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Members of Grace Church in Buena Vista, an ecumenical congregation overseen by the United Methodist and Episcopal denominations, were deeply saddened by recent decisions made by the United Methodist General Conference in St. Louis, Feb. 23-26.

At the conference, delegates from around the world voted to retain and reinforce policies prohibiting the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the life of the church.

Although the decision will not result in any changes before 2020, the vote for exclusion was painful and heartbreaking to the pastors and people of Grace Church.

Grace Church is an inclusive congregation which welcomes all people without regard to sexual orientation.

Grace is an open, welcoming and inclusive place where members strive to follow the Holy Spirit, serve in a spirit of boundless love and act out of Christian conscience rather than fear or conformity.

For the past 17 years, Grace Church has wrestled with issues of unity as the congregants worked diligently to bring together two denominations (as well as others from many other denominations).

It wasn’t always easy, but their success has been remarkable. They hope they are a model for how Christians with divergent views and practices can exist in harmony and they intend to continue to do what they do so well – bring people together.

Full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the Episcopal Church began in 1976. At the General Convention it was declared that “homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance and pastoral concern and care of the Church.”

In 2003, the first openly gay bishop was consecrated. In 2009, General Convention resolved that God’s call (ordination) is open to all.

In 2012, a provisional rite of blessing for same-gender relationships was authorized and discrimination against transgender persons in the ordination process was officially prohibited.

And in 2015, the canons of the church were changed to make the rite of marriage available to all people, regardless of gender.

These developments in the Episcopal Church have been accepted at Grace Church.

The people of Grace Church proclaim all people fully included. ALL are welcome!

For more information about Grace Church in Buena Vista, go to gracechurchbvco.org.

– Pastors and council of Grace Church

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