Growing the Kin-dom at Glendale


Growing the Kin-dom at Glendale

In 2017, Glendale UMC nearly closed its doors. A far cry from its former glory in the 1950s-1960’s, the congregation had dwindled to 25 worshipers on an average Sunday. Its leadership decided that, in order to survive, the church would need a transformation.

So, Glendale decided to break the rules about change in church. They melted down the idols of “how we’ve always done things” and “who we have always been” in exchange for a more authentic representation of God’s love to the community around them.

The people of Glendale made rapid logistical and programming adjustments. But most importantly, the community created a new welcome message of intentional inclusivity.

Like many other churches who’ve experienced new life, Glendale found that not everyone was willing to stay for the journey. Over the next 6 months, nearly a third of the church’s membership left, citing that Glendale had gotten “too political.” However, that loss broke the remaining chains restraining this community. 

Life After the Vote

Traditionalists commonly say that inclusive and affirming churches are dying. That we’re not growing. That we’re not doing anything to ‘build the Kingdom.’ But they’re wrong. Also, we don’t use the word ‘kingdom’ at Glendale. We use the word kin-dom, and we are building the kin-dom of God that includes all people seeking to find a connection and a spiritual home. Despite what they say, we are growing in number and more importantly, in our reach to provide safe space for people to explore and deepen their faith in God in community.

– Steven Kyle Adair

In 2019, Glendale voted unanimously to become a Reconciling Ministry. “We had already become affirming,” said Glendale member Steven Kyle Adair. “But that was our official commitment to the community: to speak out, to act, to put our faith and mission into action.”

2019 Reconciling Decision Day, Glendale UMC

Today, Glendale’s community includes almost 200 active individuals, with 150 new members joining since the 2017 relaunch. People of all gender identities and sexual orientations are attracted to Glendale’s explicit inclusion and its dedication to creating an authentic safe environment for all. 

“We’re mostly made up of people who have been hurt or excluded by the Church, typically in more conservative denominations” Steven states. “A lot of people were out of the Church for years before they stepped back in. They’ve found Glendale to be that safe space to start growing in their faith and to find community again.”

The Greater Tennessee Climate

While the community at Glendale UMC has flourished since 2017, the same cannot be said for LGBTQ+ inclusion in the larger community. As Steven puts it, “ In Tennessee. It’s a struggle here politically and even culturally outside of the Metro Nashville area.”  The community at Glendale continues to support and stand with its LGBTQ+ members, even as the state turns against them. “Our members meet with legislators and testify in committee meetings against harmful legislation. We march on the state Capitol. We get our hands dirty to make change in our community.” 

Last summer, an anti-LGBTQ+ evangelical YouTube personality attended a Glendale worship service under false pretenses and posted his experience online. Shortly after the video went viral, the church was vandalized and a cinder block was thrown through a sanctuary window. 

Glendale responded by reclaiming the cinder block as a symbol of transformation and radical love for all members of the community. 

Rev. Steph Dodge and Steven Adair

In addition to LGBTQ+ justice, Glendale works to support climate justice, gun reform, racial justice, and other justice-oriented causes. “We’re trying to figure out how to be the body of Christ,” says Steven. “As new people find Glendale, we continue to add opportunities to put our faith into action and respond to our call to transform the world around us.”

Broken windows at Glendale UMC
Sophie Dukes, Glendale UMC

As we head into General Conference, may we be reminded that God may call us to step out into the unknown. May a spirit of transformation send us as witnesses to our communities so that we may grow the kin-dom of God. 

We at Glendale United Methodist Church want you to know that no matter: where you’ve come from or where you are going; what you believe or what you may doubt; what you are feeling or just not feeling; what you have or don’t have; and no matter the color of your skin, who you love or how you identify – all of who you is welcomed into this community of faith by a God who loves you and knows you by name.

– Glendale UMC’s Welcome Message inspired by the Welcome Statement used at Capitol Hill UMC, Washington D.C.
2023 congregational photo with Glendale’s new Pride Doors