Mar 21 2012

United Methodist Layperson Addresses Sexuality Issue

Artie Van Why is a United Methodist layperson in Pennsylvania. His story is like many — he spent many years away from God and the church, but after surviving the horror of the World Trade Center disaster (he worked across the street from the buildings) he found himself searching for God, and when he moved from New York to Lancaster, PA, he found himself drawn to the First United Methodist Church of Lancaster. In the early days he was reticent to share that he was a gay man, but he became more involved in the life of the church, he shared his identity with others in the church who loved and embraced him. He eventually joined the church, and is part of new ministry in the church called the Sacred Worth Team, which is designed to open up space for conversation about sexuality among members of the church.

In the movement toward General Conference, Van Why and his friend and mentor, Pastor Bill Cherry, attended a listening session held by the delegation of the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference. First UMC Lancaster has submitted petitions to the General Conference asking for changes in language about sexual orientation in the Book of Disciples, and Van Why and Cherry wanted to share a statement about the issue to the 100 or so people in attendance.

“I have to be honest and say I wasn’t prepared for some of the reactions and discussion,” Van Why said. “There were certainly supportive people present but I heard some of, what I consider, hateful words about the gay community.  I knew there was a divide in the denomination but never really comprehended the reality of it till that Listening Session.  I left quite discouraged and disheartened.  There’s a part of me that questions if I want to stay with the denomination.  But there is also a part of me that wants to be an agent of change; if that is even possible.”

Van Why has published his statement to the listening session at http://gayandum.blogspot.com/. It’s his hope that it can be a starting point for conversation about how the United Methodist Church addresses the concerns of the gay community.

For more information on the ministries of the First United Methodist Church of Lancaster, PA, please visit http://www.engagegodfirst.org/



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  1. James Lung

    Mr. Van Why apparently believes the opening paragraph of the Discipline statement contains hurtful words because it only affirms fidelity in faithfulness in a traditional marriage. Where would one start in a open and loving diaglogue with Mr. Van Why? I would recommend Bp. Timothy Whitaker’s thoughtful article on the subject. As we grow in our relationship with Christ, we learn the Christian understanding of what it is to be a human being. We are body, soul, and spirit, and the body we ensoul is a sexed body. Homosexual and heterosexual are adjectives, and can never define even a portion of the essence of what it means to be a human person.

  2. John Leek

    Why does this particular article continue to be featured? It offers nothing new and the author doesn’t appear to accept comments or discussion on his website.

    1. jvoorhees

      The bottom half of the front page is not “featured” articles, but simply the two most recent articles or updates published. The reason that the story on Mr.Van Why’s statement is there is simply because we haven’t submitted another story to replace it. It should be going away soon. As for his unwillingness to accept comments, that is his decision and something for which we have no control over.

      1. John Leek

        Thanks for the clarification Jay. :)

  3. d

    You walked into a frustrated Christian Community when you walked in after your 9-11 experience. The Christian Church, across denominational lines, has been split on the issue of practicing homosexuality for 40 years.
    I agree with you the church is double minded and talks double talk when the issue of homosexuality is addressed. If I were in your shoes I too would be confused. The UMC is wishy washy on a lot of issues. Abortion, divorce, homosexuality, who can be a member of the church and who cannot are all issues of dispute.

    One issue is how to minister to the homosexual and stay true to scripture.
    Is scripture the ultimate authority?
    Is the Bible inspired?
    Why are we quick to embrace “Saved by Grace” , “Love your neighbor”, and “Gods love for man” but reject the condemnation by God of certain activities that do not fit our personal convictions?

    The quotes from scripture you quote are taken out of context.
    Pulling scripture out of context causes confusion that is why Gods directive is to place “Learned” in the pulpit. Those full of understanding of scripture.
    That the Christian Church falls way short on.

    Here is one example:
    Why did Paul tell husbands to “love your wife” and women respect your husband’.? Seems like a silly thing to say UNLESS you know what drove Paul to address that issue.

    The debate on this issue will continue.
    The church will fall on one side or the other.
    The church is frustrating everyone by the way they are handling the issues.
    It will cause a split one way or the other.

    The church talks a lot about “love of neighbor”.
    Some think that includes accepting the sin of the neighbor without question.
    Some don’t.
    When considering love of neighbor I think we should take a look at what that really means.

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