I am sure that you have heard the news that the Methodist Church voted to exclude LGBTQ clergy and prohibit same-gender marriages. Some of you have reached out to me with concern, remembering our church’s story of how discriminatory policies can lead to a pastor committing suicide.
I received this letter from our Music Director Tim Heavner, from the Pastors of St. John Methodist Church in Anchorage, Alaska, where he used to play. I appreciated the Pastor’s heart felt words and thought you might appreciate reading them.
Our dearly beloved St John friends and family,
Today, along with many of you, we are heart-broken. Our denomination, led by a small American minority coupled with the delegations from overseas, have decided to further alienate our LGBTQIA+ members and those who love them by eliminating the One Church Plan and by voting for the Traditional Plan (which I believe in the final analysis will be ruled unconstitutional).
In other words, The United Methodist Church has spent millions of dollars and countless hours to simply keep the discriminatory status quo and in so doing, grind salt in the wounds of our most vulnerable.
St John, as your pastors, as representatives of the church that has so grievously hurt and excluded, we are sorry. Forgive us God for succumbing to our sin of exclusion and fear. Forgive us, all persons who self-identify as queer, lesbian, gay, or transgender for we have failed to recognize the image of Christ that is clearly within you. We have failed to recognize the spiritual gifts God has granted you to bring about peace, healing, and love to the church and to the world. We are sorry.
Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.
In the days and weeks ahead we will learn more about what the decisions made today mean for us in terms of relationships and denominational affiliation, what our options are, and perhaps down the road there will be some decisions we will have to make about what body we wish to be a part of, but, those decisions are down the road. To paraphrase Jesus, let tomorrow worry about tomorrow. Focus on today instead.
And today, our task is to grieve. To mourn. To lament a denomination who has chosen to exclude and alienate us, rather than celebrate the diversity and valuable gifts our members bring.
We confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart.
We have failed to be an obedient church.
We have not done your will,
We have broken your law,
We have rebelled against your love,
We have not loved our neighbors,
And we have not heard the cry of the needy.
Forgive us, we pray.
Free us for joyful obedience,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
But make no mistake, God needs you, God wants you, and God loves you beyond your wildest dreams. No matter your identity, no matter your orientation, no matter whom you love, God loves you, and is calling you to shine forth that unconditional love that knows no bounds.
That is our prayer for you St John, that in the days, weeks, and months of grieving ahead, we will more fully find ourselves in the transformative embrace of the One who loves All, and beckons us to embody that same love. And that we will find our identity not in a denomination or symbol, but in Jesus Christ, our All in All.
We invite you to join us for a service of lament and healing, “Lord, Hear Our Prayer.” On Sunday March 3rd, the sun will set at 6:30pm. We will gather in the sanctuary at that time to voice our prayers of grief and lament to God as the day draws to a close. We will hold a vigil of hope for a new day that arises, when ALL people are welcome in the church that we call home. Join us as we affirm the sacred worth of our LGBTQIA+ friends and family, and pray for the church to recognize God’s love that knows no bounds.
Today we grieve, but Sunday’s a-comin’…
Andy & Emily
Let us hold St. John’s and all Methodist churches in our prayers.