.”

She added: “I think they would be amazed at the support they would receive. Of course they have to look at the risk, but I think this is what will make the change — if more people are willing to speak up.”

And to clergy who are allies and want to offer full services, including marriage, to all of their members, Meyer said, “Go ahead and do the wedding, and let it be known.”

(Sally Morrow is based in Kansas City and is photo editor for RNS)

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  • What she needs to do is to stop calling herself a pastor. She needs to repent from her sin and turn to Christ as her Savior and Lord. She needs to start over with a repentant heart and stop offending God and His people. This is just another article about a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

  • Pingback: Kansas Pastor Proclaims Her Homosexuality | contemporaryamericanreligion()

  • CarrotCakeMan

    You must feel lonelier and lonelier every year with that unhelpful attitude from which more American Christians are walking away every day. Jesus never said to attack loving, committed same gender couples. Don’t bore everyone here with those same passages where Jesus endorsed mixed-sex marriage. If the Bible said Jesus loved oranges, why should we assume Jesus hated dates? Please don’t claim your attack here is somehow “loving.”

  • CarrotCakeMan

    “More than six in ten (62 percent) white mainline Protestants support same-sex marriage. Among white mainline Protestant denominations, support ranges from 69 percent support among white mainline Presbyterians and 68 percent among both white Episcopalians and white Congregationalists/United Church of Christ members, to lower support among white mainline Baptists (53 percent) and white mainline Church of Christ/Disciples (50 percent).

    And while the Catholic Church officially opposes the legalization of same-sex marriage, about six in ten white (61 percent), Hispanic (60 percent), and other non-white Catholics (60 percent) support allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally. A majority of orthodox Christians (56 percent) also support same-sex marriage.

    http://publicreligion.org/2015/04/attitudes-on-same-sex-marriage-by-religious-affiliation-and-denominational-family/#.VbUcrRNVhBe

  • CarrotCakeMan

    These denominations will marry same gender couples: Affirming Pentecostal Church International, Alliance of Christian Churches, Anointed Affirming Independent Ministries, The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Community of Christ, Conservative Judaism, Ecumenical Catholic Church, Ecumenical Catholic Communion, The Episcopal Church, Evangelical Anglican Church In America, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Global Alliance of Affirming Apostolic Pentecostals, Inclusive Orthodox Church, Moravian Church Northern Province, Metropolitan Community Church, Old Catholic Church, Presbyterian Church USA, Progressive Christian Alliance, Reconciling Pentecostals International, Reconstructionist Judaism, Reform Judaism, Reformed Anglican Catholic Church, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Unitarian Universalist Church, United Church of Christ, Unity Church

  • Doc Anthony

    The Methodist Bishop Scott Jones, IS doing the right (and Scriptural) thing.

    The Rev. Cynthia Meyer, is NOT.

    Time for the Methodists to make a choice around here.

  • Ben in oakland

    “And stop offending God and His people.”

    As far as she is concerned, God isn’t offended. And since God doesn’t confide in the likes of you about his relationship with anyone else on the planet, she may well be right.

    The only person I see here offended is you. Not surprisingly, because god’s opinions always seem to coincide exactly with those of the people who are sure they speak for him.

    it thus appears that she hears what she wants to hear from God, and so do you.

    Coincidence? I don’t think so.

  • wendel

    Until God lands in Central Park “his” views regarding gay marriage are unknown. However, a just, merciful, and all-knowing God who created us all and everything around us likely has heard about gay individuals and could change them if he elected. Since we continue to see gay people everywhere the only conclusion is that God is just fine with people of all types and flavors.

    Thank you CarrotCakeMan for your comments and the link.

  • td vtt

    No she doesn’t.

  • td vtt

    Mark, no she doesn’t.

  • td vtt

    The Methodists wrote that silly ‘Book of Discipline’and the Methodists can change or ignore it, especially where it is incompatible with Christianity.

  • jp37027

    Nice advocacy piece, any thoughts on doing a news story? That’s one of those things where you talk to folks on both sides of the issue.

  • Richard A. Bucci

    Whatever the numbers approving, it makes no difference. It is absurd to think that what was impossible becomes possible by voting when Divine Law requires a majority of ONE – God!

  • Pastor Dave

    Does a majority vote make something right?
    My advice to all – go back to the scriptures for discernment.
    It is tough. But, on the other hand, why are we so eager to choose this ‘sin’ to debate over other sins? All sin offends God. I don’t pretend to know the correct answer. I just see a world of hurting people who are all loved by the grace of God. All of us need to be in prayer over this divisive issue. God bless all of you n your journey to faith.

  • Ben in oakland

    If you understood the true nature of an ancient, vicious, and durable prejudice disguised as sincere religious belief, as well as the true nature of Jesus’s commands not to judge others before you have achieved spiritual and moral perfection yourself, you would understand why this has become the only sin worth talking about.

