This year is really important because as a global church we are trying to figure out how to be together with one another when we disagree, especially on the topic of human sexuality. Our denomination is not of all one mind when it comes to LGBTQIA peoples, especially the ordination of clergy who are LGBTQIA and clergy officiating at weddings of LGBTQIA people.
While our church voted a couple of years ago to become a Reconciling Congregation, meaning that we are open and affirming of our LGBTQIA people, the rest of our denomination is divided. Even being a reconciling congregation does not mean that we all are of the same mind even in our own church. That’s okay. One of our values as a church has been to stay at the table and to stay in relationship with one another even though we may not all see eye to eye.
This division has been going on since the 1970s. In order to address this division between fellow United Methodist, the United Methodist Bishops have called for us to have a special General Conference in February 2019 to try to find a Way Forward. The purpose of this General Conference is meant to help us as a church stay together rather than splitting on this one topic. We are not alone. We have witnessed the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church go through this struggle very recently. We acknowledge that this is hard and painful work.
I am coming to you now with this information because we are getting closer to understanding all the details this process involves for LGBTQIA inclusion. Over the past few months, the details and information have been up in the air and left for anxious speculation. As your leader, I did not think it would be helpful to take you on that emotional roller coaster ride that only would make us all anxious and worried about the future of the church. I believe the dust is starting to settle. We are getting clearer answers to our questions. At our Pacific Northwest Annual Conference this week, we will hear from our Bishop Elaine Stanovsky, as she helps guide our churches on how to move this process that has left many friends divided and across the aisle. Also at this annual conference, we all are learning about the Anatomy of Peace. It is based on a book: The Anatomy of Peace - Resolving the Heart of Conflict
The purpose of this book and these learning sessions is to help us all have a heart of peace.
We also know that the Bishop’s report is coming out in July. So I will be working with our Core Leadership Team on developing how we as a church are going to talk about this in a loving and empathetic way. My hope is that we can articulate our values as a church and maintain them as we approach General Conference in February 2019.
While you are waiting for us as a Browns Point UMC to develop our own way forward, I want to invite you to watch this video. It is an hour long. Take time as you watch it. Break it up in to chunks if you have too. Please be gentle with yourself and gentle with the church. I want to invite you to watch it when you are ready to hear the message. Take some deep breaths before starting it. Whatever you have to do to be curious and open. https://livestream.com/VAUMC/AC2018/videos/176376355
Regardless what the future holds, know that I am deeply committed to loving God, loving my neighbor, following Jesus and being your pastor. I know this process can be anxiety producing and even infuriating for both sides. I am here for you all. Your voice matters. You matter. Let’s talk and walk together through this. I have utter faith that God is with us.
Rev. Katie Klosterman