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United Methodist pastor, placed on leave after coming out, moves to UCC church

The Rev. Cynthia Meyer speaks about the possibility of losing her livelihood after coming out to her Kansas congregation if language regarding LGBTQ clergy in the United Methodist Church's Book of Discipline did not change at the 2016 General Conference. RNS photo by Emily McFarlan Miller

(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.


RELATED: Methodist pastor in Kansas placed on leave after coming out as a lesbian


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.

About the author

Emily McFarlan Miller

Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for RNS based in Chicago. She covers evangelical and mainline Protestant Christianity.

91 Comments

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  • It would be great if Christians in general followed scripture. Just think: no more divorce, no more paid revilers and slanderers. and lots of treating other people well.

  • Romans 1:32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.’ All sin leads to death.

  • I met Cynthia Meyer and wish her the best. Hopefully people will see that there is no difference between justifying homophobia on the Bible and justifying slavery. There are 200 Biblical texts which justify slavery. YES, slavery WAS defended on a scriptural basis for years, just like homophobia is today. And anyway, if Heterosexual marriage was THE most important value in the Christian life, why would Jesus say we should HATE our own heterosexual spouse in Luke 14:26? Jesus said we cannot be his disciples if we make our Heterosexual marriage the most important value in the world.

  • It also states in Deuteronomy 13:7 that even if one’s beloved wife or husband leads us into idol worship that we are to kill our spouse. Clearly, the meaning is that even our Heterosexual marriage can at times lead to sin unto death as well.

  • If I recall correctly, capital punishment is not outlawed in the bible. In the OT it was the punishment for crimes we now consider minor. In the NT it was the prerogative of the secular authorities.

  • Still does nothing to condone the fact that homosexuals – CONSISTENTLY – are leading each other to death.
    And, it doesn’t change the fact that homosexuality leads to death – consistently.
    That woman is unreservedly leading people to their death.

    Jude 1:4 – 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

  • But if Heterosexual marriage as you insist, is THE norm and most important value, more important than even Love of God and of Neighbor, then it could NEVER lead us to death, but clearly it can. The heterosexual marriage of Adam and Eve helped to lead to death for all of humanity. Clearly Heterosexual marriage can involve unbridled lust or the aselgeia mentioned in Jude 4.

  • I don’t insist anything, Daniel. Christ taught that homosexuality is unnatural – all the time.
    Are you resorting to putting words in my mouth again, Daniel?

  • You have consistently argued that heterosexual marriage is THE measure of right and wrong in sexuality. The consistent argument of most Evangelicals is that sex outside of heterosexual marriage is sinful, but it doesn’t matter whether a relationship is loving or is idolatrous or not, only whether it is in heterosexual marriage or not.

  • Homosexuality is a sin. Unconfessed sin places one in grave danger. That woman is placing precious people in grave danger.

  • You believe he taught that heterosexual marriage was THE norm. For something to be THE “norm,” it must never be wrong. Paul, for instance stated that LOVE does no wrong to a neighbor in Romans 13:10. He never stated heterosexual marriage does no wrong to a neighbor. Christ MOST clearly taught that Heterosexual marriage can be wrong in Luke 14:26. Also, Paul stated that nature or physis (same Greek word used as in Romans 1:26-27) teaches that men shouldn’t have long hair and that it is unworthy or atimia (1 Corinthians 11:14). Does being against nature make it a deadly sin for a man to have long hair?

  • The operative word being, “can”, and yet, that still does not condone homosexuality which always leads to death.

  • Does having long hair send a man to hell, since it is contrary to nature or physis? (1 Corinthians 11:14)

  • You’re right. How stupid of me to think that Christians are to support retributive justice and the slaughter of millions. I completely forgot that God demands both.

  • But don’t you say Heterosexual marriage is the norm? If it isn’t, then what norm does homosexuality violate all the time? I would say combining any kind of relationship, including heterosexual marriage, with idol worship always leads to death. If homosexuality is not combined with idol worship, it is accepted.