    It is the one sin that those who attack and vilify gay people have no intention– or conversely, every intention– of committing themselves. It is the only sin that assures a certain class of so-called Christian of their illimitable superiority as so-called Christians, as moral people, and as human beings. It’s why 2Rump can be self proclaimed adulterous and three times married, but STILL receive the support of these good so called Christians.

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  • David M. Schilling

    Remarkable courage! Incredible that my denomination that has been in the forefront of so many human rights, social justice, peace and reconciliation struggles in the 20th and 21st centuries, can not fully affirm a person, called of God to ministry, because of who she loves. May this hurtful policy antithetical to the spirit of Jesus be cast aside. Congratulations Rev. Meyer for your example of true faithfulness.

  • Hans Pfall

    …and now you know why so-called “Christians” hate the King James Bible. It’s unequivocal in it’s stand against sodomites (but don’t feel singled out…it’s not real easy on adulterers or idol-worshipers either). As to feeling lonely, no…Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are with those of us to put our faith in Him and His word. He told us there would be a falling away, that religious corruption would happen, that most of the world would hate us for His name’s sake. Let God be true and every man a liar. So it is.

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  • Doc Anthony

    You’re right, Td Vtt.
    In fact, the New York Conference of Methodists have already TRASHED the Book Of Discipline, they’ve already publicly spat on it.

    On March 1, their board of ordained ministry announced that even if a clergy person is married to a same-sex spouse, the board will NOT take note of that situation in evaluating the clergy candidate’s suitability. A free pass, period.

    That’s a clear violation and repudiation of the Book Of Discipline. The New Yorkers are effectively, in-your-face, trashing their own Methodist textbook (and trashing the Bible too.) They aren’t backing down at all.

    I urge the Methodists from the more honorable Conferences (such as Great Plains) to simply FIGHT BACK. I know the Methodists hate arguing and splitting up, but now it’s time for war.

    Goliath has called the shots for WAY too long; now it’s time for some Methodist Davids to go fix the situation.

  • Denise

    Jesus calls us to love one another. Why insist that Jesus calls us to divide our families and turn away from those offering shared respect and love, not hate? Why do you cast stones when there is no hurt to you? Of what are you afraid? This is the essential question to ask.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Please note that neither Mr. Bucci nor Pastor Dave provided Scripture that clearly shows Jesus wanted His followers to attack loving, committed same gender couples. I’ve documented that this continued unsubstantiated insistence that “it’s a sin” has not fooled a clear and growing majority of American Christians who support marriage equality.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Yes, men are liars, and in this case, men lied about the Bible–in particular, that version. Modern Biblical scholars have proven the Bible was intentionally mistranslated relatively recently in order to provide “Biblical cover” for then-rising levels of homophobia. For example, the word “homosexual” didn’t even exist until 1870. Many major Christian and Jewish denominations condemn misusing the hate-based mistranslations to attack their fellow Americans and are marrying same gender American couples now. About 400 years ago, a group of religious authorities (sanctioned by King James I of England), secretly manipulated the English version of the Bible to reflect their own heterosexual attitude; they opposed the King kissing other men in public.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Yes, men are liars. About 400 years ago, a group of religious authorities (sanctioned by King James I of England), secretly manipulated the English version of the Bible to reflect their own heterosexual attitude; they opposed the King kissing other men in public. This is why the Christians you denigrated reject the false concept that “homophobia is holy.”

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Yes, Hans, men are liars, and that particular version of the Bible is where the lie that Jesus wanted His followers to attack loving, committed same gender couples like the Rev. Cynthia Meyer and her wife was created.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Susan B. Anthony said something very much like that, Ben:

    “Not surprisingly, because god’s opinions always seem to coincide exactly with those of the people who are sure they speak for him.”

    Fortunately, Americans are waking up to the deceptions from anti-gays.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    You won’t like that choice, which will not be in favor of the anti-gay political agenda.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    By falsely claiming “Jesus hates LGBT Americans,” anti-gays hope not to have their hurtful motives questioned. It’s a high school debate trick called “appeal to authority.”

    Please note anti-gays have never provided a clear quotation that demonstrates Jesus wants them to attack same gender couples.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    You seem quite enraged they won’t promote your political agenda to deny LGBT Americans employment.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Thank you for your kind words.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Well, thanks for reminding readers no Bible contained that stand before then. Those who know history understand the political motivation for that stand.

  • G Key

    Re Denise’s “Why insist that Jesus calls us to divide our families and turn away from those offering shared respect and love, not hate?”

    I agree with you, Denise, but here’s a verse in which Jesus seems to disagree with both of us:

    (NIV) Matthew 10:34″Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law — 36a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ ”

    Other verses cite Jesus emphasizing love and respect even over faith, but this one seems to imply that Jesus values what individuals personally choose to believe over how they treat people with different personal beliefs, even when both parties’ beliefs are based in good faith on Jesus’s quoted words.

    I’d like to know what you and other commenters think about this, because it sounds violently divisive to me.