“Cliff Jumping in the UMC” – Rev. Rick Tate, pastor, Onalaska First United Methodist Church

I have been following Mary Ann Barclay’s story for many months now, and once again those of us who hope for full inclusion in the United Methodist Church have had their hopes dashed against the rocks of reality in this divisive moment within our beloved denomination.

I keep thinking about the scene in J.D. Salinger’s novel, THE CATCHER IN THE RYE as Holden Caulfield describes his dream about being in a field of rye near a cliff and a group of children are playing. Every once in a while a child falls off of the cliff. He said that he wanted to be the catcher in the rye to save the children from falling.

When I see brave young men and women called to ministry in the United Methodist Church and are denied their desire to pursue that calling because of their sexual orientation, it breaks my heart. I am honored to know Mary Ann, and I know she will have a wonderful future serving Christ.

Not everyone is able to be that brave and daring. Some are too old to jump off of the cliff. Others are afraid of heights and do not know what waits for them in the abyss of faith beneath them as they stand on the edge looking down and experience that spiritual vertigo of a whirling soul spinning and internalizing the struggle so deeply that their tears fall into the misty depths below them.

How many more cliff jumpers is it going to take before the United Methodist Church fulfills its calling to live up to the standard that it has created for itself – “Open hearts, open minds, open doors…the people of the United Methodist Church…making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world?”