Westlake United Methodist Church continues to welcome ALL people
The United Methodist Church (UMC) has been in the news recently after delegates of the global denomination met in a Special-Called Session of the General Conference to address long-standing disagreements around human sexuality and the inclusion of LGBTQIA persons in the full life of the church.
Headlines from this Conference – where a narrow majority of delegates voted to uphold the worldwide-church’s bans on same-gender unions and “self-avowed, practicing” gay clergy – may lead some to question if United Methodist churches are friendly to LGBTQIA persons. Rest assured, in spite of the vote approving the “Traditional Plan” as amended, Westlake United Methodist Church remains a welcoming congregation.
Westlake UMC is an open and affirming house of worship for all of God’s children with a long history and tradition as a progressive, mission-focused church. In 2001, the church formalized this commitment to inclusion into the congregation’s Vision & Value statements. It is core to Westlake UMC’s identity to “welcome people of all ages, races, social and economic backgrounds, sexual orientations and gender identities.”
“Jesus showed love and compassion to all people and we always seek to do the same,” said the Rev. Mollie Gordon Brown, senior pastor of Westlake UMC.
As an example of its ongoing outreach to people of all backgrounds, Westlake UMC recently became a multi-site church with the addition of a second campus in Cleveland at W. 86th and Clark. Both church campuses – the Suburban Campus in Westlake and the Simpson Metro West (SMW) campus in Cleveland – will continue to welcome all people regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity as members seek to live so that others want to follow Jesus for the transformation of the world.
“Our commitment to the SMW campus is an extension of this dedication to including all persons,” explained the Rev. Paige Boyer, associate pastor/SMW campus pastor. “I am deeply sorry for the pain and hurt experienced by our LGBTQIA siblings in Christ as a result of the outcome of the Special General Conference.”
The United Methodist Church is going through a season of important self-examination and growth. For some, this season seems long and overdue. Bishop Tracy S. Malone, the resident bishop of the local East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church, reaffirmed her unwavering commitment to the transformation of the church and of the world.
In an address following the Special General Conference, Malone stated, “I will continue to be committed to work with you, alongside you, and journey with you as we continue to learn together and think creatively and strategically together about the future of our church together, one that embodies the full inclusion of all persons including our LGBTQIA siblings. I will continue to journey with you as we all work forward and advocate forward God’s inclusive love for the world.”
During the Special General Conference, the Traditional Plan passed as amended by only 54 votes. Keep in mind that as The United Methodist Church is a worldwide body, many of the delegates who voted for the Traditional Plan represented countries where same-sex relations are still prohibited by law. In listening to reports from the meeting, it appears a significant majority of delegates from North America voted against this plan and for another plan that allowed for contextualization around the full inclusion of LGBTQIA persons.
In our divisive culture, we sorely need examples of unity in diversity. Without diversity, we miss out on the full breadth of God’s creative expression. At Westlake UMC, that unity in diversity worships together in the pews every week. There is room for everyone.
In his sermon “Catholic Spirit,” John Wesley, the 18th-century Anglican priest who became the founder of Methodism, spoke to this diversity saying, “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may.”
Westlake UMC welcomes every child of God to experience worship during any of the five weekly worship opportunities at either campus or online at www.westlakeumc.org. ALL are welcome for a journey of growth both individually and as a community seeking to transform the world.
Director of Faith Formation at Westlake United Methodist Church