In the last couple of editions of The Chaffee County Times, there have been references to Grace Church in Buena Vista; once in the Oct. 31 Faith Page column written by the Rev. Rebecca Kemper Poos, and again in a letter to the editor by Tim Burt published on Nov. 7. These references arose from a press release Grace Church submitted to The Chaffee County Times on March 28.
The Grace Church press release was in response to some decisions by the United Methodist Church that excluded persons based on sexual orientation. At Grace, although we are a part of the UMC, we do not agree and strive to be inclusive and welcoming of all people regardless of sexual orientation. Today, we stand by the remarks made in the March press release.
In his letter to the editor, Mr. Burt says, “Everyone IS welcome in our churches.” I have no doubt that all churches try to be welcoming and perhaps even consider welcoming others to be a core value.
But I think it is the ones who are being welcomed who can honestly tell us how well we are doing as we strive to live out the value of welcome. It seems to me that welcome is in the eye of the beholder. At Grace, we try to be welcoming and we publicly declare that welcoming all is one of our values, but we must listen to those whom we strive to welcome if we really want to know how successfully we are guided by our values.
Mr. Burt goes on to imply that those churches that do not condone the LGBTQA+ lifestyle are “Biblically sound churches” while those who embrace LGBTQA+ orientations are not Biblically sound. We have only to look at centuries of church history to see that the argument over “Biblical soundness” has frequently been a matter of debate, and has resulted in division, condemnation and exclusion – even imprisonment and execution!
We can also see that “Biblical soundness” has evolved substantially over the centuries. I'm afraid these debates themselves have made our churches less welcoming to those who stand on the outside looking in.
We believe God calls us to be faithful, not to be right. We believe God calls us to be compassionate, not judgmental. At Grace, we're doing our best to be faithful and compassionate. Even so, I'm sure our welcome sometimes falls short. After all, we are all just human.
But I say, in spite of our failures, being just human is not such a bad thing!
Rev. Catherine Tran, Rector
Rev. David Erickson,
Council of Grace Church, Buena Vista