The United Methodist Church is in the national news, in a way that is painful to many of us. We weep with our LGBTQ sisters and brothers, who have been told by the denomination that they are somehow unworthy of full acceptance and participation. Great damage has been done to the body of Christ, for we are not complete without each one of you, for each one of us is God’s beloved.
A worldwide gathering of the United Methodist Church met this week to clarify our policies on homosexuality. Different legislative options were offered, and the Traditional Plan passed with 438 yes votes (384 no votes). Other options would have allowed local churches to choose their stance on sexuality for themselves, or would have organized the church along theological lines rather than by geographical conferences.
The Traditional Plan continues to exclude LGBTQ persons from marriage and pastoral leadership in the UMC, and adds punitive measures to enforce adherence to statements added to our Book of Discipline in years since 1972. (The Book of Discipline contains the law and doctrine of the UMC; it can be edited or amended by delegates elected to attend General Conferences, like the special one held in St. Louis this week.)
We have work to do, as we respond to this news. As a local church community, we will hold congregational meetings on three Sunday afternoons in March: March 10, 17 and 24, from 4:30-6pm. Pastor Dan, Bill Rust, and myself will facilitate these gatherings to hear your concerns, explore what the Scripture says about homosexuality, and discuss our vision for our church. Do we want to become a reconciling congregation, that openly welcomes all people? We recognize we are a diverse congregation with varying opinions on this topic, and we invite all to attend, listen, and share their perspective. Please join us for as many of these three gatherings as you can. Your input is needed.
Pastor Dan and I are here to listen and be with you in every way we can. We do not have a lot of answers to questions about what exactly this legislative action will mean and how it will be enforced. As we learn more, we will be sharing that information with you.
Finally, hear this church! We will hold worship on Sunday, and we welcome all. We will embrace our gay, lesbian, bi, transgender and gender fluid members and friends. We will gather to explore Scripture, for it continues to speak to us. We will stand and sing the hymns of faith, knowing that each voice matters.
My prayer is that we follow the way of Christ, loving God and each other. May we treat each other with great kindness, aware that each person we meet is created and cherished by God. Together we will repair the brokenness in our hearts, in our congregation, and in our Church. We have work to do, as people on a journey with God—mind, body and soul.
One day, one prayer, at a time –
Pastors Kim Risedorph and Dan Sturdivant