Thursday, August 9, 2018

Responses to Inclusion

Our inclusion of LGBTQ Christians was most controversial on social media, followed by our inclusion of women in leadership.  We affirm Scripture includes these and all, without exception, who believe in Jesus "are the body of Christ, and members in particular" (1 Corinthians 12:27, KJV), and we reject all arguments to the contrary. Our statement was met with sharp criticism from some and strong support from others:

We invite everyone to share fully in the worship services, life, ministry, and leadership of Briensburg United Methodist Church inclusive of age, race, nationality, gender, LGBTQ, theology, politics, and legal status.   [MORE
We want all who feel unwelcome in other churches to know they are loved, wanted and have a spiritual home at Briensburg United Methodist Church. Further, it is only fair to those who believe in exclusion to know up-front how our congregation feels. We invite everyone to participate fully because that is how we all grow together in the love, knowledge and grace of God.

I rarely argue racial justice,women in ministry and leadership, open Communion, ethnic equality,  LGBTQ, infant baptism, music in worship, religious affiliation, abortion, theology, politics, etc.  The many arguments from all sides of these issues are readily available. I feel it is important to defer to these well-written and thought-out explanations from all sides rather than to engage in spontaneous and incomplete arguments about them. My call is to preach, and to practice my faith to the best of my ability.

Most responses for and against our view continue to be greatly appreciated. "People learn from one another, just as iron sharpens iron" (Proverbs 27:17, GNT). There are differences of interpretation on the Scriptures concerning virtually any issue, and even on the study resources used to delve more deeply into the selected proof texts. To me, this is all the more reason for us to remain in close fellowship with each other, regardless of and even because of our differences. Our covenant in Christ is not defined by the arguments we accept or reject, but by our love for one another:

And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples (John 13:34-35, GNT).

The most vehement objections came from those who believe that only members of their particular denomination will be saved, and several of these were already trolling our social media anyway. Their distortion of Scripture to support their belief in disunity begs the question as to what difference anything else we believe should make to them. Their exclusion of all other Christians effectively diminishes the value of their opinions. By their self-imposed cultic isolation from the rest of Christianity they forfeit  their influence on how we understand the Bible. To the degree anyone excludes another from the compass of God's love and the unity of the Church, they "become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal" (1 Corinthians 13:1, KJV).

We were accused of violating the United Methodist Discipline by supporting the recommendation made by the Council of Bishops on the "One Church Plan," which would remove the current restrictions on marriage, ordination, and pastoral appointments of some LGBTQ Christians. We have not violated the Discipline by supporting the plan or by our statement of inclusiveness.  I continue to affirm our United Methodist covenant and to live within these restrictions, even as I trust and expect all my brothers and sisters to continue in our covenant regardless of whether the General Conference delegates decide to remove those restrictions.

Most importantly, people know without equivocation they are loved and appreciated in our church for who they are. God loves everyone and so do we. We have received expressions of gratitude from people who have been excluded from other congregations, and of support from those who share the beliefs we are expressing.  The Council unanimously adopted both the Resolution of Support and the Inclusiveness Statement, "all with one accord in one place" (Acts 2:1, KJV).  

We hope you will join us as we continue to live into our United Methodist motto,

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