Boulder, Colorado – In spite of the rejection of revised policies regarding inclusion of LGBTQ individuals voted on last week by the international gathering of United Methodists in Tampa, Florida, a local congregation is vowing to move forward on its own path of inclusion and social justice.
First United Methodist Church of Boulder is a welcoming faith community dedicated to “honoring the sacred worth of every human being in a way that creates and sustains a Beloved Community.” Both the appointed pastors and the lay members of the congregation affirm that they are among the people following the path of Jesus and of Methodist founder John Wesley by welcoming everyone into their midst, stating that they are enriched, as individuals and as a community, when diversity is honored, welcomed and celebrated.
“It’s heart-breaking what happened – or more accurately, didn’t happen – in Tampa this week,” senior pastor Dr. Patrick Bruns stated following several votes which rejected efforts to open up institutional church policies to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in full acceptance and participation in the church. “But I am reassuring our congregation and the Boulder community that those votes were far from the final word. Our commitment to following Jesus’ Path has been called out even stronger and we plan even more energetically to pursue bold action, non-violent resistance, and courageous commitment to love, justice and peacemaking.”
Rev. Bruns made news recently by declaring that he and the other pastors at First United Methodist Church of Boulder were prepared to offer church ceremonies for committed and consenting adult life partners, regardless of their gender. Referring to a broadly supported “Fuller Marriage Ministry” that offers ceremonies and holy unions for same-sex couples, the pastors and congregation recently notified their local Bishop of their intention to move forward in this ministry regardless of church policies to the contrary.
“It has been a unifying and energizing experience in our congregation to have leaders who are so committed to social justice and inclusivity,” noted Becca Tice, chairperson of the Affirming and Welcoming Committee which promotes the full inclusion of the LGBTQ community within the church. “We won’t pretend that this week’s votes weren’t enormously disappointing but we don’t intend to be defined, defeated or deterred by those votes.”
United Methodists from around the globe gather every four years to consider changes to their Book of Discipline which serves as both “Constitution” and more specific, practical guidebook for how the church is to be run. Policies detrimental and discriminatory to lesbian and gay individuals have been included in the Book of Discipline since the early 1970s but the actual implementation of policies, in practice, has varied from state to state and country to country.
Closer to home, United Methodists in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming (known as the Rocky Mountain Conference) will gather for their annual conference in Denver about six weeks from now. Decisions made by the international conference likely will be fodder for both formal and informal discussion at that conference. Many local individuals already are contemplating actions to express their grave disappointment and disapproval of the votes by the international body and considering ways to bring about future changes.
“We honor and respect the tremendous good work which the United Methodist Church has accomplished in so many ways since its beginning in the 18th century,” said Justin Livingston, Chair of Church Council. “We believe our world needs more instruments of God’s love, grace, and justice, not fewer, and that’s why we will continue to embrace everyone as welcomed participants in God’s family as we experience it at First United Methodist Church of Boulder.”