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Church’s GLBTQ inclusion sees limited backlash

June 25, 2014 | Katelyn Gendron

EAST LONGMEADOW – There’s been no backlash, only curiosity from those in the community concerning East Longmeadow United Methodist Church’s (ELUMC) decision to formally declare its separation from the larger denomination’s anti-gay marriage policy, according to Pastor Kelly Turney.   

ELUMC became fully inclusive in June 2010, she explained, however, they wanted to appeal to the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning) community with a formal statement of inclusion two weeks ago.

“We haven’t had any protests or flaming crosses on our lawn so that’s really good for East Longmeadow, don’t you think?” Turney told Reminder Publications. “We wanted to make it clear to the larger [United Methodist Church (UMC)] denomination that we don’t discriminate, despite what the larger United Methodist states.

“There was some pushback from non [church] members. They wanted to know if this was in line with the Bible,” she continued. “We are all beloved children of God and they’re included in God’s kingdom and God’s realm. We’re trying to get the message out to LGBTQ people that there are some congregations that are standing up for their rights and their inclusion.”   

ELUMC’s Statement of Inclusion reads, “As we recognize the value in each other, we recognize God. We embrace God’s good gift of diversity and believe all persons are of sacred worth. Therefore, we welcome people of every age, race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, socio-economic condition, family structure, and physical or mental ability into the full participation of this congregation.

“We are called by God to raise the level of hope for those who have been marginalized and singled out for exclusion, including our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender sisters and brothers. Our passion for a wide welcome of all God’s children moves us to participate in reconciling and justice ministries so that we might truly open minds, open hearts, and open doors.”

ELUMC’s separated from the United Methodist Church (UMC) doctrine because “the denomination’s ‘Book of Discipline’ expressly states that ‘ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted in our churches,’” according to information provided by Turney. “In addition, recent United Methodist clergy trials in the news showed the struggle against denominational policies on non-heterosexual marriage and pastors.”

Church Council Chairperson John Dunlop of East Longmeadow explained, “We felt the best way to respond to these events was to adopt an explicit marriage policy that doesn’t discriminate against LGBTQ persons and treats all couples the same regardless of sexual orientation.

“Our understanding of the Gospel and the example of Christ in placing people above discriminatory rules is in direct contradiction to the ‘Book of Discipline,’ and so in the spirit of ‘Gospel obedience’ we have decided to ignore the specific policy that forbids weddings for gay people while upholding the core tenants of the ‘Book of Discipline,’ the UMC’s strong legacy of social justice, and ELUMC’s own Statement of Inclusion,” he continued.

When asked how parishioners have responded to the Council’s statement, Turney replied, “We have a lot of politically savvy people here on both sides of the isle, so it’s not a partisan issue, it’s a gospel issue.”

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