A crowd of more than 80 members and friends of PVUMC met in the Fellowship Center on August 21 for a frank and spirited conversation around the issue of inclusiveness by our congregation with an emphasis on the LGBTQ community. It appeared as though everyone was comfortable expressing their points of view on what can be an emotional and divisive issue. As we emphasized at the outset of the roundtable, all of us in our congregation are family. We may have our disagreements, but we are still family.
The focus of our conversations was whether PVUMC should adopt a broad welcoming statement which specifically and intentionally includes sexual orientation:
“We are committed to being a welcoming, fully inclusive and authentic faith community, without regard to race, ethnicity, marital status, age, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental capacity, education or economic status.”
Those supporting such a statement viewed this as a positive move that could add attendance and that would give members comfort that their LGBTQ family members would be welcome at PVUMC.
One concern that was expressed was that we are already a welcoming congregation and we would not turn our backs on gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning individuals who come to our church seeking God. We acknowledged that we have LGBTQ members currently, and have in the past, and some feel we don’t need to list who we welcome. However, as one of our youth pointed out, for the most part, Christian churches have discriminated against the LGBTQ community. Issuing a welcoming statement is a tangible way of letting someone know we do welcome them, regardless of their sexual orientation.
The official position of the United Methodist Church, as stated in the Book of Discipline, says that: “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” Our welcoming statement would counteract that statement, making it clear that PVUMC is fully inclusive. The Desert Southwest Conference is a Reconciling Conference, and so is the Western Jurisdictional Conference. Both openly suppport the LGBTQ community, and include members of the community among its leadership.
The conversations at the August 21 roundtable are part of the historic process within the Methodist Church as we have examined social issues of importance such as slavery, suffrage, the role of laity in church governance, abortion, education, and allowing women to serve as clergy. All of these issues have had the potential to divide the church, and some did. But, we must continue to move forward as the arc of history in the church leans towards creating greater inclusiveness following the ministry and witness of Jesus Christ.
More discussions are to come on these issues. Our pastors will be leading a conversation on what the Bible says about homosexuality. And, we will be having at least one more, if not several, roundtables in the future. Please be a part of this important, ongoing conversation which seeks to draw us closer to our own vision: “love that crosses all barriers and embraces all people.” — The Reconciling Ministry Team at PVUMC
See the Reconciling Ministries Network website for an update of how many UMC congregations are Reconciling and to read about the issues that have been under discussion for the past decades. The Reconciling Ministries Network began in 1982, and is committed to the local church, especially helping communities go through a discernment process on how your congregation, Sunday School class, campus ministry, or other small group can be actively welcoming all people.