Bishop urges churches to welcome everyone

By Susan Green*

Bishop Kenneth Carter

ORLANDO – Bishop Ken Carter is encouraging churches across the Florida Conference to welcome gays and lesbians in worship and ministry.

At a regularly scheduled gathering of St. Luke’s UMC’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender cluster group Thursday, Carter encouraged United Methodists to welcome people of all sexual orientations with a spirit of “generous orthodoxy.” The full 5,000-member St. Luke’s congregation and clergy from other churches were invited to hear the message.

“Since arriving in Florida, I have been approached by pastors of some of our most fruitful churches, seeking a conversation about this topic,” Carter said before addressing the St. Luke’s gathering.

“When churches begin to reach their communities, and especially when they begin to connect with younger generations, the question of our mission with gay and lesbian Christians and their families is not political or ideological; it is rooted in pastoral relationships and in the desire to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

“Once I began to reflect on this and felt led to contribute to the conversation, I realized that sharing with a local church would be an appropriate first step, followed by publishing a more general statement to a broad audience.”

The bishop noted in his remarks that he was speaking in a pastoral and missional context, not in legal or political terms, and he was not advocating a break with the denomination’s Book of Discipline, the principles of which he has promised to uphold. His statement did not address issues of ordination and marriage that have been debated in recent years. To read the statement, click here.

Dr. Bill Barnes, lead pastor at St. Luke’s, said he was “overwhelmed” that Carter wanted to convey such a message and that he chose St. Luke’s to deliver it. The pastor said his church has long had people of all sexual orientations in leadership roles and on staff, and some grew emotional when they learned of the bishop’s impending visit.

“There were people with tears in their eyes,” Barnes said. “This is a big thing for us because of the large number of lesbian and gay people who are making their way back to the church with some fear or wariness. … It’s just huge.”

He added that he sees the statement as a call to extend a “grace-filled welcome” to all people, regardless of ethnicity, age or walk of life.

– Susan Green is the editor of the Florida Conference Connection.

Join the conversation....

  1. theospilot says:

    Well, "tears in the eyes" that is the sure sign of truth and Orthodox Christianity. Let us have more tears in the eyes to find our way forward out of the increasing wreckage, destruction and disappearance of the UMC. Let me give you the obvious interpretation to the bishop's comments which are camouflaged and honestly, deceptive. He is saying he wants full inclusion of homosexuals, lesbians, those who have sexual relations with multiple partners, and other as of yet unidentified weird sexual behaviors that are contrary to Christian teaching. Ken, why not come out and state honestly what you want and give up the games? I know, you are waiting until it is safer and there is less risk to you, right? Just like Obama's continuing back and forth on the issue. "Yes I believe marriage is between one man and one woman, no I don't believe marriage should be limited to one man and one woman. All along he held one position and anybody who cared to identify the truth knew it. Ken, show a little more courage and just flat out state what you believe and don't hide but be a man.

  2. Wondering, Mr. Voorhees, if you are one of the progressives driving the ums now-a-days???

    • Jay Voorhees, Execut says:

      You will have to be the judge of that, although I don't think that I have much influence in driving the United Methodist Church much of anywhere. All I can say is that we are working hard to publish a variety of voices here at the United Methodist Reporter. We reported on the action of one of our bishops. You will have to determine if he was appropriate in his actions.

      • Thank you Mr. Voorhees. It is good to know that you intend to use a "fair and balanced" agenda as you strive to keep the umc informed of issues that come along.

  3. todd.ruopp says:

    As someone who was present for Bishop Carter's remarks on Thursday and as a gay man who only recently discovered St. Luke's, all I can say is that my whole experience has been overwhelming.

    After my husband and I had visited many churches in the Orlando area, most of which claimed to be open and affirming, St. Luke's was the first to aggressively make us feel at home. From the moment we entered the church for the first time, Kevin, whom we had met the night before at a Gay Christian Network social, began introducing us to many members and staff, all of whom took an authentic interest in our well being. Then during the sermon the Pastor used the phrase "partner" and also announced the formation of the LGBTQA Cluster Group. Bruce and I walked out of the church somewhat in shock. Was this real or was it just a lucky Sunday? During the drive home we recounted all of the amazing things that had happened to us that day.

    Since then, we have missed few Sundays and it is clear to us that it is real and we are loved. You'll find us at the 9:30 am contemporary service sitting in the front row. Bruce is volunteering as a camera operator taping the sermons and I have jumped into the church's new effort to lift 400 families out of poverty in a town about ten minutes from the church using the Circles Campaign. I have never felt so close to God in my entire life and that's coming from someone who has never belonged to a church before and felt ostracized by organized religion.

