A Pastor’s Change of Heart

Pastor Nick Talbott serves as pastor of University UMC in Salina, KS. Prior to that, he served as pastor of Stockton and Woodston UMCs in the Hays District. 

Easter Sunday 1997: a man with a voice so deep I can still remember the bellowing sound looked my Dad square in the eyes and said, “You are aware the church is open more than one day a year.” We never went back. That was the extent of my childhood church experience. We went on Easter and sometimes Christmas, I knew that Jesus was a baby and that somehow he rose from the dead. I vaguely remember songs with lyrics I didn’t understand, and being asked to eat flesh and blood. Church was creepy, but intriguing.
My Junior year of high school, I started attending a youth group with some of my friends. The church was behind our house and I quickly became a regular attender.  I loved it!  Church was life changing for me, it came at a time in my life I desperately needed it. After years at this church, getting married, and having kids, I had some friction with Southern Baptist Theology. In a conversation with my wife, she informed me that not all churches think the same way. I was floored!
I set on a quest to find a denomination that was more inclusive. I sought a place where my daughter could be everything I could be. That led me to the United Methodist Church. I landed in what we now call a Traditional UMC. The pastor and congregation of this church taught me about open hearts, open minds, and open doors. It was a perfect fit, it was a church that I wanted my kids to grow up in.
I entered the UMC at a very difficult and divisive time. The argument about inclusion was heating up as we entered the 2012 General Conference. I toed the party line of the church I was attending and serving. I believed the Bible was very clear, and I was not going to change. In the next four years I would go from church member, to church employee, to a licensed local pastor.
The 2016 General Conference was instrumental in my change of heart. It was like a soap opera that I could not stop watching. For days I was glued to the computer screen. I noticed my heart began to change. I saw first hand the harm that was being done.  I entered the UMC because it was a place of open hearts, open minds, and open doors. I now saw myself as someone closing doors, and realized I needed to stop.
Since May 20th, 2016, I have been on a journey. I have read, studied, listened, and prayed. I still have more work to do, but I am a Local Pastor in the Great Plains Conference fully committed to seeing the full inclusion of all of God’s people in the UMC. To those I have harmed with my previous understandings, I am sorry and ask for forgiveness. To those still being harmed, know that you are loved and are not alone.