"We want everyone to be able to go to church and not have to worry if they will be truly embraced... "

My name is Olivia Blackwood and I am writing to you with my mom, Markita Cooper. We’ve been long-time members of the United Methodist Church, but since I have come out as gay, I have felt more deeply the pain that so many in the LGBT community have long felt.

While the UMC does not deny membership to the LGBT community, according to the Book of Discipline, which constitutes the laws and doctrine of the UMC, the “practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” But as a faithful member of my local UMC church in Orlando and as a proud member of the LGBT community, I know this simply isn’t true. My local church has accepted and embraced me for who I fully am, and I’ve been hopeful the UMC at large will move toward inclusion, too.

But sadly in May, the UMC announced that it will take two to three years to reconsider its stance against gays in the church. We think that’s too long. It pains us to see the language in the Book of Discipline. We want everyone to be able to go to church and not have to worry if they will be truly embraced and accepted. At a minimum, we would like to see all the harmful, debasing language in the Book of Discipline erased. But we can’t do this alone.

We want to see the church embrace all God’s people in our faith without an asterisk, exclusions, and doubt, and to do that, we must come together. Because we know the UMC cannot move forward as a community if we’re not united. There is strength in numbers, and we know that there are United Methodists all over the world that stand with the LGBT community and their families.

To those in the church who have silently stood with the LGBT community, we ask that you come out of your silence and make noise for inclusion. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., "History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

If you feel the same, please sign our petition telling the UMC you want the church to stop all punishments and discriminations against the LGBT community. 

Olivia and Marita's story is part of our Voices of Change series, which highlights how people are using the platform to change their lives and the lives of those around them.