Dear Glen Mar friends,
A couple weeks ago, I shared a Welcome to the Lord's Table that I think encompasses the scope of the welcome we embrace at Glen Mar. Here is a link to what I said. This welcome is very Wesleyan (read, Methodist) because we have always believed that God's grace is available to all, that we are all made in God's image and loved and embraced just as we are. All are welcome in our church and all are welcome at the Lord's Table. My welcome was not radical, but merely the most basic and simple Christian (and Methodist) thing to say. The reaction to my welcome was not just positive; people shared that they wept because they weren't sure whether they were really welcome and loved, and my welcome helped them be reassured. Mercy.
My welcome was not just a "throwaway" moment. At Glen Mar, we love and welcome everyone, and that explicitly includes our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters. We welcome them without reserve and embrace them in Christian love. We will baptize their children and love them and help all to grow into the followers of Christ we are all called to be. We need, and welcome, the gifts that God has given them to be a part of the body of Christ, and they are welcome to "praise God, grow disciples and serve the world" fully, as members of God's family, and as our brothers and sisters on the journey. Love all and welcome all is something that we are all committed to, no matter how we interpret any part of Scripture.
Regardless of where you stand on issues of human sexuality, you would likely agree that the recent special session of General Conference was probably one of the low points of our history as Methodists, especially if you watched any part of the "debate." The vitriol and hate that characterized the rhetoric made me embarrassed to be a Methodist. That Conference, including the press coverage of its outcome, has communicated to the world that we are unloving, unwelcoming, and frankly, even hateful. People have come to our Bishop saying that they have wanted to take their own lives because of this word from their church. They hear the church proclaiming to them that God says, "I do not love you." The outcome itself, with its tightening of restrictions around human sexuality, is going to further keep people from experiencing God's grace and entering into a relationship with Jesus Christ. It's going to reinforce these untrue messages for people who are searching for Jesus and afraid to come to church to find him.
In response, I want to share with you some important things:
- There is cause for real hope. I have been in conversation with leaders in Methodism in our conference and beyond, and I am certain that there will be a response to this Special General Conference that will help us be more authentic in our witness and ministry together. Hundreds of Methodist churches have been deeply hurt by this Conference, and I am hopeful that the eventual response can help us heal the pain that has been caused and will help us have space to be exactly who God is calling us to be, as followers of Jesus, and members of the Methodist Movement. I am part of those conversations and I want Glen Mar to be a part of those conversations too. I want to be clear that I am not saying Glen Mar is leaving the UMC. Rather, I'm saying that the Holy Spirit is moving, and there will be a response, and I want us to be a part of that response and whatever the future holds for the Church.
- In saying these things, I will not make how you interpret scripture or where you stand on gay marriage into a litmus test for whether you are welcome here. Everyone is welcome here! "Love all and welcome all" is not the property of only "progressive" interpretations of Scripture. And Glen Mar will be loving and welcoming without reserve. We will also have more conversations, and engage scripture, for those who want to be a part of that.
- I know I haven't been your lead pastor very long, but I have loved you since before I met you (which will preach #Methodist#Love), and I am excited for what God has in store for our future. I am asking you to go on this journey with me. Specifically:
- I'm asking you to stay, no matter where you place yourself on any kind of spectrum, and most especially I'm asking you to stay if you are in pain following General Conference or feeling unsure about whether our church really loves and welcomes you. Our pastors would be eager to talk with you, to share where we are, and to help process your hurt, confusion, anger and pain. I'm asking you to stay invested in the mission and ministries of our church.
- I'm asking you to help. Will you help me by listening to the stories of people on their journey with God and their need for God's grace and mercy? Will you help me by making sure that our hospitality and welcome is deep and wide, knowing that everyone who comes here is fighting a battle, and in need of healing and love? There is so much more at stake here.
"Love lives here." That's what I want our surrounding community to say about Glen Mar. I'm grateful for your loving heart, the way that you model healthy ways to disagree, and the way you keep Jesus and His mission as our focus. We are a family and I love you, and we need you. I'm so very proud to be your pastor, today and every day.
See you in Church,
Soup'r Sundae & Silent Auction this Sunday, March 17, 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. at Wilde Lake High School. Glen Mar and Bethany UMC will jointly sponsor this fundraiser for Grassroots Crisis Intervention of HoCo. It is a family-friendly event featuring all-you-can-eat soup and ice cream sundaes plus a silent auction with bids for gift cards and over 100 themed baskets. Invite friends and neighbors for a fun time today! Event tickets are available at the door.