Methodist group explains import​ance of acceptance


Sam Burton speaks to Jaq Jefcoat (left) and Brenry Bleware (right). Photo by Lauryn Bohn.

Photo by Lauryn Bohn

The United Methodist Church voted in February to ban not only same-sex marriage but also LGBTQ+ clergy members, and that has left some in the community to oppose the decision, including in Mississippi.

Mississippi Sojourn, formerly known as the Kansas 10, stopped in Hattiesburg at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute located at the Peck House in Southern Miss, for their second meeting since forming to share spread awareness and share the stories of participating members of the LGBTQ+ community.

“Many of us were deeply hurt, disappointed and saddened by the decision by the church to affirm the traditional plan, which meant the exclusion of openly gay pastors in the church and also the refusal to perform gay weddings in the church,” professor of philosophy and religion at Southern Miss Sam Bruton, who attended the first meeting of the Mississippi Sojourn in Jackson, said.

Mississippi Sojourn formed in response to the decision the United Methodist Church made in regards to uphold traditional laws banning LGBTQ+ clergy and same-sex marriage. Ten Mississippians came together to form the group and had their first meeting in Jackson, which boasted 150 attendees.

This event was also used as a drafting and learning experience for Mississippi Sojourn. Papers were given to each person in attendance that held the mission statement and guiding principles of the group.

“We aspire to follow Christ’s example by affirming, welcoming and expressing love to ALL people, including people with any sexual orientation or gender identity, and are committed to strengthening the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church by being in ministry together,” the statement read.

Bruton, who is also a member of Parkway Heights United Methodist Church, said he was happy with the turnout and discussion the event brought but is afraid for the future of his church.

“A lot of methodists are just done with the church’s backwardness on this issue,” Bruton said. “They’re ready to move on, and if the church is not coming with them, one big concern is that the bigger church may come flying apart.”

French and English double major Brenry Boleware said he is nervous to tell his story but feels it is important to share his experience to help put growing up as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

“I’m a little nervous,” he said. “I haven’t really spoken about my coming out story before and what I went through being a young gay, but I am looking forward to it.”

Gender and Sexualities Alliance president and senior English major with licensure Jaq Jefcoat, along with two other members of the GSA and a member of the Hattiesburg Methodist community gave their experiences, answered questions and took time to explain some issues during the meeting, but the major focus of the meeting was on acceptance.

“[Mississippi Sojourn] asked the GSA to come speak and give a student perspective on what it is to be in the [LGBTQ+] community and how we can help educate others about it,” Jefcoat, who is transgender, said.

Jefcoat spoke to the crowd about his identity as a transgender man and how he grew up in the Southern Baptist church community. He said he was nervous yet excited to speak.

“It feels nice [to change minds], but at the same time, it is also uncomfortable remembering the past,” Jefcoat said

He said it is worth speaking about his past in order to help people in the present.

 After the speakers concluded, there was a Q&A portion for the night where many members affirmed their support of the community to the speakers as well as asked clarifying questions.

Bruton praised the speakers for their powerful stories and the strength they had in sharing them.

“The speakers we had were so moving and so impressive,” Burton, who helped organize the event, said. “There personal stories really hit home. My brother is an openly gay man, and I grieve for him knowing the heartache and hurt he has suffered from not only our church but our nation as a whole. [It] is just not where it should be.”

This story has been edited to correct the spelling of Sam Bruton’s name, which was misspelled as Burton.