by Clayton Oliphint
Dear FUMCR Family,
I have just arrived home from the Special Session of General Conference in St. Louis, addressing issues of ordination and marriage of those in the gay community. By a margin of 53% to 47% the conference approved the Traditional Plan, which maintains our current stance regarding marriage and ordination, but also calls for more punitive measures toward those who violate these prohibitions. We will await a ruling from the Judicial Council regarding the constitutionality of this plan, but, either way, these bans remain in place.
In our congregation, we know everyone is not of one mind on the complicated issues of human sexuality. What I have learned on a number of matters is that faithful Christians can read the same Bible and draw different conclusions. The denomination remains divided on this issue, and that doesn’t go away with this vote of General Conference. One thing is clear to me: everyone is welcome at FUMCR. We are called to treat everyone as the children of God they are. This is what it means to love God and love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
I want to say a special word to our members who are LGBTQ+ or who have family members and friends who are part of that community. WE LOVE YOU, and GOD LOVES YOU. I am sorry for any pain you feel as a result of this decision. You are welcome at FUMCR.
I also want to say a word to our members who have a more traditional view on this issue. As your pastor, I would be saying these same words to you that I shared above if the vote had gone the other way. Please be sensitive to your fellow church members who may be upset or hurting, just as I hope they would be if this vote had turned out differently.
What does this mean for us at FUMCR? Our mission remains the same: with open hearts and minds, we welcome people for Christ, grow people in Christ, and serve people with Christ. I believe, by living out our mission day by day, this will not become a church-dividing issue for our congregation. We will continue to define ourselves as a “big tent” church where all are welcome. With Christ at the center, we will worship, study, and serve together. In an increasingly polarized society, I believe the church should be the place where we find unity in the midst of our disagreements.
I look forward to seeing you on Sunday and sharing more with you. Thank you for being a church where everyone is welcome.