Blake Britton Photography

In Alabama we have just finished celebrating the largest LGBTQ Pride event in the state. Central Alabama Pride organizes the event which stretches over nine days filled with a variety of events, from family picnics to cosmic bowling and a parade that is enjoyed by thousands.

Coinciding with Pride Week was the Annual Conference of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church.

For someone who is deeply involved in both communities, it is probably the busiest week of year rivaled only by the week leading up to our annual Cajun Christmas Party, but that is another story.

This year, Reconciling Methodists of the North Alabama Conference had major involvement in both events. We sponsored an Ecumenical Prayer Service to open Pride week at a United Methodist Church. The next day we had a display table at Annual Conference where we distributed literature and gave away books and spoke with many people about our ministry. Later in the week we marched behind our banner and rode on a float in the Pride Parade. And we set our display up again at Pridefest, a day long, outdoor event of mayoral proclamations, political recognitions, drag queens and kings, local entertainers and Taylor Dayne!

In each of these circumstances we reached people with a positive message about the United Methodist Church. We shared with confidence that the future United Methodist Church would be all inclusive and would act on its statement that all people are of sacred worth. We were told by LGBT teens and straight mothers and others that they would visit our churches and see what we are all about. We were encouraged by lay delegates and clergy at Annual Conference who want to form Reconciling Communities in the churches and organizations that they represent.

I came to a realization over the last few days that we will persevere in our quest to have a fully inclusive Church. One reason that I feel this way is that at each of these events, there was a spirit of joy expressed by those who were participating.  This contrasts with the pessimism expressed by those who oppose our efforts. And that tells me that we shall overcome.

James 1:2-3 states “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”

Members of the LGBTQ community are not strangers to facing trials. But when we, along with our allies, express joy in the midst of adversity, that is a witness to the progress we are making in bringing Christ and the United Methodist Church to LGBTQ individuals, and leading the Church into a long neglected community.

Joe Openshaw

Joe Openshaw is a retired veterinarian, having opened the first feline practice in the state of Alabama. In his retirement, he has become an advocate for LGBTQ equality, and is a past chairperson of Equality Alabama. Joe believes that in order to bring change to the south, the faith community must be engaged in the conversation. He is a member of Discovery United Methodist Church in Hoover, Alabama, where he is the founder and co-leader of The Hospitality Group, a Reconciling Group with RMN, and co-founder of Reconciling Methodists of the North Alabama Conference.
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