Friday, July 20, 2012

Guest Article: Why I'm Leaving the United Methodist Church (by Artie Van Why)

Today I have the privilege of featuring a guest post from the amazingly talented Artie Van Why, a current member of the United Methodist Church who is choosing to parts ways with a church to which he has been loyal. A bit about Artie from his Website... following Asbury College in KY, Artie moved to New York City. His stage performances include Jesus in 'Godspell' and Snoopy in 'You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown'. In June of 2001, his office moved across the street from the World Trade Center. He reported to work as usual on the morning of September 11th. Artie began writing about his experience on 9/11 and the weeks that followed. Artie wrote and produced a staged reading in New York City of a play called 'That Day in September'. The reading made its debut to a sold-out crowd and was presented in many other venues. Artie now lives in Lancaster County, PA. In June 2006, Artie self-published the book version of That Day in September. Artie speaks publicly whenever given the opportunity, and his script is available for production.

If you would like to share your story on my Website, please email me at


I was raised a Methodist and have been a loyal member of my current UM church, but I am leaving the denomination. I am leaving because I’m gay and I’ve finally had enough of the denomination’s pretense of welcoming the gay community.

It’s time someone called the denomination on its blatant doublespeak, so I will gladly step up to the plate.

“Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.” is the denomination’s seemingly ingenuous welcoming catch phrase. However, when it comes to the gay community the denomination's heart, mind and door is only open to us if we play by their rules.

The “rule book” for the denomination is its Book of Discipline (which includes, among other things, the church’s doctrine, theology and social principals). In the Book’s section on homosexuality it says that “all persons are individuals of sacred worth” (which, I would assume, includes gay individuals). Even so, it appears a gay person’s sacred worth really isn’t worth that much.

We are welcome to sit in the pews of UM churches. We just aren’t allowed to preach from their pulpits. Well, we can; but only if we don’t acknowledge or, as the Book of Discipline puts it, “self-avow” that we are “practicing” our homosexuality.

I bristle at the misuse of that word in referring to gay people. When do you ever hear anything about heterosexuals practicing their straightness?

I wish the denomination would just come out and say what they really mean. They don’t want gay people having sex.

A celibate gay person = good. An unchaste gay person = bad.

What the denomination fails to recognize is that in telling us we can’t “practice” (or be) who we are, they are telling us that we can never have romantic love in our lives; forgetting that love is more than just sex. There are the emotional, mental and spiritual intimacies two people in love develop. The memories made; the joys and sorrows shared.

I want to ask the denomination, if I were to commit my life to another man and if we were to live together for 30 years; for better or for worse, in sickness and in health and never, ever once made love would we be considered non-practicing homosexuals? Would we be okay in the UM Church’s eyes? Or does the denomination’s definition of practice include those above mentioned gifts a loving relationship brings beyond just the physical? Are we being told that we are not allowed to love or be loved? That we don’t deserve it?

The United Methodist Church will gladly accept our tithes and offerings yet they reject our relationships and legal marriages.

According to the Book of Discipline, the denomination “insist[s] that all persons, regardless of age, gender, marital status, or sexual orientation, are entitled to have their human and civil rights ensured.” Why, then, isn’t the United Methodist Church at the forefront of defending our civil (not religious) right of marriage equality?

The UMC can’t have it both ways. They are either for us or against us. Doesn’t the Bible say something about those being neither hot nor cold but lukewarm being spit out?

The denomination’s campaign of open hearts, open minds and open doors is deceptive and hypocritical; nothing more than a marketing ploy. Perhaps the following would be a more honest appraisal of the United Methodist Church.

Closed Hearts to the hurt inflicted on gay men and women by not affirming their relationships or their right to marriage.

Closed Minds to the very thought that God might bless and sanction loving, committed gay relationships.

Closed Doors to gay families that wish to be validated, respected and assured they are equal to "traditional" families.

The UMC says “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” I think the way the denomination treats its gay members is just as incompatible. So, I am taking my leave and will find a church that won’t mind me “practicing” my gayness.

-Artie Van Why, Lancaster, PA


  1. Thanks for posting this article, Andy. It makes me both angry with the denomination and sad for Artie and for us all as we lose a faithful, self-avowed, practicing Christian to another denomination. I know we are losing many who are not able to speak up in the way Artie did and so his voice speaks for others too. I don't want to post anonymous, but don't know what my "url" is!! So, this is from Anne Burkholder, at Candler School of Theology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA!

  2. Thank you for sharing your story, Artie. I pray for a day that the umc stops drawing fuzzy lines, or any lines at all between God's children.

  3. Artie, before you step too far away, please take a look at the Church Within A Church Movement. This Movement was born in response to the overt discrimination of LGBTQ people in the UMC. We are celebrating our 10th anniversary this october in chicago. We ordain people the UMC won't. We start progressive faith communities. We write progressive, inclusive worship resources. Please consider this Methodist-related Movement BEing the fully inclusive and just church. The spirit is moving here and we are ready to greet you. cathy knight, executive director and former member of the UMC.

  4. Andy & Artie, I'd like to reprint this post on United Methodist Insight Please let me know if you're OK with that. My email is

  5. I feel for you Andy & Artie. Although I disagree with what you stand for. But I respect you as a person. The UMC has stereotype people and cast them aside. I know because I am one who have been marginalized and denied my candidacy. The sad thing about it I am not gay. They have denied my candidacy and will not give me a valid reason why I am being denied. They only say we fill you have a call on your life but it is not what we are looking for. What they told me I am not a good fit. Is that a joke or is it a joke? The UMC need to check itself out and stop judging. The bible say do not judge if you do not want to be judge. I wish you God's speed Artie. How about reading Romans 1:26-29,