I’ve been thinking about graphs lately. I’m not mathematically inclined, so I like mine with pictures, like the pizza pictograph here. My choice would have been veggie pizza, but I guess that choice doesn’t register enough votes to count. Oh well; pizza, no matter how you slice it, is good!
Our recent church straw poll survey results showed up in bar graph form. You can see the results at our website under the Central Way Forward page. There you’ll see that over 80% of members and friends who call Central home would like to see their congregation name our welcome and acceptance of those who identify as LGBTQ in a more open way. Our members will now have the opportunity to vote those motions into practice on July 7th. See the Central Way Forward web page for detailed information regarding this vote.
When I look at that bar graph I realize there are hundreds of names and faces and stories behind those charted responses. Most who responded are eager to have Central stand up and say to our gay neighbors, “no matter what our denomination is saying, you don’t have to change who you are to be accepted by us or God.” For others, their vote is saying “of course LGBTQ persons are welcome here, they’re always welcome here, but I’m not sure about same gender marriage or having a pastor who is gay.” Some want to be faithful to their understanding of the scriptures and the statements of our Book of Discipline. Some don’t think we need to join another organization like Reconciling Ministries to accomplish this. Others are not certain what is best for Central Church on this matter. What’s the story behind your survey answer?
Even if you didn’t take the survey, you have a story. No matter what it is, please know that your story matters. It may be a part of the long bar or it may be a part of the shorter bars on the chart, but it maters. Why? Because in church statistics people are more important than numbers. And while numbers may move the church in one way instead of another, the names and faces behind a survey are loved children of God.
When we vote on July 7th we need to bear this in mind. As you know, my hope is for Central to become more overtly welcoming to our gay neighbors. But I will not forget the names and faces and stories behind the ballots. I know many of your stories. I’m aware that you are earnestly seeking what’s right and best. So when we vote let’s do so with love for God and neighbor in our hearts. Let’s do so with a humble trust that God is at work among us and that we are on a mission together: The mission of spreading the love and mercy of Jesus Christ. Let’s do so with gratitude that we are a part of a vital congregation that IS making a difference because God is blessing our work. Just as pizza is made to be eaten, our lives are meant to given as bread for the world after the manner of The Bread of Life, Jesus.
Also, please know that Pastor Chris and I are always available to you. Our Stephen Ministers are also ready to come along side as a caring friend and someone to pray with. The good news is that we get to journey together through these uncertain times in the UMC with the confidence that God has a good future for us.
As you enjoy these few precious months of summer, keep close to Central. Remember the story we share together. Support our ministries with your finances. Fill the park and sanctuary for worship, and connect as Jesus’ body here in service. Serving Saturday opportunities continue through the summer as does our Community Outreach program. A powerful book study is happening each Wednesday as well.
Here’s a parting word from the Apostle Paul. A fitting charge for times of change:
“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care — then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends.” Philippians 2: 1-2
God is here, there and everywhere. Lean in and love radically.