We are very proud of our United Methodist Church. Our rapid response to the typhoon disaster in the Philippines, tornado relief in Illinois, Missouri, and Oklahoma, and the fact that we are still on the ground in Katrina-affected areas of New Orleans are testaments to our caring concern for all those in crisis. Wherever there are broken hearts or lives, you won’t have to look far to find faithful Methodists working alongside and being a joyful presence to those in need.
And yet if you watch or read the news, the United Methodist Church is not always known for what we would call “caring concern.” In the past week, we have seen a bishop reprimanded for celebrating the wedding of two men (Bobby and Joe) and a pastor has been tried and “found guilty” of officiating at his son Tim’s wedding to his male partner. These official actions taken by the Church are in stark contrast to the care and concern exhibited by the pastors in those situations.
We cannot say how much this just breaks our hearts. Our hearts break for those situations of pain and betrayal. And yet, like many of you with broken hearts, our spirits are sustained by the good people here at First United Methodist Church who have moved beyond such injustices and seek to become the Church at its best.
In 1993, our congregation took the bold step to become a Reconciling Congregation, open to all people. In doing so, we were one of the first 50 Reconciling Congregations in the country (there are now closer to 600). As a Reconciling Congregation that offers welcome to all people regardless of age, race, gender, sexual identity, class, status, ability, and country of origin, our LGBT members in particular have served as committee chairs, Lay Leaders, staff, and community leaders. Several of your pastors have been active in Reconciling Ministries over the past 20 years, and your current church leaders are committed to seeing the United Methodist Church become a fully inclusive and welcoming place at all levels. United Methodist polity can change every four years: the next opportunity is here in Portland in May 2016.
We as a church seek to reflect the life and teachings of Jesus, even when Jesus’ teachings are found to be incompatible with United Methodist polity and doctrine. We know who will triumph in the end.
In truth, this is beyond just being Reconciling. This is about our belief that God is doing amazing things even through an imperfect Church.
- That God’s love for all people will prevail and break down the dividing walls among us (Ephesians 2).
- That when the structures of a people of faith stand in the way, God will reveal a new path (Acts 10).
- That our church will never be complete until every level of the church work for wholeness throughout the world and reflect God’s possibilities for every person (Romans 8:28).
And we hope you join us in this imperfect Church that is committed to justice, inclusion, diversity, and wholeness not just in the Portland area, but indeed throughout the world.
Blessings… Rev. Donna and Rev. Jeremy