(RNS) In January 2016, the Rev. Cynthia Meyer told her United Methodist Church congregation she felt “called by God to be open and honest” about who she is: “a woman who loves and shares her life with another woman.”
Now, after being placed on involuntary leave of absence by the denomination, Meyer said she is able to do just that as interim pastor in the United Church of Christ.
“To know that with all of those folks and in all settings I can be open and authentic and fully who I am is a really meaningful thing,” she said.
Meyer began serving as interim pastor on the first Sunday of Advent in late November at Central United Church of Christ in Topeka, Kan., according to the UCC.
Soon after she came out in her sermon last year, a formal complaint was filed against her within the United Methodist Church. That complaint was resolved in August with her leave from her position as pastor of Edgerton United Methodist Church near Kansas City.
The United Methodist Church, the second-largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., bans the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” and its Book of Discipline calls the practice of homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching.”
The 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore., had been set to vote on several resolutions related to sexuality, but it decided instead to defer those discussions to a commission that could lead to a special session before the next global conference in 2020. The Commission on a Way Forward held its first organizational meeting in late January in Atlanta.
Until the denomination reaches a decision, Meyer remains on leave.
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While she keeps her credentials and can work for a church or church agency in any role a lay staff person can hold, she cannot perform the duties of an elder in the United Methodist Church while on leave.
Meyer spent time last fall “looking at options and discerning what might be my call.” She spoke at some United Methodist churches and was offered several jobs, some within the denomination, she said. She also was contacted by the Kansas-Oklahoma Conference of the UCC, a denomination she knew “primarily as one of the most outspoken on social justice issues of many types.”
The interim pastor position seemed like the least exciting, the “least shiny of the options,” she said, but she still feels called to local church ministry.
It likely will last about a year, until the church calls a permanent pastor, she said.
She isn’t sure what she will do next. She now holds “dual status” in both denominations and plans to start a class this weekend to learn more about UCC polity and history as part of her discernment process.
“I feel pretty called to the local church ministry, but I do have an openness to other things,” Meyer said.