Point Loma Nazarene University entrance. Image via pointloma.edu.

My connection to the Church of the Nazarene is lifelong. I was raised in the church, educated at one of its universities, employed at Nazarene university and church levels, and ordained as a ministerial elder in 2016.

In March 2020, I gave up my associate pastor role at San Diego First Church of the Nazarene, doing extremely meaningful work with a community I deeply love, to give myself the needed space to contemplate my relationship with the denomination.

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Though the church made strides in its 2017 revision of its manual document regarding those in the LBGTQIA+ community, I was increasingly discontented with the tension between the church’s overall position regarding human sexuality and my own convictions.

My firm belief, informed by my faith, is that God’s love is truly for all people. I am thoroughly affirming of the LGBTQIA+ community. I love the story and mission of Jesus Christ and equally grieve at how religion is used to harm and control people.

In 2021, I relinquished my ordination credentials to be able to live more fully in a sense of personal and professional integrity and to accept a pastoral position at Normal Heights United Methodist Church, an open and affirming church. This was the right — and painful — decision for me.

In stepping down, I retained a status of “good standing” with the Church of the Nazarene, signifying faithfulness to the tasks of ministry free from disciplinary action.

Since 2015, I have been a member of the adjunct pool for Point Loma Nazarene University’s School of Theology and Christian Ministry, teaching courses like Global Christianity and Christian Ministry as Vocation.

Because of family obligations, I chose not to teach in Fall 2022 or Spring 2023, but believed myself to be in excellent standing at the university and expected to return to teaching any of the courses I’d previously taught.

Aware and appreciative of the diversity of experiences and backgrounds of other professors at PLNU, I did not perceive any conflict in continuing to teach at the university after leaving my job at the Nazarene church.

In January 2023, I was informed that I would no longer be allowed to teach for PLNU because of my “progressive views on human sexuality.” I was deeply disappointed.

What I agreed to as an adjunct per my contract was to “respect and support” the covenant of the school, which contains a statement rejecting sexual relationships outside of heterosexual marriage. I upheld this contract with full integrity; I did so by not explicitly sharing my views with my students in the classroom setting, which is consistent with my pedagogical practice regardless of subject matter.

Dean Mark Maddix has now been fired from PLNU as a result of his involvement in my dismissal from the adjunct pool. There is so much loss to grieve. I willingly gave up my church job and ordination, but at high cost professionally, financially and relationally.

And in not being able to teach at PLNU, I grieve the loss of precious connections and life-giving work. But that is a small cost in comparison to those in the queer community who have grown up in religious spaces that have communicated they are outside of God’s love and minimized their connection to the divine.

Queer people have been ostracized from families, friends and churches — those they loved and trusted the most. The toll this takes on mental, physical and emotional health is incalculable. We have lost far too many people who have ended their lives as a result of such trauma.

In sharing this, I am naming the discrimination I’ve experienced. I was blocked from teaching because of my beliefs. If this level of exclusion is going to continue, it is important that anyone involved with the university in any capacity is aware of what has taken place.

I also appeal to those who have the power and capacity within these institutions to work for justice and safety — so that we all can thrive.

Melissa Tucker is minister of congregational care, children and youth at Normal Heights United Methodist Church. A version of this essay originally appeared at Tierra Spiritual Care.