We are and will continue to be a welcoming church that celebrates the full inclusion of LGBTQ people.We have affirmed together in Ashland that all persons are children of God. Our church is part of the Reconciling Ministries Network of churches committed to welcoming people into church life regardless of gender identification and/or sexual orientation. At Ashland Methodist we are a Christian family of faith, sharing the grace and love of God with all people. We do not simply accept LGBTQ and cisgender people in faith, we serve in ministry as disciples together, side by side.
On February 23-26 the United Methodist Church gathered as a General Conference specifically to address the question of human sexuality in the context of our church law and discipline. This conference was the culmination of two and a half years of work from people of good will who came together in small groups and as church leaders to try to find 'A Way Forward' for the church that preserved church unity and the dignity of all persons.
It is not a surprise to anyone how divided our nation is. But it is a deep sorrow to me how divided our church is.
Despite the efforts of a majority of United Methodists in the United States, some in the US together with some of our siblings in our global church, introduced legislation that was far from unifying. The introduction and passage of a 'traditional plan' of exclusion caused deep pain in our church body and is harmful and hurtful to our churches, our church members, ourselves, and our witness in our communities.
I attended this General Conference and, as it became clear where we were headed, I experienced the many emotions that we all did. We were, in a word, brokenhearted. Gratefully, there were hundreds in attendance--a majority--and during the difficult proceedings we gave hope and support to each other. We spent time hugging, praying, and singing together.
I want you to know that what happened here is not set is stone. This is just one vote and one outcome. We who seek inclusion are not done with this yet. This is a blow to the reconciling movement, but it does not have anything to do with our belovedness to each other and our love for our church. We will continue to do great ministry at Ashland Methodist. We are a people of great Christian love and that will not and cannot change.
Hang in there as you read the news reports or watch the news. Know that there are many conversations already about what our next steps will be. Our bishops are committed to continue to lead us through this difficult time.
As for you and I, we will continue to be a witness to Christ in Ashland. As our own Oregon-Idaho leadership are working to figure out our next best steps, we will continue to affirm the work and call of our LGBTQIA leaders and siblings.
We are called for such a time as this. Our witness in love for each other has never been more important. Remember, God loves you deeply. God made you wonderfully. No human can ever change in you what God has done.
Rev. Richenda Fairhurst