  • It’s not that simple Kangaroo, there’s really no “gain” there. This UCC church is a small church, maybe 40 folks. Way past its prime. Their previous pastor resigned (according to UCC website for KS-OKLA), and it may take a year for them to get a permanent pastor (if they’re lucky).

    There’s NO wolf-pack of hotshot preachers salivating to hook up with that particular church. And on the opposite side, there’s NO pile-up of big-time big-money UCC churches begging Rev. Meyer to captain their respective ships. (And of course the UMC churches are not an option.)

    In other words, things seem pretty tight right now, on both sides of this gig. You’ve got a suspended lesbian UMC pastor who isn’t even familiar with UCC polity, and a diminished small UCC church that’s way past its prime. I could be wrong, but it looks like they temporarily joined forces because nobody else is knocking on either door at this time.

    The situation is what it is. (Namely, really bad.)
    My prayers for all parties; it’s just a tight time for them.

  • There’s no biblical support for that last sentence there. And also no shortage of Scripture texts which actively oppose that sentence.

  • It’s not like the UCC is insignificant. Sure, that one church is small; so are most UMC churches. When this gig’s over, she’ll get another. And if the UCC doesn’t work out, there’s always the Episcopal Church. I believe the UCC took her in because they found her to meet their needs. There’s never any guarantee of church appointments, but she’ll make out just fine, thank you. the right wing keeps telling themselves the Mainline is dying but they are too.

  • Very interesting how The UMC Book of Discipline is applied so unevenly. Here in the Oregon-Idaho Conference of the UMC we have a woman pastor who has been living with her woman partner for years and now is to wed. There has been no threat to her job. Of course, here in the Western Jurisdiction of the UMC there is a woman bishop, Karen Oliveto, who also is married to a woman.

  • I base this idea on Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25 which states that Rahab was accepted AS a Harlot. There is a difference between a common harlot who doesn’t worship idols and a sacred prostitute who does worship idols. Deuteronomy 23:17 speaks of male and female cult prostitutes. Ahab’s monogamous heterosexual marriage to Jezebel was NOT accepted because it led him into idolatry. (1 Kings 16:31). It wasn’t an issue for Solomon to have many wives until they led him into idol worship. (1 Kings 11) So this does indicate that whether a certain sexual behavior was idolatrous or not was much more important than whether it was in a monogamous heterosexual marriage or not. Romans 1 talks about homosexuality combined with idol worship. Clearly Heterosexual marriages were also condemned when combined with idol worship as well.

  • There was no need to assert “heterosexual marriage” as the norm. There is no other marriage.
    Homosexuals follow idols. Christ does not condone the sin.

  • The Bible is also clear that many heterosexuals follow idols. Jesus taught us to take the beam out our own eye, before we look at the speck in the other person’s eye.

  • If the whole world followed idols, Dan, the Lord would not change His stance on homosexuality being a sin that leads to death. Jesus came to free us from our sin.

  • No, it will always be a sin.
    Hebrews 13:8 – English Standard Version
    Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

  • Daniel, Is there such a thing as a “gay” sexual biology? Are not all gays complementary males and females?

    The sexual orientation that best corresponds to our complementary sexual biology is heterosexuality. Is that not correct?

    The issue is not who we love it is who we have sex with and the Bible is clear about who we may not have sex with is it not?

  • You insist that “one man, one woman” is the only form of marriage taught throughout the Bible. How would you interpret Deuteronomy 21:15-17 which ASSUMES and does not condemn that a man might have two wives? It states that if his true first born son is of the wife he dislikes, that this son should receive the inheritance before the son of the other wife he loves, if this son was not the first born of all. That certainly doesn’t say that “one man, one woman” is THE only Biblical form of marriage.

  • There are even Biblical references to Jesus changing his mind. What about the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:21-28 who asked Jesus to heal his daughter? Jesus initially refused, because he thought he was only sent to the lost sheep of Israel. Jesus even said that the children’s food should not be given to the dogs, which implied he thought her daughter was a little dog or kynarion- which was a bit harsh. But when the woman stated that the dogs eat the scraps that fall off of tables, Jesus changed his mind, commended the woman’s faith and healed her daughter. Wouldn’t then Jesus accept Gays on the basis of faith? Canaanites were often not well thought of by the Jews of that day. Gay people are not well thought of by most Evangelicals. There are SO many NT texts which imply that outsiders like Gentiles or Gays ARE accepted on the basis of faith.

