Central Illinois man on path to Church leadership breaks barriers within United Methodist Church
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) – Earlier this year, a local United Methodist Church district committee confirmed that a gay man is a candidate for the ordained ministry.
Isaac Simmons, a native of Peoria and a Wesleyan student from Illinois, said the decision made history in the church and was the first step in a long process.
Simmons said the approval was lifesaving and vital for himself and for other members of the LGBTQ community. Hope United Methodist Church in Bloomington, where Simmons attends, is an inclusive church.
“When we created Hope Church, our main goal was that we wanted this place to be a place for absolutely everyone,” said Rev. Dr. Jennie Edwards Bertrand.
Homosexuality is a controversial topic and it is something that The United Methodist Church is considering breaking up and creating a new traditional denomination. But Simmons breaks down barriers within the Methodist Church.
“This is a historic first for the neighborhood, as an openly gay man. Currently, The United Methodist Church says that a self-proclaimed practicing homosexual is incompatible with the teachings of Christ and therefore cannot go to ministry, ”said Simmons.
But with the approval of the local church’s district committee, Simmons is now on the path to leadership.
“They say this person is called to ministry and has our approval to receive United Methodist support financially and otherwise,” said Simmons.
Simmons said he didn’t expect the church’s blessing.
“It means so much to be seen and validated, not only to me, but to all the LGBT gays who come after me and who came before me,” Simmons said.
His beliefs brought him closer to religion and guided him on his path to leadership.
“My faith and understanding of God calls me to be a part of it; be part of the change and participate in the creation of spaces where everyone, whatever their identity [or] directions, can be and exist without even an idea of “Am I welcome here?” Simmons said.
The way he discovered the Church of Hope is quite unique.
“That’s funny. It happened at a drag show,” Simmons said.
Now drag is a passion, and Ms. Penny Cost, a drag character Simmons, may be the first certified drag queen in The United Methodist Church.
“Expect to be a little pushed in your understanding of what the church can be,” Simmons said.
Songs, sermons and spirituality while wearing wigs and full makeup on Hope Church’s inaugural “Dredge Sunday” in April is also a way of reclaiming the faith.
“Being able to see yourself in a system that celebrates a divine, allows you to see the divine within you,” Penny said.
Simmons said he wants other members of the LGBTQ community to know that they are loved as well.
“No matter how you are in life, wherever you are, who you are, whatever you identify as, you are enough,” said Simmons.