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UUMC family, pastor weigh in on Methodists' historic vote to lift anti-LGBTQ+ bans

Carolina Cordero Dyer and Claudia Glaser on their honeymoon in 2005
Carolina Cordero Byer
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Carolina Cordero Byer
Carolina Cordero Dyer and Claudia Glaser on their honeymoon in 2005. They married in Canada, before gay marriage was legalized in New York or the U.S.

Updated (6/25/24): The original audio version of the story misnamed Dee Dyer-Glaser and Carolina Cordero Dyer. Their names have been corrected.

Sitting around their dining room table in Camillus, Dee Dyer-Glaser gently teases their mothers for sometimes “dragging” them to the University United Methodist Church (UUMC) in Syracuseglazer.

The 19-year-old is an atheist, but has volunteered at the church's food pantry, and does attend services on holidays, because they know it makes their parents Claudia Glaser and Carolina Cordero Dyer happy.

“I’m very glad for all the church does," said Dyer-Glaser. "I know that's what brought you to it in the first place, and so I'm just happy for this step forward.”

That "step" is last month’s historic vote at the United Methodist Church (UMC) General Conference, to lift longstanding bans on LGBTQ+ clergy and same-sex marriages across the entire denomination.

The vote comes five years after the family of four — Dee’s twin Carmen was at work at Wegman’s at the time of the interview — joined the UUMC, after moving from New York City to Claudia Glaser’s native Syracuse.

When they arrived, Glaser and Cordero Dyer say they started “church-shopping” immediately, because a faith community is very important to them. The longtime gay rights activists were raised Catholic, but say that Church has never really worked for them. They feel more at home among Protestants.

In Syracuse, they landed at the UUMC, which is considered a reconciling congregation for its dedication to inclusivity. Cordero Dyer says one reason they love it is for its community work, “literally feeding hundreds of people every week and clothing people and extremely active in terms of social justice.”

Another is how welcoming the UUMC has been of their entire family, the members who fully embrace Christianity and those who question it.

“They embrace who you are. They embrace where you come from, there's no judgment,” said Glaser. “So you can be anyway, and in any circumstance, and you're welcome.”  

Except, until recently, if you are gay or trans and wanted to be clergy or get married in the Church. Cordero Dyer says that wasn’t easy to reconcile, especially as parts of the U.S scale back hard-won LGBTQ rights.

“It felt very strange to be in this church that we've just felt so welcoming, but to be part… of a broader congregation that didn't welcome us at all,” said Cordero Byer.

And then came May 1, 2024. Cordero Dyer shows off a text she received about the landslide vote – before the press even knew, she laughs – from UUMC’s Pastor Alicia Wood.

Wood wrote: “Did you hear that the General Conference of the United Methodist Church voted to take away harmful language towards LGBTQ folks in the Book of Discipline?”

Cordero Dyer said, “That was just great news, because okay, now we're set. Now we're set.”

For a couple who married nearly two decades ago in a Unitarian church in Canada – because they couldn’t marry legally in their own denomination or even country at the time – this sea change within their current spiritual home is a huge relief.

It is for Wood as well. “We don't have to watch what we say around LGBTQ folks. We don't have to be as careful about how open and loving we are,” said the pastor.

Wood, who has been at UUMC since 2015, says COVID disruptions played a large role in the recent changes. Prior to this year, the UMC’s last annual General Conference was in 2019, and at the time, the Church voted not to lift the LGBTQ bans.

However, a shifting tide led more conservative affiliates worldwide to leave the UMC, including more than a dozen across New York, says Wood. With fewer conservatives voting, the bans were lifted.

Though that doesn’t mean that every Methodist who remains is fully on board with the changes.

“There are about 20% who are like, ‘You know what, I'm going to try to get used to it. I'm not super comfortable with this. But I'm really going to pray about it,” says Wood, who doesn’t think that 20% are ready to leave. “I feel like they're ready to really soul search and continue to worship among us.”

Meanwhile, Wood says, no more in-fighting over LGBTQ+ issues means they can all focus on what she considers more important battles – against poverty, child hunger, homelessness.

As for Syracuse Pride, the UUMC has been participating for a long time, but this year, said Wood, “I feel like it's really special because we don't have to say ‘Yes, but.’ We can just say 'Yes.'”

For instance, to officiating a same-sex wedding, which before May would have gotten her fired. 

For the first time this year, the UUMC will have a booth at Syracuse Pride, where Wood says, they’ll greet people literally dressed like a rainbow.

“Some people have red shirts, some orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple," said Wood. "On the back it says what we chant every single time we march: God loves all."

Natasha Senjanovic teaches radio broadcasting at the Newhouse School while overseeing student journalists at WAER and creating original reporting for the station. She can also be heard hosting All Things Considered some weekday afternoons.