Maybe you've heard what happened at the United Methodist General Conference in St. Louis in February 2019. For those of us who long for a fully inclusive, LGBTQ-affirming church and world, the news from General Conference was devastating and heartbreaking and infuriating.
In short, General Conference delegates — 864 of them, clergy and laypersons from all over the world — gathered to consider several proposals related to LGBTQ inclusion within our denomination, and by the time the three-day gathering had ended, the majority voted to retain discriminatory, anti-LGBTQ policies that prohibit pastors from officiating at same-sex marriages and exclude LGBTQ persons from being ordained. Additionally, they approved measures to tighten punitive accountability for pastors who feel called by their conscience and by the Spirit to break these rules. This is not the direction we were hoping and praying the church would go.
It's too early to say definitively what will happen with The United Methodist Church as a denomination (although there are about 1,000 conversations underway, locally, regionally, and across the country), but we do want to say this clearly:
We decry the harm that The United Methodist Church has done in denying the full humanity and sacred worth of LGBTQ persons. Exclusion and discrimination are forms of violence that wound the Body of Christ and do harm to people whom God has created and loved and gifted and called. This is unacceptable, and we stand in opposition and defiance.
For HopeGateWay, this question has already been answered. We decided a long time ago that we would embody inclusiveness fully here in Portland, Maine. Nothing that happened in St. Louis — no General Conference pronouncements now or anytime in the future — no restrictive, discriminatory policies or institutional statements will dissuade us from fully welcoming, embracing, affirming, and empowering our LGBTQ siblings. Inclusivity is one of HopeGateWay's core values. This is part of our DNA, and we are not dissuaded.
To our LGBTQ friends, neighbors, and siblings, we say this: You are a beloved child of God. You are created in the image of God and loved infinitely by God. We affirm you, we love you, and we welcome you unconditionally. Your gifts, your love, your heart, your hands, your hopes, and your faith are needed — by us and by the world.
Several years ago, the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church adopted a policy of nonconformity, stating that regardless of our denominational policies and prohibitions, we would seek to welcome, affirm, and fully include the LGBTQ community in all matters, including marriage and ordination. The HopeGateWay community affirmed then and continues to affirm this posture of nonconformity. As conversations continue about how to respond to the actions of this General Conference, HopeGateWay will be part of them, and our perspective will remain steadfast: We will settle for nothing less than full inclusion — justice for our LGBTQ siblings — a church that welcomes all.
If you have questions or concerns, we welcome the opportunity to talk with you and pray with you in the days ahead.