First United Methodist Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin will publicly apologize this weekend to a reverend who was outed and forced to leave in 1981.
The church will offer the apology to Reverend Kevin Johnson during its Weekend of Reconciliation.
It is thought to be the first time since a 1972 decree that homosexuality “is incompatible with Christian teaching” that a Methodist church has publicly reconciled with a reverend.
Now living in Palm Springs, California, Johnson told the Desert Sun:
“More years have passed since my dismissal than my age when I first entered the church’s doors.
“Their 1981 rejection devastated my career dreams. I had to build a new life in the business world.
“For years, it was very difficult for me to be a part of a church organization. It was very difficult for the first decade after. I barely went to church at all. I had lost all confidence in human beings who claimed to be loving persons in the Christian church.”
Jessica DeBoer, a member of the church’s Reconciling Committee, said First United has made a commitment to welcoming everyone as equals.
“It’s very exciting,” DeBoer said. “I think as more people know about it, it will help bring people in. It’s really important that we welcome everybody.”
“This is absolutely a huge part of our past as a church family,” she added. “It was the elephant in the room, especially now that we have openly become this accepting congregation.”