Last Thursday night, Foundry United Methodist Church hosted a prayer service in light of the passage of the Traditional Plan at the UMC General Conference (read about the traditional plan here). Foundry officials hoped for the passage of the One Church Plan (OCP) that was voted down last week (read about the One Church Plan here). Prompted by sadness at the General Conference results, the congregation hosted an open prayer service for those expressing hurt at the decision and for the future of the denomination.
The 7 p.m. service was well attended by participants who donned rainbow colored prayer stoles and scarves in an effort to affirm those who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) and to dissent from the General Conference decision tightening enforcement measures that ban same-sex weddings in the church and non-celibate LGBTQ clergy from officiating.
“Ain’t gonna let your hatred turn me around… I’m gonna keep on talkin, keep on walkin, marchin’ up to freedom land,” congregants sang in the words to the song “the journey isn’t over” by United Methodist composer Mark Miller. The song was one of several which emphasized social justice themes. Many made no mention of Christ.
Foundry Senior Pastor Ginger Gaines-Cirelli read a letter from Baltimore-Washington Episcopal Area Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, who was at General Conference supporting the One Church Plan. Easterling wrote to the congregation about her sadness, sharing plans to convene with other area bishops to discuss how the result came about and where the church should go from here.
Easterling affirmed feelings of pain, anger, and a sense of rejection that LGBT-identifying people expressed following the conference’s outcome.
“As I read the gospel, Christ did not address same-gender love, he did not reject people based on who they are,” Easterling wrote. “As I read the gospel, I understand Christ spoke against the powerful using their power to marginalize others. Human beings are created in the image and likeness of God… Every human is welcome in the household of faith. I pray you feel the anointing of acceptance, welcome, and inclusion in your churches.”
“We will heal together, we will serve together, we will love together, we will rise together,” Easterling concluded. The letter stated her disappointment in General Conference and her willingness to discuss where the church should go from here. It also upheld her belief in the work of congregations affiliated with the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN), an unofficial LGBTQ caucus operating within the United Methodist Church.
T.C. Morrow then spoke as a witness for the hurt she felt from the conference decision. Morrow, an openly partnered lesbian in a same-sex marriage, unsuccessfully pursued a position in ordained ministry within the United Methodist Church for years. She has been a member of Foundry since 2002. She also spoke of her gratitude for the RMN-affiliated congregation at Foundry, but she did not shy away from expressing her disappointment in the decision that was made.
In regards to General Conference, Morrow told of her call to stay in the church for now. She acknowledged that some families will leave the United Methodist Church because of the decision that has been made. She invited people to be in conversation with one another about what is best for them. She did not mention any denomination split or Foundry leaving the United Methodist denomination, but she made it clear that it was acceptable for people to leave if they disagreed so strongly with the Traditional Plan.
The congregation took communion and continued to pray for healing and restoration for the church. Gaines-Cirelli concluded the service by reminding the congregation of churches and people standing with them against the General Conference outcome. She commended those whom she said are resisting evil, injustice, and oppression.
There was no mention of Foundry as an institution breaking away from United Methodism. It is clear that they are experiencing sadness, frustration, and looking for a way to change what happened in St. Louis. The entire service is available to watch on Foundry’s Facebook page.