  • It was not a commandment that Jesus should not heal her daughter.
    No, Daniel, He will not accept a homosexual on “faith”. Our faith is to be in Him, and what He taught, and He taught that He has something better than homosexuality. Having faith in Jesus is believing what He taught, hon.

  • No polygamous marriage ended well. Christ taught a man and a woman. Divorce was also allowed, but not ordained by Christ.

  • It is very clear that polygamy WAS accepted in the Old Testament. If Jesus NEVER changes his mind AND he wrote the Old Testament, then how would you square that contradiction, if in fact he meant one man one woman in the New Testament, when this is no where taught in the Old Testament?

  • Actually there WAS a command in Deuteronomy 7:1-2 to exterminate the Canaanites. Certainly there was a command not to heal them. If you read the book of Joshua, you can see how they were to be wiped out. Evangelicals often don’t obey what Christ taught. For instance, many Evangelicals not only believe in war, but they believe in the use of nuclear weapons, all contrary to what Jesus taught. They also tend to favor the rich over the poor, which is very contrary to what Jesus taught. Jesus taught us to love our enemy. How could Jesus have taught us to exterminate the Canaanites, but then say we should Love our Enemies? Remember you said Jesus WROTE the Old Testament. Is it Jesus in both places saying the opposite thing? Jesus taught us to love our neighbor and love God. Being gay doesn’t necessarily violate love of God or of neighbor. Waging nuclear war IS a violation of this love of neighbor, of God and of enemy. You don’t follow what Jesus taught about judging others, and even deny that he taught us not to, so you don’t have credibility in preaching Jesus’ teachings to others. You also deny that justice favors the underdog and the oppressed. I found one text in Deuteronomy which ties justice with concern for the poor. It is Deuteronomy 10:17-19. “For the Lord, your God, is the God of gods, the Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who has no favorites, accepts no bribes, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and befriends the alien feeding and clothing him.” That is clear that justice DOES mean caring for people who are more marginalized and more powerless, such as orphans, widows and aliens. So it clearly doesn’t mean just punishing people, but it more importantly means also standing up for the oppressed. And since God has no favorites, then why would he favor heterosexual persons over homosexual persons?

  • We were discussing the woman. Try to stay on topic, Daniel.
    Homosexuality is a sin against Christ He said not to commit that sin. Thanks.

  • Perhaps you need to read the New Testament where He repeats what He taught in the old…really Daniel…You cannot do better than this?

  • The woman was a Canaanite! You claimed there was no law against Canaanites. There WAS a law in Deuteronomy 7:1-2.

  • No. I said, “It was not a commandment that Jesus should not heal her daughter.” If you are going to quote me, at least try to be close to what I said. You make yourself look silly and desperate otherwise.

  • I understood you to mean this. If Canaanites were under a ban of extermination, certainly it would have been forbidden to heal the daughter.

  • I made a good argument that it makes no sense that Jesus would have written two different things in both Testaments.

  • No, you wished I had said that. At least try to be truthful. That is your mode of discussion. That way, you can completely veer away from the truth and reality. Homosexuality is a sin.

  • Maybe I just misphrased it a bit. Perhaps you would acknowledge there were laws against Canaanites. I would understand their being under a ban of extermination would mean they should not be healed. I wasn’t being dishonest. Please have some respect for my integrity. I am not trying to be untruthful.

  • Then how would you reconcile the ban on the seven nations in Deuteronomy 7:1-2 and Jesus’ command to Love our Enemies? Your dual claim is that Jesus wrote both Testaments AND he never changed his mind about anything.

  • a bit?
    As far as your integrity, you try to put homosexuals in Hell! That is your purpose. Try following Christ.

