Meet Wesley White

Note: This article was first in our January 2015 newsletter.

wesleyIt has been a distinct pleasure to be present as the Board of the LGBT Resource Center for the Seven Rivers Region has shifted location and name (The Center: 7 Rivers LGBTQ Connection). Every transition has its rocky moments. This is true in birthing as well as in organization redevelopment. But as Dag Hammarskjöld wrote as a part of the larger context of life, “For all that has been, Thank you. For all that is to come, Yes!” And so a Thank you to Roseanne for her years of care, Cindy for needed changes and vision, Jackson for new eyes and engaged hopes, and all the Board members I served with who each added their part.

My time here as a privileged straight, white, male was a continuation of nearly 50 years of participation in ally advocacy for my LGBTQ(…) sisters and brothers. My journey began with a family open to new members through foster care and in college years (1961–66) with the intersection of religion and society (campus ministry and sociology) that crystalized a whole range of connections between race and gender and economic inequality and the list goes on. The LGBTQ connection became experientially clearest for me in seminary as I lived for 3 years with the presence and stories of outspoken gay and lesbian students.

As a United Methodist pastor ordained in 1971 only to find my denomination formally instituting categorical discrimination against “homosexuals” in its book of rules in 1972, it was clear I needed to decide which side I was on. We had finally ended our official discrimination regarding race in 1968 only to find it break out again in regard to sexuality. Since then I’ve preached about gender identity (its positives and the harm of discrimination) from the pulpit and willingly officiated even while my denomination has a rule against marrying people of the same gender (rules are not the last word in the mystery of relationships). My work has also been to change my denomination’s discriminatory rules by being elected as a delegate to vote against them, working as an editor of a social justice advocacy group within the church to advocate against these rules, and in recent years, as part of Love Prevails, a group committed to disrupting the decision-making processes of the The United Methodist Church until we join Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and United Church of Christ denominations in again ridding ourselves of a false and harmful biblical literalism.

Working at the national and international levels of church discrimination has needed grounding in local lives. I was pleased when invited to join the Board. I found the care for members of the LGBTQ community and the advocacy for their basic human rights of the Resource Center to be right on target. The advocacy work of The Center has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, even as we continue to nurture and care for LGBTQ youth and elders, and we are now the go-to resource for media outlets regarding the LGBTQ community.

My time with The Center has helped me grow in appreciation and affection for all those represented by additional letters that have been added (LGBTTIQQ2SAA) and will be added (…) in days to come. Each one represents a way of encountering the world based on the reality of people’s lives, not some ideal model in somebody’s head. I am glad for the way The Center continues to “be real” and live with people in their particular way of living in a world filled with valuable intersections that can help us build a more compassionate community.

Although the time has come for my time on the Board to end, I will continue to support the excellent work The Center is doing and look forward to where the coming and future Boards will guide our common work of rejoicing in the lives we have as well as in the lives of others that enhance and stretch our own. I’ve already invested in my 2015 membership and contributed to a matching fund grant and hope you have, too.

Again, for everyone and everything that has brought The Center to this moment, Thank you. And, for all the shifts and changes The Center will go through to stay relevant to real lives, Yes!