This Sunday my church will have its Reconciling Sunday Service.

I am a member of North Broadway United Methodist Church, which is part of the Reconciling Ministries Network.  For those who aren’t familiar with The Reconciling Ministries Network; as a Reconciling congregation, North Broadway UMC works to make disciples of all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or other barrier that may exist.  We seek to welcome all people to the table of Christ.  Our identify statement is printed on the back of every weekly, part of which reads:

As Christians, we celebrate the God-given diversity of the human family, welcoming all people of every race, age, nationality, gender identity, sexual orientation, economic status, mental and physical ability. 

I recommend reading the whole statement here, but that gives you an idea of what it means to be a Reconciling Congregation.

Being gay myself, this church means a lot to me.  I moved to Columbus almost a year ago now, and up to that point didn’t want much to do with church.  My experiences the previous few years had left me feeling marginalized, inadequate, and ultimately unlovable.  I left the church and I didn’t look back.

When I moved to Columbus I began to desire a Church Community again, a place to belong, to serve, and grow as a disciple of Christ.  I began looking for Churches, and via a quick internet search, found NBUMC.  I saw the mission statement on the website, and decided to visit.

I visited with my partner Chris, and what we found was a welcoming and warm family of believers.  The service, was not unlike the services I remember growing up, we sang hymns, the choir sang a lovely tune, and we had a message from the pastor, proclaiming Christ.  What I didn’t experience were any of those “knowing looks” of two men being together in the service, or the hushed whispers after we walked by, gay jokes or the like.

For the first time, I felt welcome and accepted in a church without any expectations of changing my identity.  Not only did I feel welcome, but I felt that Chris and I together were welcome.  We talked it over and decided to join the Church, and did so on Pentecost Sunday of this year, and were welcomed as members.

One of my fondest memories so far has been marching in the Pride Parade with other Parishioners and Pastor Deb.  It was a group of LGBT, and straight allies from the Reconciling Ministries Team at the Church.  We were one of many churches in the parade, dozens of churches marching to show support and solidarity with the LGBT community.  It was a turning point for me, I remember as the parade began, and rounded the first corner, we passed the area where most of the protesters were.  The folks with the “God hates Fags,” the “Repent or burn,” and Leviticus signs.  Folks with bull horns were shouting that homosexuals were an abomination, and that God was going to judge us and our Church for marching in the parade and supporting LGBT persons.

As all of this began, Pastor Deb shouted to the group that we needed something to chant and drown out the protestors.  We started to shout “God loves everyone,”  and as we did the churches around us began to do the same, and the crowds watching the parade chimed in as well.  Pretty soon, it was all you could hear, the declaration that “God loves everyone.”  It was a declaration that God loves all people, those of us marching in the parade, those who were watching, those celebrating their pride, the straight allies who supported them, and yes, even those who were protesting the parade.

God loves everyone!  That is what North Broadway, and other Reconciling Churches mean to me.  Its hearing loud and clear, and seeing, and feeling in tangible ways that God loves everyone.  It is knowing that I am welcome and invited to the Table of Christ, just as I am.

God Loves Everyone!

Joe Tobias

Joe Tobias is a member of North Broadway United Methodist Church, in Columbus Ohio.He works as a Delegated Buyer at The Ohio State University, and holds a B.A in Biblical Studies from Cedarville University. Joe's passions include theology, social justice, photography, reading, and his partner Chris.He is new to The United Methodist Church, and looks forward growing and serving at North Broadway.

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