Welcoming lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender persons

by: Submitted Photo  - Worship team members Devini Crist, left, and Nita Carnagey unfurl a rainbow-colored parachute during a celebration of the Madras United Methodist Church becoming a reconciling ministry.

   The unfurling of a rainbow-colored parachute during a celebration May 27, symbolized that all people -- including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons -- are welcome at the Madras United Methodist Church, which recently became a member of the Reconciling Ministries Network.
   "Most congregations say anybody is welcome, but those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender assume that doesn't mean them, unless there is some sign to let them know it's really OK," said the Rev. Janet Farrell of the Madras UMC.
   Joining the Reconciling Ministries Network accomplishes that. The organization encourages United Methodist churches to be supportive of diversity, but each church is allowed to make its own choice.
   "What's unique about us, is we are the 500th Methodist congregation to join the Reconciling Ministries, and the first one east of the Cascades," Farrell noted.
   Farrell said for 15 years, the Madras UMC has had a welcoming statement printed in its weekly bulletin, and six years ago, the church signed the Champoeg Declaration -- an affirming document within the United Methodist's Oregon-Idaho Conference.
   Discussion about joining the reconciling ministries began in the spring of 2011, with Farrell and church members Doug and Patty Lieuallen spearheading educational and informational sessions.
   "In September, we really started planning," Farrell said, noting, members of the congregation "studied scripture, had speakers come, and saw films related to homosexuality, which is the big issue people seem to have a hard time getting around." The study of issues continued through Lent.
   Then on April 22, by secret written ballot, the congregation voted on affiliation with the Reconciling Ministries Network, with 86 percent in favor of joining, and 14 percent against, or undecided.
   The church's welcoming statement now reads:
   "As a Christian community called to be inclusive, caring and peace-minded, we affirm that people of any race, ethnic identity, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, age, economic status, or life situation are welcome in our congregation."
   "The main thing is, it's not only to let lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people know they're welcome, but it's about helping the congregation know people from any circumstance are welcome," Farrell said.
   She said members are led to "make disciples of all people for the transformation of the church and world into the full expression of Christ's inclusive love."
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