I wanted to give you an update on the Special Session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church and a policy regarding our neighbors who identify as, and/or support, LGBTQ+.
The General Conference of The United Methodist Church — a legislative body of 864 people from around the world — voted during a special session of General Conference to uphold the current Book of Discipline, our denomination’s book of law and polity, regarding the prohibition of same-gender weddings and ordination of LGBTQ persons. Some people celebrated this decision while others, including me, experienced immense pain. Today I ask us all to pause and say a prayer for all people harmed by this decision.
This decision was harmful to our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers, their parents, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, and friends and many tears have been shed.
It’s important to note that The United Methodist Church is a global denomination. So, while this issue may be playing out right now in the United States, the delegates who vote these matters are clergy and laity not only from the U.S. but also Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe and Russia. In some of those places, homosexuality is illegal, punishable by fines, time in prison, or even death. Those factors play a role, of course along with interpretations of scriptures, as votes are cast. And this general conference matter remains to be settled because of questions related to the constitutionality of this recent decision and resolve from people seeking full inclusion.
In the United States, some people take a literal interpretation of scripture just as some people see the Bible as the inspired word of God with many nuances that must be interpreted based on changes in society. Many congregations of The United Methodist Church have been and will continue to be fully welcoming to LGBTQ+ persons.
Neighbors is committed to continuing the work to make a lasting impact in our community. We will continue to love God, love ourselves and love our neighbors. All neighbors. Regardless of the General Conference outcome, Neighbors will continue to accept and celebrate All of God’s people. We will continue to work toward growth and the goal of becoming a self-sustaining church that promotes and lives out, Love, Inclusion, Transparency, Accessibility, Purposefulness, Genuineness and Advocacy.
Before I became a pastor, I was a member of another church in our community. They were known for their contemporary music, youth programming and a pastor that was loved by many. They continue to grow to this day. Sadly, they also have a belief that matches the decision recently made by General Conference. Their solution to people who identify as LGBTQ+, is that they should change who they are, through celibacy and avoidance, as well as a variety of therapies.
I do not agree with this because I do not feel a “solution” is in need. I believe that God loves us all just as we are.
On a personal note, I grew up in a home with a relative that identified as lesbian. Through her, I saw love and kindness. I saw blessings and grace and will be forever grateful to have her in my life. It was through this relative, that I first heard of Jesus Christ.
I have said this before, and I repeat it because I still believe it. The world needs Neighbors Church. In today’s world, there are many examples of darkness. We can still be an example of light. We can continue to be a place where All people experience the loving grace of Jesus Christ.
Today, I again ask you to pray for Neighbors Church. Pray that we continue to grow. Not so we can boast about our numbers, but so we can build a community of love and kindness for all people. A church that truly feeds the poor in hunger and in spirit. A church that shows the world what Jesus Christ is really about.
Whoever you are, you are welcomed, appreciated, accepted, celebrated and loved here.
And Neighbors needs you.