By Allison Trussell
FLORENCE—Members of the Reconciling Ministries of South Carolina met for breakfast June 8 to share their stories and discuss future events.
Dr. Jim Lane, co-chair of the group, noted that they have two new groups since last year: Misfits Sunday School Class of Faith United Methodist Church, Seneca; and Friends and Seekers Sunday School Class of Inman UMC, Inman. In addition, he said, they are working with the conference Connectional Ministries to hold educational trainings in the coming year.
“A Place at the Table: SC Stories of Reconciliation” was distributed to the large crowd and five of the contributors shared their stories.
The Rev. Wylie Cooper, retired member, shared his relationship with Richard, a gay man he worked with while at the Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program in Washington. Richard and his partner faced the horror of AIDS, and Richard eventually died. At his funeral, his assistant, who had been close to him, asked Cooper if Richard was in hell. “Finally, I heard my voice asking, ‘Do you love your little boy?’ Her shocked answer: ‘You know that I love my boy more than my life.’ ‘Do you think God loves his child Richard any less?’
Lynn Shirley shared how though he had grown up in the Presbyterian Church, he joined Washington Street UMC, Columbia, 13 years ago. Part of the reason he has stayed is because “this United Methodist church DOES operate under the principle that ALL means ALL.”
The Rev. Warren Ashmore shared his family’s experience with his oldest child. Ashmore admitted he has struggled with the church’s statement that a person cannot be a Christian and homosexual. In 2013, his oldest child told him and his wife that he felt he was a woman born into a male body. They were both surprised, having seen no evidence of his struggle, but were adamant that the child is and would always be a loved member of the family.
A lost sanctuary is how Wayne Hall describes the United Methodist Church. After reading the Book of Discipline, “My sanctuary came crashing down around me and was replaced with fear and paranoia.” As a child bullied in school, he was dismayed to read that the “Methodists shared a similar hatred for me as the bullies at school.”
The Rev. Ellen Younker shared her story of Joe, a man dying of AIDS who needed a huge miracle to believe in God. She was unable to persuade him in her first visit, but upon her second one, he told her he’d gotten a phone call from God himself. While it turned out to be his friend Doug, Joe said, “It WAS Doug, but it WAS also really God! I got my BIG MIRACLE!” She shared the story at Joe’s memorial service weeks later, and a young man introduced himself as Doug.
“We are reminded every time we read from Paul’s Letter to the Romans that there are no barriers, human-made or otherwise, to the love of God,” she said. “The world has enough ‘Haters’—instead, I suggest, we should try to be ‘Doug!’”