Our church has been welcoming people from the LGBTQ community for several years. Sadly, most have felt ostracized by the church their whole lives, and stepping through our doors has taken great courage. They are so hopeful when they arrive, wanting to express their faith in God through Christ in a spiritual community where they are fully included. In our United Methodist community they begin healing from all the years of exclusion. To go backwards and tell them they, their marriage, or their ordination into ministry are not welcome would be a great tragedy and cause irreparable wounds.
Our people have celebrated the meaning of grace in our midst as they have seen LGBTQ people welcomed into membership, service, and leadership. Embracing those who others have excluded has made our people feel like they are actually practicing the Way of Christ, living exactly as Christ did. How could they be asked to return to exclusive practices, when we have been teaching them the inclusive Way of Christ as long as they have been in our church?
One example is how our people have been welcoming friends from Project Lazarus, our local AIDS residential treatment facility. Those who have attended and found a spiritual home with us have been gay and HIV + and some have been men of color. In so many ways they have been rejected by society and treated as outcasts by religious people.
They find such joy in being welcomed by our people. They become one of us. If they want to get married or be ordained for ministry, should we then say we will exclude them from full inclusivity and equality with our other members? We think that would make us hypocrites, not followers of Jesus.
People come from out of state to worship with us because they have heard that “All are welcome means ALL” at our United Methodist church.
Young adults attend because they looked us up on the web to find a church that welcomes the LGBTQ community. Do we get that? Do we realize a whole generation is being lost over the rejection of these siblings?
We feel like prophets speaking the words God has put on our lips to a generation who desperately needs to see love in action with ALL who need a full expression of acceptance and grace. Won’t you join us!?