In the October/November 2016 issue of the Desert Scroll, Vol. 54, No. 5, Senior Pastor Dave Summers shared a message on the back page to PVUMC members and friends about how inclusive our church can be, and how we can be more welcoming to the LGBTQ community. His letter appears below:
We continue to worship and move through the season of Pentecost, remembering the birth and emergence of the early church. It is a time for us to ask “What kind of church will we be in the years ahead?” I’m reminded of the words in the letter of James: If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you… the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. (1:5, 3:17) We need this kind of wisdom as we look ahead as a church! We have just begun talking about how inclusive our church can be and how strong our welcome can be for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBTQ) people. Many in our church have expressed their desire for us to have a compelling welcome statement that speaks to those who have felt left out of the church. The issue has the potential to divide us greatly, as it has many mainline churches. Because of the depth of feeling on this matter and the complexities involved, I invite you to be part of a series of important conversations.
We are preparing these church-wide discussions that will be an important opportunity for you to listen, share, ask important questions and speak your heart:
October 20: Understanding the Bible and Homosexuality (led by the clergy of PVUMC)
November 6: The Voices We Seldom Hear: What Our LGBTQ Brothers and Sisters of Faith Are Saying About Welcoming
The November 6th event will include panelists from our church and other UMC churches. They include the president of PFLAG, a group of parents who have gay children; a transgender person from OneCommunity, and someone who’s involved in PVUMC’s music ministry program. They will give their perspectives on what the church can do to be more welcoming to the LGBTQ community, and tell the audience where the church has appeared unwelcoming to each of them. If they have been a part of a Reconciling church, they will discuss how it has been helpful or important to them and how they perceive the church. This meeting will begin at 12:15 pm with a light lunch. Please RSVP to Betty Price, firstname.lastname@example.org, if you plan to have lunch with us or register on Eventbrite.
If you have questions you would like to ask the panelists, please email them to Betty as well.
Saturday, January 21: Holy Huddles on the Unity of the Church
Bishop Bob Hoshibata is meeting with church congregations in the Desert Southwest Conference to strengthen the unity of the United Methodist Church. You are invited to this “Holy Huddle” on Saturday, January 21, 9:30 am-12:30 pm, in H1. We will have a discussion on the election of Bishop Oliveto this past summer and our Annual Conference Resolution on Full Inclusivity.
I pray you will attend these sessions. You may be uncomfortable. You may hear and learn things you did not know and may not agree with. I assure you, God will be present. Some have expressed that they may leave the church. I hope you will not do that until we have shared all of these conversations so that you can weigh in, listen carefully to others, and discern what God is saying to our church. Towards the end of John’s Gospel, Jesus offers a beautiful prayer that includes words for the disciples and for us: “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (17:20-21). We want the world to know God is here, working in our midst. We want to be a church that is one in our faith and trust in God.
Bishop Bruce Ough, president of our Council of Bishops, United Methodist Church, said this: ”Though conflicted and fragile, the United Methodist Church remains a strong witness to the transforming love of God and the saving grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ. We affirm that our witness is defined, not by an absence of conflict, but how we act in our disagreements. We affirm that our unity is not defined by our uniformity, but by our compassionate and Spirit-led faithfulness to our covenant with God, Christ’s Church and one another.” Even when we have disagreements, we can be a church that is held together and united in our love for God and desire to be God’s love in action in the world. – Senior Pastor Dave Summers
Earlier this year, 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. 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.”
The conversations at the August 21 roundtable and the discussions planned for this fall and in January 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.
We invite you to continue to 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.