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.

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8 Comments on "Bishop urges churches to welcome everyone"

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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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… Read more »
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… Read more »
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… Read more »
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… Read more »

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

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… Read more »
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