Thursday, March 12, 2009

Remembering a Pioneer, and Champion, in Communities of Faith

The entire PFLAG family is saddened to hear of the passing of Rev. Melvin Wheatley, a tireless champion of our families and a pioneer in the movement to welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in communities of faith.

In 1982, long before most clergy even dared make positive mention of LGBT people from the pulpit or in the pews, Rev. Wheatley appointed an out gay man, Julian Rush, as associate pastor of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Denver. In response, three churches filed complaints against Wheatley, arguing that his appointment of Rush undermined “the authority of Holy Scripture.”

Rev. Wheatley simply – and powerfully – replied that, “Homosexuality is a mysterious gift of God’s grace. I clearly do not believe homosexuality is a sin.”

Rev. Wheatley passed away on March 1, at age 93, leaving behind his wife Lucile. The couple were planning to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary this June.

According to his family, Rev. Wheatley exclaimed, as they gathered by his side just days before his passing, “Thank goodness for all the love!”

All of us at PFLAG are enormously grateful for Rev. Wheatley’s love, and his courage in embracing our families and breaking down barriers in communities of faith. He will be greatly missed.

A memorial service for Rev. Wheatley has been scheduled for Sunday, March 22nd, at 3pm, at Westwood United Methodist Church, located at 10497 Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.

- Jody M. Huckaby

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