Feb 182011

I returned once again to the Administrative Council at my church to ask them to pass a resolution adopting a non-discrimination statement. The last time I went in 2008, one of the members, Bill Josey, an attorney, objected because I had included a statement that we would, when reasonable, try to do business only with other organizations that had a similar statement. That was his only objection. I took it out, completely, but guess what, at January’s meeting he had a different objection.

This time he decided we shouldn’t do it because it might be divisive. You know, stating to the broader community that everyone is welcome at our church isn’t something we should take lightly, even though all the classes in my statement are also in the Methodist Discipline. Naturally, that meant someone had to say, “Well, if it’s in the Discipline, why do we need to say it again?” I asked the group how many (noting they are Church Leaders) had ever read the Discipline. Only two raised their hands. I pointed out if they weren’t interested, how could we expect someone just looking for a church home be expected to read a couple hundred pages?

This time however, I had some reinforcements. A group of long-standing members of the church were more than willing to go along and speak in favor of the statement, and two members of the Council stood and spoke in favor of the resolution. I think Bill and Preacher saw the ground shift under their feet a little, so we moved things forward some, and will be going back again with a revised statement.

Here’s the resolution Bill considers to be so divisive:

TITLE: A Statement of Commitment to Justice for All People and a Call to Action for Palma Ceia United Methodist Church

Equal Opportunity for all persons

SUMITTED BY: B. John Masters, Jr., et. al.

United Methodist Church Book of Discipline ¶161 and ¶162

DATE: January 31, 2011

FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS: There are no direct financial implications arising to Palma Ceia United Methodist Church associated with this resolution.

Inasmuch as Palma Ceia United Methodist Church has always been a church providing open hearts, open minds and open doors, it is appropriate that Palma Ceia United Methodist Church adopt a public statement of that commitment consistent with Biblical teaching and the Discipline of the United Methodist Church.  Especially as Methodists, “We believe we have a responsibility to innovate, sponsor, and evaluate new forms of community that will encourage development of the fullest potential in individuals…”

Whereas, Christians have been called from the earliest days of Old Testament teaching to be Just to all, as in Micah 6:8 when the Prophet tells the people, “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?,” and;

Whereas, the Father of Methodism, John Wesley, wrote in his, “Explanatory Notes on The Bible,” for this verse, “He – God hath already told you in his word, with what you ought to come before him. To do justly – To render to every one their due, superiors, equals, inferiors, to be equal to all, and oppress none, in body, goods or name; in all your dealings with men carry a chancery in your own breasts, and do according to equity. To love mercy – To be kind, merciful and compassionate to all, not using severity towards any. Walk humbly with thy God – Keep up a constant fellowship with God, by humble, holy faith,” and;

Whereas, Equal Rights and Justice are tenants of Methodism from its earliest roots as the first item of the 1908 Social Creed of the Methodist Episcopal Church says, “For equal rights and complete justice for all men in all stations of life,” and;

Whereas, in the New Testament, Paul says, “in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male or female, God has enough love for all!,” and;

Whereas, John Wesley wrote in his comment on Acts 2:45: “It was a natural fruit of that love wherewith each member of the community loved every other as his own soul. And if the whole Christian Church had continued in this spirit, this usage must have continued through all ages,” and;

Whereas, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us, “When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to the glories of love. Where evil men would seek to perpetuate an unjust status quo, good men must seek to bring into being a real order of justice;” and;

Whereas, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church ¶161 states, “The community provides the potential for nurturing human beings into the fullness of their humanity. We believe we have a responsibility to innovate, sponsor, and evaluate new forms of community that will encourage development of the fullest potential in individuals. Primary for us is the gospel understanding that all persons are important-because they are human beings created by God and loved through and by Jesus Christ and not because they have merited significance. We therefore support social climates in which human communities are maintained and strengthened for the sake of all persons and their growth. We also encourage all individuals to be sensitive to others by using appropriate language when referring to all persons. Language of a derogatory nature (with regard to race, nationality, ethnic background, gender, sexuality, and physical differences) does not reflect value for one another and contradicts the gospel of Jesus Christ;” and;

Whereas, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church ¶162 states, “The rights and privileges a society bestows upon or withholds from those who comprise it indicate the relative esteem in which that society holds particular persons and groups of persons. We affirm all persons as equally valuable in the sight of God. We therefore work toward societies in which each person’s value is recognized, maintained, and strengthened. We support the basic rights of all persons to equal access to housing, education, communication, employment, medical care, legal redress for grievances, and physical protection. We deplore acts of hate or violence against groups or persons based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, or economic status;”

Whereas, the United Methodist Church has adopted the saying, Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors, and;
Whereas, the website of Palma Ceia United Methodist Church states, “We have Open Minds, Open Hearts, and Open Doors. I think you will find us a warm, welcoming and accepting church.,” and;

Whereas, Palma Ceia United Methodist Church and its members view our place in the Tampa Bay area and the larger world as witnessing to Jesus Christ’s message of love for and acceptance of all people, and;

Whereas, The people of Palma Ceia United Methodist Church have a history of acceptance of and outreach to all people, and a desire to encourage others to love one another in the spirit of the Gospel Message of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ;

Now therefore be it resolved: The People of Palma Ceia United Methodist Church adopt the following statement of non-discrimination:

The people of Palma Ceia United Methodist Church are called to share God’s love as we minister with and to all persons in the community where the church is located and beyond, providing worship, nurture, fellowship, and service. Our welcome knows no boundaries of age, race, ethnicity, culture, gender, sexual orientation, economic condition, physical or mental ability. We embrace and seek to preserve the beautiful, amazing diversity of God’s creation. We cooperate in ministry with other local churches and groups of God’s people as we participate in the worldwide mission of Christ.

And will publish said statement as a public statement of Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors to our community and beyond in all places and publications as appropriate, and;

The statement will be added in a reasonable time to the website on the page which includes the current statement of openness, and may be placed at other places as appropriate on all official Church printed and electronic materials where such a statement would be expected and advance the purpose of inclusion of all in the message of Jesus Christ.

Effective Date: The requirements of this resolution shall be effective immediately on passage by the Administrative Board of Palma Ceia United Methodist Church. Inclusion of the Non-Discrimination Statement in printed materials, where appropriate, is required only in new supplies of the printed materials after existing supplies are exhausted.

We’ll get there someday.

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