Why I stayed: 'I am proud of our effort to be a community'

Why I stayed: 'I am proud of our effort to be a community'

This is sixth in a series of stories shared by United Methodists in Holston Conference during a season of renewal in our faith tradition. Rev. Jason Mullins is pastor of St. Mark United Methodist Church and Pactolus United Methodist Church in Kingsport, Tennessee.

From the moment I entered this world, The United Methodist Church has been a part of my life. I was baptized at Trinity UMC in Wise, confirmed at Mt. Pleasant UMC in Wytheville and married to my first wife at Thompson Valley UMC in Tazewell County, Virginia. As the son of a pastor, I have had the great blessing to be a part of 15 different Holston congregations. So many memories of my childhood are tied into the UMC.
When I was 20, I first realized God had placed a call to ministry in my heart. It is a calling that I ran from for nearly 25 years. But after leaving the UMC for the Episcopal Church a few years back, I began to feel the Holy Spirit drawing me back home to be a minister.
In 2015, I was received as a full member within an Episcopal parish. On that day when the Bishop of the East Tennessee Diocese welcomed me to the church, something happened which eventually led to my return to the UMC. As I stood there at the front of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, I happened to find that I was the only heterosexual in the group of young men being welcomed to the parish. In that moment, I realized just how important it is for a church to be a place where all are welcome to be a part of the family of God.
Over the following years, I watched events transpire within The United Methodist Church. For the first time, I watched from the outside looking in. As my call to ministry continued to grow, I also grappled with the realization that the UMC was forever going to change.
After much prayer and watching in awe as the Holy Spirit worked a path forward for me, I returned to The United Methodist Church and answered God’s calling. In March 2022, I received my first ministerial appointment. Four months later, I picked up a second church to serve.
Throughout my life, it has always been a source of comfort to know that each United Methodist church can share so many things – a theology, a commonality in worship, and a history – but at the same time allow for so much diversity. The community of a small country church can be much different than that of the so-called “big city church.”
Each church has a different history and a different way to express worship. But in the 239 years that have passed since that 1784 Christmas Conference in Baltimore, we have always been a denomination that places a combined emphasis on sharing the Good News of God’s grace through Jesus Christ and sharing God’s love through mission and social justice.
Have we always done it perfectly? Have we always lived our mission to love and serve God and our neighbor? Absolutely not. But I am proud of our denomination and, with the help of God, I am proud of our continued effort to be a community where people of all races, nationalities, genders, sexual orientations and political affiliations can gather for worship and fellowship.
Before anything else, I am a Christian. But for me, The United Methodist Church is the best representation of what it means to live out my faith. I already left once. So, no matter what community of believers I am called to serve in the coming years, I know I’ll have a church home, right here, in The United Methodist Church.


Other stories in this series:
Part 1: Vickie Rogers - "I took my membership vows seriously"
Part 2: Rev. Sam Dzobo - "I experienced amazing, amazing love"
Part 3: Tracy Gormley - "I don't think we should be excluding anybody"
Part 4: Joanna Corvin - "Our faith is ingrained in how we live"
Part 5: Eli Bray - "I believe God is calling me to serve here"

If you are a member of a disaffiliating congregation who wishes to stay in the UMC, please visit the Invitation Team's web page for resources designed for you.

If you wish to share your "Why I Stayed" story, please email thecall@holston.org. Holston Conference includes member churches in East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and North Georgia, with main offices in Alcoa, Tennessee. Sign up for a free email subscription to The Call.