A special session of the worldwide governing body of the United Methodist Church (UMC) recently met in St. Louis to wrestle with the topics of ordination of gay clergy and same sex marriage, currently not allowed within the UMC. To the dismay of many, the final vote maintained the status quo rather than opening the doors to be more inclusive. We are disappointed and troubled by this reality and wish to clarify for the community the position of El Pueblito (the local United Methodist Church).
El Pueblito openly welcomes ALL people who may wish to worship with us and to participate in sharing the love through Shared Table, a food pantry providing food and personal hygiene items to over 500 people each month. Accepting, embracing and loving others as they are, has been part of the tradition of El Pueblito for decades and will continue to be into the future. We feel compelled to express this affirmation of all people, irrespective of one’s sexual identity or orientation. In the fall of 2018, El Pueblito church members and friends petitioned our regional delegates to the United Methodist governing body to vote for full inclusion of LGBTQ people. Sadly this did not occur. Approximately 2/3 of voting delegates from the US voted to allow individual churches to make their own decisions regarding same-sex marriage and ordaining gay and lesbian clergy; while about 1/3 of US delegates voted against such change. Those voting to maintain the current position included many delegates from outside the United States, representing countries with less acceptance of LGBTQ people. We are sorry for the pain and trauma that churches, local and universal, have inflicted by failing to see, love, and affirm our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. Each and every person is a beloved child of God.
In the days, weeks and months ahead, we, the faithful community at El Pueblito will do the hard work of deciding our future as a church. This work will include prayer, conversation, and creative thinking about the future direction of our church. Because we are currently organized as a United Methodist Church, our administrative structure is inter-connected with the larger United Methodist Church. It will take some time for the “dust to settle” but we will work to explore various possibilities that will allow our church to continue its meaningful ministries well into the future.
In the meantime, we remain committed to full inclusion of our LGBTQ siblings. They are part of our wider community. We have no intention to alienate or further ostracize any in our community who wish to find a church home where they can worship and be cared for in a loving community of like-minded people. Our commitment to diversity is biblical, deeply rooted in Scripture and our Wesleyan tradition. We are not going anywhere, and we will continue our mission and ministry of sharing God’s grace and love for all people. “God is love, and those who abide in love, abide in God, and God abides in them.” (1 John 4: 16b)
When folks show up at Shared Table on Wednesdays we do not inquire about their sexual orientation; we just welcome them all and share what is on our table. Likewise, when people come to worship on Sunday morning at 11:00 we do not ask about their sexual preference or gender identity. We’re just happy to see them!
El Pueblito has been serving this community as a Methodist church since 1960. Nearly 60 years ago a church by the side of the road had its roots in what was a former gas station, a bar and a cafe. People of diverse backgrounds were being served then and we have no intention of changing our call to serve others in a Christ-like spirit. As the larger United Methodist institution continues to struggle with more conservative positions, please know that the former and current pastors of El Pueblito, Steve Wiard & Cheri Lyon, are in full agreement that ALL folks are welcome at El Pueblito … today, tomorrow, and in the days to come.
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Cheri Lyon is the current pastor/director of El Pueblito UMC & Shared Table; Steve Wiard served from 1997 – 2018