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St. Paul UMC and the “United Methodist Church”

By Rebecca Wallace

Parishioners of St. Paul UMC rejoiced, cried, and took a big sigh of relief when we heard the news from Pastor Cassie Rapko that the United Methodist Church finally took the steps at its recent global General Conference to truly live up to its motto, “Open hearts, open minds, open doors.” Held in Charlotte in early May, General Conference voted to remove the language from the UMC Book of Discipline that prohibited the ordination of clergy who are “self-avowed practicing homosexuals”–a prohibition that was added in 1984. 

Also, delegates voted to allow churches to hold–or refrain from holding–same-sex weddings. Now, our pastor and church leadership have the authority to decide if we are a church that will officiate and host those weddings (we are!), just as we have the authority to decide if we will host any wedding, and our pastor decides if they will officiate any wedding.

These two barriers have been a point of contention within the United Methodist Church–to some, for decades, and, as it was well reported in the media, drove some churches in Georgia to leave the Church when the winds of change were finally blowing towards removing these barriers. Of course, St. Paul UMC, an inner city church that has sat on the corner of Sydney and Grant Streets Since the late 1800s, has always wanted this.

Additionally, in the year of racial reckoning that was 2020, the church made its stance on race known to all who pass by the building by hanging a plaque explaining why “United” was added to the name of the church in 1968; it was to distinguish us from those Methodist churches who did not disavow slavery. The plaque also reads that in 2020 we acknowledged and repented our roles in perpetuating the sin of racial inequality, and that “St. Paul UMC pledged to educate itself further about racism, white privilege, and ongoing systemic racist policies, and to work intentionally to eradicate these sins from our existence.”

While divisions within any church are never easy, they always happen for a reason. The members and staff of St. Paul UMC finally have the peace knowing that we are indeed aligned with the United Methodist Church, perhaps not on all things, but on these two issues of social injustice.

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