This statement has been recommended for adoption, and will be voted on after worship on Sunday, July 21.
Congregational Statement on Inclusion at Avery UMC
Statement of Intent
Avery United Methodist Church seeks to demonstrate hospitality and inclusion to all persons, without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, status, economical condition, sexual preference, or gender identification. As a United Methodist Church, we acknowledge and celebrate that all persons are of sacred worth, lovingly created by God.
The Christian Tradition of Hospitality, Compassion, and Inclusion
The principles of hospitality, compassion, and inclusion have always been foundational to the Christian faith. Hebrew scripture encourages welcoming of foreigners as equal citizens, remembering that the Hebrew people once were foreigners themselves in other lands. Jesus demonstrated compassion and inclusion for persons who experienced exclusion: women, persons afflicted with physical or mental illness, persons with disability, divorced persons, persons with no economic status, children, adulterers, and foreigners. The early church practiced inclusion with persons without regard to sexuality or national origin, as demonstrated by the baptism of an Ethiopian eunuch. Galatians 3:28 presents an ideal community in which human labels that divide us are less significant than our identity as persons who seek to follow Jesus.
Sexuality and Gender Identity in the Church
The people of Avery UMC acknowledge that hospitality and inclusion can be challenging to practice within Christian community. Our denomination continues to disagree on what inclusion means with regards to persons who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning (LGBTQ).
Avery UMC shares this struggle, as we are not of one mind on the issue. Some believe homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Others believe all sexualities and gender identities are gifts and blessings of God, meant to be celebrated within the context of longterm, committed monogamous relationships. Some support current denominational language prohibiting same-sex marriage or ordination of LGBT persons. Others desire to change the denominational language to become more fully inclusive. All of these theological perspectives shall be valued and given voice as we model unity in Christ despite our differences.
As a church, we are committed to remaining in relationship with one another despite our differences of opinion, and strive to create an environment where sexual identity and gender identification does not limit a person’s participation in our ministries. We do not believe that a person’s opinions or practices of sexuality and gender identity determine the authenticity of her or his faith and devotion to Jesus Christ.
We commit to making Avery UMC a place where all persons, including those who are LGBTQ, are encouraged to fully participate in our ministries, become professing members, and express their sexuality or gender identity openly and without fear of harassment. However, at this time we also covenant to follow all United Methodist restrictions surrounding marriage and ordination, even as some of us work to change the language and restrictions.
The Role of the Church in Dismantling Racism
Our nation has always struggled with the reality of racism. Despite significant progress in civil rights and equal treatment of people of color, those rights are often violated, and unjust and unequal treatment continues. At the same time, our nation is becoming more diverse with regards to race, ethnicity, and national origin, and as Christians we are called to embrace this change.
Avery UMC is committed to creating a culture of inclusiveness. We are richer with diversity and we will practice full inclusion and the embracing of persons of every race and ethnicity. To do so, we commit to learning more about the realities of institutional racism, implicit bias, and the ways persons of color have different experiences from white persons. This commitment requires knowing when to listen to the stories of our neighbors, and when to speak up against racism and injustice in any form. We commit to dismantling racism within our congregation, so persons of every race, ethnicity, and national origin are included and valued in all ministry and leadership. Avery UMC considers racial and ethnic diversity in the church to be a gift from God, and we affirm the right of all persons to be included in all ministries and hold any leadership position in any congregation, including that of ordained clergy.
Women in Ministry and Leadership
We affirm that women and men have equal worth in the eyes of God. Scripture tells stories of women in leadership in the early church, and reports that women were the first preachers of the news of Jesus’ resurrection. Avery UMC considers gender diversity in the church to be a gift from God, and we affirm the right of all women to be included in all ministries and hold any leadership position in any congregation, including that of ordained clergy.
We acknowledge that no one person has all the answers. Any community of people will have a variety of opinions and experiences represented, which may lead to disagreements and conflict. However, we embrace these expressions of diverse thought and experience, and believe they help us grow into persons who exhibit Christian principles of compassion, understanding, hospitality, and inclusion. Therefore, Avery United Methodist Church and its ministries shall always be open to persons without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, status, economical condition, sexual preference, or gender identification.