First United Methodist Family and Friends,
First Church has a long tradition of being an inclusive congregation but, as we all know, the legislation passed by the Special Session of General Conference in 2019 presents us, and many other congregations, with challenges to our commitment to be an inclusive fellowship and ministry.
As you know we have established a task force we’re calling First Phoenix Forward. We have met twice and are enthusiastic about our work. One of our primary concerns is establishing a process that will keep the congregation informed as to what’s happening in the denomination and how that impacts local congregations such as ours. We also need to listen to all the voices of our congregation in a way that demonstrates our respect and affection for each other. We have decided to invite the congregation to attend two sessions (more will surely be planned for later).
• Sunday, September 8, between services. To discuss and take questions regarding the process we are using and implications from Annual Conference and General Conference actions.
• Sunday, September 29, between services. A forum to discuss “our stories.” Sharing and discussion around our experiences as LGBTQIA persons and family stories that have impacted our thoughts and the way we love each other.
With no definite timeline at this point, it is clear our congregation will have to decide if we can effectively serve Christ in a just and bold way as part of the United Methodist denomination or do we need to separate ourselves from the denomination into a different kind of affiliation (yet to be determined).
This process is not intended “to decide” whether we will continue to be an inclusive congregation. You have already settled that. The process, and any decisions we might make, are intended to discover the most effective way for us to be faithful to our calling as a loving, just, and inclusive community.
This is a continuing conversation that requires commitment, patience, and prayer from all of us.
Grace and Peace, Denny