This letter was sent to the congregation of LUMC on March 1, 2019. Although it may be useful for others, it was written particularly for the people of Lansdowne UMC. It has been adapted following the March 2 prayer and information sharing event led by our Bishop.
Brothers and sisters in Christ,
Perhaps you have read news reports of the recent Special General Conference of the United Methodist Church. Our global church has reaffirmed its traditional ethics on marriage and ordinations, especially as it pertains to partnered lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons. You can read more about what happened from the United Methodist News Service.
Even as we remind ourselves of our love and respect for the majority of United Methodists globally who support these decisions of the church, our hearts also go out to all of those who may feel hurt or alienated because of these decisions, particularly those among our church family.
Some of you will have questions about what this means for the United Methodist Church going forward. I do not have all of the answers. Bishop LaTrelle Easterling has led the people of the Baltimore-Washington Conference in a time of prayer and information sharing that you may find clarifying.
Let us show each other grace as we strive to find the words to have conversations about the what these decisions mean for our church, our families, and our friends.
On behalf of the whole church, I want to apologize to those in the LGBTQ+ community who have been wounded by the church. The church exists in the world to bless you and help you to follow Jesus Christ more closely. We mourn the times when we have inadvertently or even deliberately failed to do that.
Let us all remind ourselves that the following things remain true about the church’s teaching:
- People who identify as LGBTQ+ have sacred worth and are made in the image of God. Please hear this: no matter who you are, God loves you as a parent loves a child.
- All persons are welcome to our worship services and activities. Now more than ever, we must emphasize and recommit ourselves to welcoming persons who identify as LGBTQ+.
- All persons who publicly profess faith in Christ (as one does upon being received as a member) are eligible to be baptized if they have not been and to be received into our Christian communities as members.
- The invitation to Holy Communion is “Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another.” Anyone (regardless of any category) who can respond to this invitation is welcome to come and receive the sacrament of Holy Communion.
- Children of all believing parents who covenant to raise their children to know Jesus Christ are eligible to be baptized in our churches.
We are approaching the season of Lent, which is traditionally a time of confession and repentance. It is a time for us to ask God to do the deep work of shining the light of Christ into the dark places of our hearts. My prayer for us as a church is that we would do this with honesty and humility. We need the compassion of Jesus Christ for the sake of a world that is hurting deeply. Always, but especially now, we must repent of times when we have not lived up to our principles to love our neighbors. We must repent of searching for splinters in another’s eye while ignoring the log that is in our own.
In the context of the days following our General Conference, I understand that these words might sound as if I am accusing people of not being welcoming. That is not my intent. I will say, however, that I fear that, at times, I should have been more welcoming and loving of people whom Jesus died to save. Perhaps, others among us would be willing to confess the same.
Only God knows the future of the United Methodist Church. As for our congregation, we may not be able to meet all the hopes of gay and lesbian persons, but our prayer must be that all people will find in us a community of love and forgiveness. We continue to seek to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, one person at a time.
The peace of Christ be with you all.