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What the Heck Is Going on Within the United Methodist Church?

By Members of St. Paul UMC

St. Paul United Methodist Church has been a pillar in the Grant Park neighborhood for more than 110 years. Our members are your neighbors. We embrace the diversity and cultural melting pot that makes our southeast Atlanta neighborhoods such a wonderful place to live. St. Paul welcomes all who love God and the teachings of Jesus Christ and seek to live in peace with one another. In line with our understanding of United Methodist theology and doctrine, particularly our understanding of grace, our congregation aspires to be a nurturing community, supporting one another in our journeys of faith.

The United Methodist Church (UMC) has been in the news a lot lately. The denomination is one of the last mainline denominations prohibiting homosexual marriage or ordination of homosexual individuals. Next to the Southern Baptist Convention, the UMC is the second largest denomination that denies these persons full inclusion. The UMC’s worldwide governing body (the General Conference) recently voted by a narrow margin to continue these homophobic stances, along with its current principle that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Considering that this “traditionalist” position is inconsistent with the understanding of many in the United Methodist Church, we gain hope that there is a spirit of change alive in the denomination from the response by many of us. These rules and language have been a source of great debate, stress, pain, anger, and partisanship within the church since their adoption in 1972. They will continue to be debated during upcoming church meetings.  Clearly, these issues are unresolved.

Aware that the UMC’s decades of decisions regarding homosexuality have caused great harm to our LGBTQ+ friends both inside and outside our church walls, the members of St. Paul overwhelmingly reject the positions upheld at the General Conference of our larger governing body. We believe that we have been complicit in this harm, and we believe that we must do everything in our power to cultivate an environment where reconciliation between the church universal and the LGBTQ+ community is possible. We emphasize that every person is of sacred worth and is created in the image of God. Because of this, there is no acceptable reason to summarily prohibit the full inclusion of any group of persons in the church and its functions, including in the rites of ordination and marriage.

Since our beliefs contradict the positions taken at the last General Conference of the United Methodist Church, we are considering what our actions can and should be. We are joining hands with others in the UMC to decide the most effective ways in which we can fight to overturn the decisions of the General Conference. We stand in solidarity with other churches in Atlanta and the U.S. by rejecting these recent rulings. Should the elected plan be upheld, we will not comply. We will resist it in all its parts. We will not be moved. We will lead by example, even if it means civil disobedience to our denomination. We will be bold in our fight against the outcome of this General Conference, and we will work to ensure that anyone can have an active part in the life and nurturing of this church. We encourage you to join us in our fight for justice and righteousness. We meet on Sundays at 11:00am; the church is located at 501 Grant Street.

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