We agreed to host this Minnesota gathering long before the General Conference of the global United Methodist Church in February. The results of that General Conference were heartbreaking for all of us who are a part of Reconciling movement. Many United Methodist churches within the Reconciling movement are now exploring what our options are as congregations. And so an event that when our rainbow team agreed to host it was a bit like every other annual meeting you can imagine, has turned into a very important gathering.
As we navigate this very new and different landscape in our denomination together, I want to be sure we are all aware of a couple of things. First, we have very strong, committed leadership. Our “rainbow team” has taken a couple of steps up in the last two years. They have moved beyond helping us to be aware of issues of inclusiveness to encouraging us to be active leaders in our community and denomination. If you want to be a part of that team, there is plenty of room for you and plenty to do.
Secondly from my perspective, we as a congregation are unified in our response to most of the basic questions surrounding this issue. I realize there may be some out there who would disagree with that statement. I am not saying we are unanimous, but we are close. As a congregation, we have had the difficult conversations and have endured the consequences of losing people we care about because of those conversations. What this means is that this kind of inclusiveness is now a part of our make up, our DNA as a congregation. It is time for us to draw upon this deeply rooted sense of purpose, direction and vision.
Thirdly, although I have but a few months left as your pastor, I want to assure you of my commitment to being a part of the creative and challenging process of determining how EPUMC will continue to be a truly open community in our changing denominational landscape. Also the SPRC assures us that Rev. Becky Jo Messenbrink, who will be appointed as the pastor of EPUMC this July, is of the same mind and heart. Rev Becky Jo says, “I ’m in full support of full inclusion and will look for ways to live into that commitment with the people of EPUMC.”
On most mornings, I walk by our rainbow flag that flies atop a 25-foot flagpole. It is hard not to notice that flag while driving on Scenic Heights Road, and a lot of people use that road. And what moves me is the thought that someone who is struggling with being accepted because of their sexual identity will see and perhaps be encouraged. These days I walk into the building, and the first thing you see is the beautiful, huge rainbow in the sanctuary. I think of all the people who can feel both safe and accepted as we worship together.
It is my privilege to serve a community that is so very committed to expanding the boundaries instead of building walls. And as the Minnesota Reconciling Congregations meet in our space this Saturday, may the power of what will occur here linger to inspire us in our mission to continue to be Big Enough to Make a Difference and Small Enough to Care.