Statement from Redding First United Methodist Church on the International Church’s LGBTQ Stance: God’s love is bigger

The following was sent by Pastor Joe Major to members of the Redding First United Methodist Church on February 27:

Dear Members and Friends of First United Methodist Church,

For those who did not hear my messages on Feb. 10 and Feb. 17, a special General Conference had been scheduled in St. Louis to determine the way human sexuality would be addressed by our worldwide church, particularly with regard to those in the LGBTQ community. As I write this, we have just received word that the global gathering has voted to keep our denomination essentially where we have been for several decades by adopting the church’s “Traditionalist Plan.” Of course many of us are saddened and disappointed by this outcome.

However, this result does not change who we are as a church family! Our own congregation here in Redding became a “reconciling congregation” about 5 years ago. This means that we have sought to be fully inclusive and welcoming of LGBTQ individuals in ALL aspects of our church life and ministry – and we will continue to do so!

A colleague of mine recently wrote: “At the end of this conference, we will all choose how we love. There will be some changes ahead in how we [are in relationship] to others who also call themselves Methodists, but we will choose to love in a way that is best for our context and our understanding of our great Methodist tradition. There is great freedom in that kind of faithfulness. Don’t let [this large church situation] sour you on the day to day relationships we build, on the “heart to heart” work we do, and on the community we care about.”

The vote at General Conference came through a 53% majority of delegates who were present from around the world. It represents the fact that as a global church, existing in many different cultures, there is a great spectrum of theological diversity among us. First United Methodist Church of Redding, has been, and will continue to be open, welcoming, and inclusive in our ministry to and with all people.

We are sorry for the pain that our worldwide gathering has caused for those in the LGBTQ community, and (just as we have been within four blocks of this same location in Redding for 145 years) we will faithfully continue our ministry of seeking to share the love and compassion of Christ in big and small ways throughout Shasta County. Please know that there are hundreds of other United Methodist churches in the western half of the United States (and elsewhere) that seek to be reconciling congregations which are fully and inclusively in ministry to all people.

In the near future, our bishop and our Cal-Nevada delegation will be sharing information, reflections and guidance for our road ahead. In the meanwhile, let us do all that we can to care for and heal the pain felt by our LGBTQ sisters and brothers. Know that God’s great love is bigger even than these divisive concerns, and that love will continue to be lived out daily and weekly in our church family.

In Christ,

Joe Major, Pastor

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16 Responses

  1. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    In 2014 the First Congregational Church, including the one in Cheyenne, broke it’s ties with the Boy Scouts over the BSA decision to allow gay members. This left the BSA looking for new charters. In Cheyenne several other churches stepped up and offered the BSA charters.
    Ironically, the Mormon Church, which has gained noriety for it’s anti gay efforts and has more BSA charters, I went through BSA at a Salt Lake City Mormon Church, than any other church still supports the BSA. The Mormon Church has always sought out youth for their religion and the BSA fits their plans.

  2. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    Slightly off topic, but I just drove to and from northern Washington state, and there was a very large Bethel church along I-5 in Chehalis, Washington. I wonder if Washington is as unforgiving of LGBTQ as Redding is.

    • Avatar Doug Cook says:

      “… I wonder if Washington is as unforgiving of LGBTQ as Redding is.”
      How is Redding unforgiving of the LGBTQ community? That is not my experience.

  3. Avatar Judith Salter says:

    Will this church perform gay marriages? I have greatly admired the “community first” attitude of this church and hope this promise of inclusion includes the sacrament of marriage

  4. Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

    Yep, there are many Christians out there who use their faith promote intolerance, but it’s bugged me for a good while how common it seems for folks to paint Christians with a broad brush. This letter illustrates that there is a broad spectrum of beliefs and doctrines within Protestant Christianity, but also a broad spectrum *within* some denominations.

  5. Avatar Candace C says:

    Judith, I wondered the same thing. The pastor did say there’s support for ALL aspects so I hope so. I’m not a current member of this church but I grew up going to it and both my parents sang in the church choir for years. I was very heartened to see this letter from Pastor Major.

  6. Avatar Matthew Grigsby says:

    Thank you for your message of support, understanding, compassion and love Pastor. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I am keenly aware of the very public (and not public) position many churches have taken against us, and it’s hard not to be resentful. I was born in this town, and yet I know I am not welcome in every part of this town, which is disgraceful. At a time when our country is more divided than ever, it gives me hope that all is not lost and there are good people doing the right thing and standing up to be counted as allies to the community. I appreciate this letter more than I can say.

  7. Avatar Candace C says:

    Matthew, I pretty much hang on the hope that there will always be good people doing good things. Also, I’ve only briefly met you a couple of times and you’d have no reason to remember me but you seem like a great guy and you’re welcome in my part of town anytime.

    • Avatar Matthew Grigsby says:

      Thank you Candace! And I don’t recall meeting, but that’s actually the exact subject of an article I just submitted to ANC. It will run in the next day or so.

  8. Avatar Ann Webber says:

    Thank you for the clarification! It’s heartwarming to hear that you are continuing to be supportive of our full community!

  9. Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

    I tried to understand the logic, but I can’t.

    “Our denomination recently voted to remain intolerant. But we’re not ALL intolerant! You’re welcome in our local church and we won’t judge you, even if our denomination’s official stand is to go on viewing your type of love and lust as sinful and damnable.”

    Why not just split the sheets? There are hundreds upon hundreds of Christian denominations, mostly due to past doctrine schisms, many far more esoteric (trivial, even) than this one. What’s one more?

  10. Frank Treadway Frank Treadway says:

    I’m a baptized member of the First United Methodist Church -Redding. The church that gives so much of its time and money to countless local non-profits and individuals that it’s a pleasure and quite frankly a necessity for me to be part of such a giving entity. Being a skeptic as far as religion goes, I nevertheless honor my family’s longtime adherence to being a Methodist, whatever it has meant from the past and its current stance on societal matters. As far as Pastor Joe Major performing gay marriages and baptisms of gay couples, I suggest folks call the church and ask that question, but I sense it being in the affirmative. Keep in mind that the current church edict is that a pastor doing such could be brought before a tribunal of elders for potential de-frocking, so far this hasn’t happened as many Methodist pastors have performed gay related ceremonies. As far as splitting the sheets, so to speak, this could very well happen at an upcoming meeting of Western states Methodist leaders, at least it’ll be discussed. But, from my perspective, I’d rather bring the negative flock into the fold, rather than go through who’s gonna give up or retain property rights, etc. The Methodist World Conference is coming up in 2020 and I suspect this issue will be at the front burner until it’s resolved.

    • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

      I respect your sense of loyalty and envy your long-term optimism. I’m still having trouble with your cost-benefit analysis, but maybe I’m putting too much weight on the cost side and not enough on the benefit side. I will say, however, that I think intolerance weighs a ton. It encourages bad behavior in a lot of tangential angles—in my experience one form of intolerance generally encourages other forms of intolerance.

      You said: “Keep in mind that the current church edict is that a pastor doing such could be brought before a tribunal of elders for potential de-frocking…” Maybe that doesn’t say it all, but to me it says a lot. Not acting in accordance with my conscience because I might get censured by my church for doing what I believe to be right was a big part of what drove me away.

  11. Avatar Candace C says:

    I actually did call Pastor Major. Full disclosure, I’m not religious nor do I attend his church. I did growing up. He didn’t shy away from my questions and he was very honest and forthright. There were things I was not aware of and I’m glad I called and spoke to him personally rather then jumping to conclusions because of my support of the LGBTQA+ community.