Where To From Here? A Call to Welcome All!

Written by Bill Groth and Larry Wiley, on behalf of the Tuesday Night Small Group:

Our small group of fourteen has been meeting for several months and recently completed our second Adam Hamilton book, “Confronting the Controversies”. We’d like to suggest that other small groups and perhaps individual church members take some time to explore the issue that we addressed during our most recent meetings: homosexuality and the United Methodist Church

During some of our meetings members of our group shared extremely personal experiences and feelings that came straight from their hearts. It was deeply moving to realize how trusting in one another our members had become. As we discussed the chapter, Homosexuality, it was clear that group members had very strong feelings about this subject and, for some, those feelings stemmed from personal experiences.

During our discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity, some of us discovered that three or more years ago, members of Asbury addressed the question of our becoming a reconciling church but put the matter on a back burner. The Reconciling Networks Ministry seeks to bring about a more inclusive church by having congregations go through a process to become Reconciling Congregations. A Reconciling Congregation is publically and fully open to all sexual orientations and gender identities.

We learned that some of our group members have gay family members, including children, who are deeply loved. We learned that there are churches in Livermore that do accept homosexuals with absolutely no limitations, and that the Walnut Creek United Methodist Church is a reconciling church. We were aware that here at Asbury there are members who oppose the idea of becoming a reconciling church and who believe that homosexuality is wrong and that the Bible teaches against it. We discussed the fact that the church’s Book of Discipline prohibits gay marriages within the church, the performance of same sex marriages by Methodist clergy and the ordination of gays and lesbians. We argued that our church is a welcoming church and that homosexual persons are loved and invited to be members of our church. We concluded that isn’t enough.

Although there are verses in the Bible that speak against ancient understandings of homosexuality, Jesus did not. There are many cultural practices and positions prohibited or promoted by the Bible that society today views totally differently (such as slavery, women’s role in church and the use of violence). Times, mores, and understandings have changed. Loving one another has not changed and never will. If we receive someone with open arms and simultaneously tell them, “There are certain behaviors of yours that we find disqualify you from marriage within the church and from ordination,” are we still loving and accepting or are we judging? Jesus described love of neighbor as unconditional.

Time is passing and we really cannot afford to continue to avoid this issue. We may be failing to serve certain members of our community as well as not receiving from them special contributions that they could bring to us. We recommend that our congregation re-examines its position on this issue. We encourage and urge other groups and other members to rekindle these issues, study our Bibles and pray, carry out discussions by opening anew our minds and hearts, and considering again changing our existing position. We recognize and understand that this is an extremely sensitive and complicated matter, and we do not wish to bring any harm to Asbury UMC. We wish to discern the path to take in order to make our church stronger and more loving than it already is.

Join us in this conversation Sunday, November 9, 7-8pm in the Fireside Room. We are a community with different perspectives on this topic, and all voices are needed in order to go forward as a community. Please join us, and add your voice!

Speak Your Mind

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