We want you to know that regardless of who you are you are welcome in our congregation.
Human sexuality is a divisive issue in our culture and in the Church. We know that for many the issue of human sexuality is a “litmus test.” A church’s stance on human sexuality is often a deal breaker one way or the other and it’s frequently the one thing that people want to know before they walk through the door. This statement is our attempt to communicate the conversation we have been having as a congregation. We hope to be clear so that we can thrive as a community pointed at God’s good future in God’s good world.
Our LGBTQ neighbors have a place in God’s community. Providing anything less than a full place in the church because of sexual orientation or identity creates, intentionally or unintentionally, a kind of second class of humanity where some are fully human, and others are not. This is an untenable reality that doesn’t stand up to scripture. All of us can be brought into the new humanity that God has created in Jesus. The Last City (the Bible’s final vision of God’s redemption of our world) will not draw lines based on race, gender, ethnicity, class, or orientation, and so, neither will we. We want to live the down payment of that Last City here and now. That means acknowledging that our LGBTQ neighbors are fully human and inviting them to be fully part of our Christian community.
Our first core value is:
COMMUNITY + RECONCILIATION
We value whole communities that invite and reconcile all people. The Bible calls this a “new humanity” and we think the difficult work of loving our neighbor as our self is worth fighting for.
This is a central part of our identity. We want to be a hospital for the hurting, a place where all people are invited to be part of God’s redemptive plan and people. As our Leadership Team and congregation have processed the issues around human sexuality, we have come to share some common ground. Our community is committed to creating a space that acknowledges the following:
We have many LGBTQ neighbors, friends, and members, and we love them.
Our LGBTQ neighbors have not chosen their sexual orientation or identity. To ask them to change something they have no choice over is neither humane nor possible. This has been a point of failing in the Christian Church and we hope to be a place of healing.
Our LGBTQ neighbors are made in the image of God. They are precious and wonderful and we shouldn’t hold on to theology or practice that diminishes their humanity.
LGBTQ persons should have no barriers to be invited, involved, married, in leadership (pastoral or lay) or otherwise participate in the down payment of the new humanity that is being formed in our midst by God.
The theological landscape around human sexuality is diverse and contentious. Our congregation is born of a theological history/tradition that says “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity.” To that end we affirm broad historical orthodoxy as outlined in the consensual creeds of Christianity especially the Apostles Creed. We are part of a denomination and we embrace the Evangelical Covenant Church’s foundational ethos as expressed in the Covenant Affirmations:
The centrality of the word of God,
The necessity of new birth,
The whole mission of the Church,
The Church as a fellowship of believers,
A conscious dependance on the Holy Spirit
The reality of freedom in Christ.
We celebrate the ECC’s history of finding a third way in controversies about non-essential matters such as infant baptism, just war theory, and many others. We must, however, dissent with the ECC’s recent attempts to silence human sexuality conversations and marginalize pastors, churches, and persons who advocate for LGBTQ inclusion.
We realize that not all Last City members will come to the same conclusions about the Bible’s teaching on same-sex relationships and gender identity, and that people’s convictions may change over time. Yet we believe that our unity comes from our shared faith in Christ, not from absolute agreement about the interpretation of scripture. We believe that if we exhibit the radical love of Christ, our differences and diversity will enrich our life together, not divide us.
This diversity is not a passive way of allowing for continued discrimination but an active way of allowing space and safety to journey together toward a living and hopeful practice of God’s redemptive plan for the world.