I am the Pastor of Discipleship and Community at Park Hill United Methodist Church in Denver, Colorado. Park Hill UMC is a multi-cultural and Reconciling Church that houses a reform synagogue, Temple Micah, and together serves as a sanctuary church.
At first, I thought Reconciling Ministries Network advocated only for the LGBTQ community within the life of the global UMC. However, a short year into seminary taught me what intersectionality meant.
Intersectionality is used to refer to the very complex way that the effects of different forms of discrimination and oppression (racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, xenophobia, etc.) overlap, combine, and intersect. This is especially true in the experiences of marginalized groups or people. Because of this intersection, RMN focuses its work for justice, inclusion, and the liberation of LGBTQ persons through an intersectional lens that helps focus the intersection between LGBTQ oppression and other forms of oppression.
A short four weeks into my appointment here at Park Hill UMC, we were asked to provide sanctuary for a family whose mother feared deportation. Park Hill UMC and Temple Micah had voted yes to being a sanctuary church before I was appointed to serve here, and that yes meant whenever someone was in need of sanctuary, we would provide it for them.
Araceli Velasquez fled El Salvador in 2010 in fear for her life, according to the American Friends Service Committee of Colorado. She is now married with three children in Colorado. Araceli lost an asylum case but was granted a temporary official pardon from deportation. Immigration authorities have since indicated that they would not renew that protection, meaning she faces deportation. The Velasquez family moved into the shared Sanctuary space provided by Park Hill UMC and Temple Micah on August 15th, 2017. This journey we are walking and fighting with Araceli and her family to be able to leave Sanctuary and go home has been hard, enlightening, and meaningful to say the least. I continue to be impressed with Park Hill UMC for their continued commitment to justice for all people.
When I think of the work that RMN does, it is more than just fighting for the LGBTQ community within the life of the global UMC; because of the intersection that exists between different forms of discrimination, RMN is fighting for the liberation of all people, not just within the walls of The UMC, but in our broader societies and in our world.
When Christ said to love your neighbor as yourself, he did not put parameters on that love. We fail Christ’s command when we are not welcoming and affirming of all of God’s children.
Xenophobia in our churches and in our world causes divisions and hate. God did not create the borders that we so strongly want to protect out of fear. God created us in God’s image and we are to be the reflectors of God’s image in this world. God’s love intersects with all of creation; therefore all of our ministries should strive to intersect with all of creation. I see RMN as a starting point for local churches and communities to begin understanding full inclusion and affirmation of all people.
Once we open our doors, we must continue to see the intersection of injustices throughout every person we meet and continue to open our doors wider. Not one of us is the same and not one of us carries the same identity and privilege.
My colleague and friend, Rev. Nathan Adams, and I realize that not one of us carries the same identity and privilege. Rev. Nathan is a bi-racial, straight man in an interracial marriage, and I am a white, lesbian woman in a same-sex marriage. Rev. Nathan and I are both young clergy and understand the importance of continuing to commit ourselves to the work of Jesus and helping our congregants to continue down this same path. We recognize that sometimes it is easy in an inclusive and affirming place, like Park Hill UMC, to get comfortable with the work that has been done. However, there is still work to be done and we must continue talking about that work and put it into action.
This January, we will be starting a “Black-ish” sermon series, based off of the hit television sitcom, to have conversations with our congregation about the intersections of race, faith, and life. We are committed in our ministry to intersectional justice for all people and we couldn’t be more thrilled to be walking alongside Park Hill UMC on this journey of being a Reconciling and sanctuary church.
“And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'” (Matthew 25:40)
We have much work to be done as followers of Christ. May our hearts be open, may our minds be open, may our doors be open, and may they open wider still as we learn to love like Jesus in the world.