    Reading the negative comments about Bishop Carter's thoughtful remarks about grace for people "of sacred worth" saddens me. I think about the millions of my fellow brothers and sisters who are estranged from the church because of judging and inhospitable remarks. My hope is that there is a church like St. Luke's near each one of those brothers and sisters so they can, once again, feel the warm embrace of a church family just as Bruce and I do every day. Thank, God, for Bishop Carter and St. Luke's.

  4. shawn10 says:

    It seems to me that what is often absent in moments like this is theological reflection, without which these conversations lack anything we might consider particularly Christian. Theologically minded Methodists in the mainstream of Christian orthodoxy (like myself) already believe passionately in practicing a welcoming ethos, in being generous to those society has spurned–in loving our neighbors. We likewise affirm (loudly–let's face it, everyone knows Methodists are a welcoming church) the sacred worth of all human beings. The debate isn't, and hasn't been, over these two points of practice and belief. The debate begins when we ask what it is we are being welcomed into, and here the theologically progressive position begins to look a tad superficial. Theologically orthodox Methodists say that we are welcomed into the body of Christ, which is transformative. That is to say, our relationship to God through the mystical body of Christ should be characterized by regeneration, renewal, and reconciliation (Titus 3:5). Being a Christian, on this understanding, is to look forward to and work toward the time when we are "made new" (Rev 21:5). And, of course, all of these Biblical assumptions are made within the context of a particular, theological anthropology. One which says that a man and woman are designed for each other, that there is spiritual complementarity that attaches to sexual difference. This is why marriage between a man and a woman is sacramental; because a man and a woman, precisely in virtue of their spiritually and embodied "difference" (a "difference" that goes all the way down, as it were), enact in their marriage the regeneration, renewal, and reconciliation of creation. This enactment of regeneration, renewal, and reconciliation is the only basis we have as Christians for determining the sacredness of something. So, while orthodox Methodists can understand the legal recognition of same-sex unions (indeed, it's hard to see what legal argument could be made against it), we do not affirm homosexual relationships within the context of sacrament. This renders the issue of practicing homosexual ministers odd, to put it generously. At least, it isn't easy to see how the church can promote ministers who live in non-sacramental relationships. It's a debate worth having in those terms, anyway. And this is all over and against the theologically progressive Methodists, who say we are welcomed into the body of Christ, which is inclusive. Well, good, but inclusivity isn't on its own a Christian virtue. Gyms are inclusive. So, that's the challenge I would like to see our progressive brothers and sisters rise to meet. Work out a distinctly Christian theology of inclusivity that doesn't ignore the Bible or Biblical anthropology, that takes in the context of Christian belief and practice. There are many, many of us in the Methodist mainstream who are theologically and philosophically literate and committed to practicing agape toward homosexuals, but who are not hearing well-reasoned, distinctly Christian discussions about this issue.

  5. mainerain says:

    If a minister or bishop in the UMC wants to violate church law and the Holy Scriptures then they should be tossed out on their ear. Praise God for the African and Asian delegates and their growing numbers! They will ensure that the UMC stays true to Biblical truth and teaching. If people feel strongly about supporting gay “marriage” then I would encourage them to consider the Episcopal “church” or the Evangelical Lutheran “church” of America. They have both become apostate and support gay marriage and openly gay ministers, etc. The continual slide towards irrelevance continues for the once great USA. “Be not deceived, God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” Galations 6:7

    Romans 1:26-27
    1 Timothy 1:10-11
    1 Corinthians 6:9-10

  6. bsstuckey says:

    I continue to be baffled by the never ending debate over what the UMC is going to do about homosexuality. The UMC does not have to do anything. The Bible is clear on this behavior just as it is clear about adultery.
    What if you plugged the word "adulterer" in the place of "homosexual" and "gay" in the Bishop's statement? Do we have any debate over that particular sinful behavior? Is there concern over excluding blatant adulterers in leadership roles in the church? If a married associate pastor is open about sexual relations with his married neighbor are we to feel guilty that he is condemned for his behavior and loses his position of leadership in the church? And does the Reporter repeatedly publish stories that condone adultery by shaming the rest of us into believing this is a perfectly acceptable behavior and that we are not inclusive enough because openly unrepentant adulterers are not allowed to lead in the church?
    We love and accept the pastor as a person but his behavior is forbidden by the Bible and labeled a sin. So it should be with homosexuals. But if the homosexual is not trying to reform his or her behavior and is not repentant about sinning, should we be welcoming them into leadership roles any more than we would welcome an unrepentent and openly adulterous person?
    This is a case of a lie being repeated so many times that many people have begun to believe that there is nothing wrong with committing a behavior that is labeled sinful by the Bible. Man has no need to pass judgment on this topic. God has done that already. How about we listen to Him?

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 

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