We are in the midst of an in-between time. As United Methodists, we have been in an liminal space for over 40 years, as we have wrestled with church doctrine regarding sexuality and its expressions. We have been in a place of watching and waiting, as other denominations have wrestled with this. We have struggled to maintain hope, even in the midst of our denomination’s wrestling. In February of 2019, a called General Conference was held specifically on this issue. Hope was placed in plans that had been the culmination of faithful work on many sides. The Traditionalist plan succeeded, which maintains the prohibitive language regarding homosexuality, currently found in the UM Discipline, along with more stringent punishment for clergy who violate the prohibition regarding officiating at LGBTQAI+ marriages, as well as strengthening the prohibition of the ordination of practicing homosexuals, including those lawfully married.
As a denomination, there is much discussion taking place about what God may be revealing to us about the future of the United Methodist connection. As a church family, we too have been listening to each other about how we feel about the decision, its impact on the future and who we are as a welcoming, inclusive part of the Body of Christ, here up on the hill. Work to be a big tent of God’s love is taking place here and in many other places as well.
In March, Council commissioned a series of “listening posts” to take the pulse of the congregation. Many thanks to the leaders and participants, as well as to those who shared through email and google docs. Council also blessed the establishment of the Allies workgroup to craft a “Welcoming Statement” for CSUMC, to be presented at the April Council meeting for discussion. At the Council meeting last night, we reviewed all the feedback, listening to the church family. All felt that our church was welcoming, acknowledging there is always room to improve, and that we have a clear desire to do so. We also received the work of the Allies workgroup, both the welcoming statement and an update on their group conversation. Council appreciates the time, thought and prayer that went into the “Welcoming Statement”, which was approved unanimously by Council to articulate the welcoming, inclusive, affirming church family that CSUMC is and will be. Please find it below:
Cave Spring United Methodist Church Welcoming Statement
In this church family, you are welcome no matter . . .
your gender, how you were born or how you identify;
where you call home or whom you love;
the color of your skin, or how you celebrate your holidays;
how young you are or how old you feel;
your experiences with addiction, depression, anxiety or mental illness;
what your politics are;
your physical abilities and differences;
if you’ve loved the church, left the church, or never sat in a pew.
We are committed to being a radically loving and affirming community of faith. We want to “do life” together by building authentic relationships that transcend our differences and embrace the fact that we are all loved by God. We promise to worship, grow, and serve side by side with all who seek God in this place.
We reject efforts to discriminate and exclude others from the body of Christ based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, ability, sex, gender identity and expression, or sexual orientation. We welcome individuals from all walks of life to bring their whole selves to experience life together as a beloved community.
We invite you to worship, celebrate, laugh, cry, mourn, and work with us in welcoming the Kingdom of God at Cave Spring United Methodist Church!
You might ask, “why do we need something like this, we are this way already?” It is true, CSUMC is a welcoming church family. But, in this “in-between” time, it is good to say the words that have been part of our hearts and lives. It is like singing a hymn in worship. It articulates our faith, our heart and our lives together as followers of Jesus. This beautiful statement of welcome articulates the faithful Christ-like hospitality we know, and that we covenant to live and share. It is our prayer that you will prayerfully ponder these words, and share them proudly as the church family of CSUMC.
You might also ask, “so, what’s next?” The Allies workgroup is meeting every other Sunday at 4:30 PM in the Cave, to formulate a tag line that encapsulates this Christ-like hospitality for all. Conversations within the UM connection are taking place. The Judicial Council (sort of like the UM Supreme Court) is meeting this week, and ruling on the (UM) constitutionality of the Traditionalist plan and petitions. Beginning in Mid-May, our interim Bishop, Pete Weaver, is traveling through the Conference holding bi-district gatherings to share in worship and conversation. The Roanoke/Lynchburg meeting will be Saturday, June 1 at 3:00 PM at Bethlehem UMC, in Moneta. On June 5, there will be a livestream, “debrief” on the conversations shared throughout the conference. General Conference 2020 is scheduled for April 2020, with delegates to be selected at the 2019 Annual Conferences.
What is next for our church family? All the wonderful, vital ministry that God has called CSUMC to continues. We will be going on ASP, packing backpacks, sharing VBS, sending kids to camp, worshipping, learning and growing together as followers of Jesus Christ. Thanks to the faithful legacy of Jean Beamer and Gerald Duff, we will have new signs throughout the campus to help new friends find their way around. We will dedicate the Wesley Hall windows and playground doors. We will say goodbye and hello—and eat some pancakes together too. We will continue to give and live, so the ministry of Christ may go on through CSUMC, through each of us. Most of all, we will walk the “Jesus Way” together. Doing what Jesus told us to do.
“Love one another, as I have loved you. In this, they will know you follow me.”
If you have any questions, please know you can chat with your pastors anytime. We are the church- we are family- we are followers of Jesus Christ together.