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.
Joe Major, Pastor