I have never been prouder of a group of youth than I was last Sunday! We heard from our youth about their summer missions and experiences expressed with a depth of understanding and a use of the language of faith that I’ve rarely heard from young people. Hats off to teachers and mentors and counselors and staff and interns who, all along the way, have helped them grow and develop in their faith.
(The rest of this post was included in this week’s First Words.)
Many of you have picked up copies of Journeying Toward Reconciliation: Personal Stories of Faith, Sexuality, and the Church, which was compiled by a group in our church, and consists of stories told by members of our church regarding homosexuality. Many of the stories are written by parents of gay and lesbian sons and daughters, but there are other viewpoints as well. Most are painful, and tell of rejection and alienation within the church. (The “church” meaning the larger church, not FUMC.)
What you may not know is that hundreds of copies of this book have now been printed. It has been sent all over the country, and even beyond. Some groups are compiling their own books. It is for sale on Amazon, and at Blue Ridge Books. In fact, Allison Lee at Blue Ridge has asked our group to do a reading/signing on September 12.
Allison has sent a news release to the local media, so you may read something about this. If you have not read the book, I encourage you to pick up a copy to learn what it’s about. Or, you can read the stories (without introduction, interpretive materials) at www.journeyingtowardreconciliation.blogspot.com.
We are a church that includes in our mission “Welcoming ALL…” One way we welcome people is to listen to their stories. Wherever you stand on this issue, I encourage you to read the book, to listen to the stories, to try to understand what they convey. We must listen, and we must discuss this issue with respect for one another and varying opinions. The time for silence is long past. Our denomination will be addressing the issue once again next May, and no one knows what the result might be. Some predict a split in the denomination.
The current Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church states that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching,” (Par. 161F) that no homosexual weddings or unions may take place by our pastors or within our churches (Par. 341.6), and that no “self-avowed, practicing homosexual” will be ordained (Par. 304.3).
It’s important to note, however, that it also says, “We affirm that God’s grace is available to all. We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.” (Par. 161F) And so we realize the importance of “Welcoming ALL….”
The Reconciling Conversations group meets monthly and welcomes all. They also led a series last fall which was attended by 40-50 per week, and will lead further conversations this fall. Be part of the conversation.
This Sunday our Celebrate Connection event, beginning at 10:00 in the Christian Growth Center, will be huge. With some 63 booths with opportunities to “connect” to a class, group, or place of service. This is at the very foundation of who we understand ourselves to be as “the living Body of Christ,” and I encourage you to be part of this. And, if you’re not involved and serving somewhere, consider doing so!
This will be the last Sunday for Rev. Sherrie Schork as our Director of Equipping Ministries. We thank Sherrie for her 2 years of service with us, and celebrate the fact that she and her husband Alan will still be part of our church family, as Sherrie continues her coaching and consulting ministry beyond our congregation. And we welcome Eliza Sease as she transitions from the front office to Director of Lay Ministry and Missions.
See you Sunday,