  • No. Again you are misrepresenting me. I maintain that Christ is the reason for the Bible . He inspired the Word of God. What is your problem?

  • No one asked you to worship heterosexuality. Again, you misrepresent me. What is your problem? (edit) I see you took your comment out. That doesn’t help your credibility either Daniel.

  • You imply that being Heterosexual is an absolute condition of salvation. I make no such claim for homosexuality. It is clear that salvation is based on “faith acting through love.” Even Rahab was Justified AS a prostitute in James 2:25.

  • If you say you follow Christ, why do you teach against what He taught? You don’t follow Christ. You pretend to in an attempt to look legitimate, Who are you trying to fool?

  • You also state we should go by what Jesus taught. I merely showed the numerous ways that you and many other Evangelicals don’t follow the teachings of Jesus.

  • You judge people all the time. Jesus clearly taught we shouldn’t judge others. Judging me by saying I don’t follow Christ IS violating a very clear teaching of Jesus. You don’t know my heart.

  • I don’t really need to say anything because you just make up what you want me to say anyway, Daniel.
    Homosexuality is a sin and Christ said several times that homosexuals will not see Heaven. Get used to it Daniel.

  • Christ taught for us to judge with righteous judgment, Daniel.
    Christians are known by their fruit. You hurt homosexuals and direct them away from Christ’s love and commands. That is not good fruit

  • Your heart is not set on following Christ’s teachings. I do know that, Daniel. We’ve been here several times before.

  • Just an insight about Sandi. She claims that everything in the Bible is what Jesus taught. According to Sandi, what Jesus taught is not confined to the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), but Jesus taught through Leviticus etc. Of course we don’t find anything about homosexuality in the Gospels.

  • We’ll start with….Leviticus 18:22 – 22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.
    Leviticus 20:13 – If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.

    Homosexuality is a component of “sexual immorality”- adultery, pedophilia, bestiality, incest, and homosexuality Homosexuals who consider themselves to be Christian are also idolators,
    Matthew 15:19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.20 These are what defile you.

    Revelation 2:20 International Standard Version (ISV)
    20 But I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet and who teaches and leads my servants to practice immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.

    Revelation 21:8 ESV
    But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

    Revelation 22: 14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. 15 But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.
    Christ also said that He will forgive and cleanse us of our sin. (edited)

  • quote me. Your authenticity is on the line here, not mine
    2 Timothy 3:16 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
    Now, you do realize that Christ is God, eh?

  • Then how come Rahab could be accepted AS a prostitute through but in your mind LGBT are not accepted no matter what?

  • What about “From his fulness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:16-17) That doesn’t sound like the law in Leviticus came from Jesus, but rather from Moses.

  • if you are here to learn, Daniel, I will help you. If you are here to make up more lies about me, and play games as you have, (I saw where you deleted your comment), then you’d be best to return to your playdoh. Your choice.

  • What lie did I tell? I didn’t delete any comment. There were some I didn’t post. You HAVE insisted that the laws about homosexuality in Leviticus and in Paul are from Jesus. Revelation does not speak about homosexuality.

  • I often edit my comments if I see grammatical errors. I often don’t see these on the first draft. It is a nice feature of disqus to allow us to make corrections after we post something.

  • So you deleted the entire comment because of a grammatical error. Please, go lie to someone else Daniel.

  • I never deleted one entire comment after I posted it, unless I did by mistake. I think I might have decided not to post one comment that was never posted.
    Is that a crime?

  • Gwen, my encouragement to you is to look further into this. What has been written includes personal views as well as scripture interwoven. It is easy to slide one direction or another and not fully look at all scripture. The bible is not meant to be studied piecemeal – looking at one verse without looking at the entire book – nor looking at the Old Testament separate from New Testament and fully understanding the difference/reason for each. Getting religious input and direction from people on the web, who we don’t know, can be dangerous. Look for someone you know personally, and talk to them about this. Validate what is right and wrong through biblical teachings. For me, I love to look at all of this and study both sides and then seek educated input. It is dangerous to get into arguments without the direction from someone who is trained in seminary.

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