By: Sharon Russo
I’m excited to share with you about a small ministry that I’ve been a part of for the last year. It’s called the Reconciling Ministry Network. This ministry is an organization dedicated to the inclusion of people of all sexual orientation and gender identities in both the policies and practices of the United Methodist Church.
We meet once a month with the hopes and dreams of one day Foothills becoming a reconciling congregation. You may be asking what does that mean? It means that we have made a commitment to being in loving Christian ministry with all people, without prejudice to truly have “open hearts, open minds, open doors,” to work toward a time when our congregation, our denomination and our society live the all-inclusive love that our faith demands.
As a leader of youth and young adults I have seen the pain when one feels they can’t be true to themselves because their religion, their church or their family tells them it’s not ok. They ask me “how can I believe in a God who people say doesn’t love me because I’m gay?” With tears in their eyes they ask me “how can I come to a church where I’m not truly accepted?” “how can I practice a religion that won’t allow me to love who I want?” All I can do is listen and tell them that I have faith that one day changes will be made. Their doubt is palpable.
I ask you, can we blame them? We say our youth are our future. We say that without them our church won’t grow. We say a lot, but all they want is action. All they want is for all humans to be treated equally. All they want is hope. Hope that one day the church that taught them Jesus loves everybody will truly love them whether they're gay, trans or queer.
This month the UMC General Conference is expected to vote on and address issues that surround our LGBTQ congregants and ministers. I will be there with prayers in my heart that I can come back and let our youth know that change is happening. I pray that the United Methodist Church can give our youth hope that they are taking action and are committed to the embodiment of God’s love and justice. That our religion is truly committed to the core of our faith being founded in Jesus’ response to the question “Teacher, which commandment is the greatest?” We are to “love God with all our heart, soul and mind” and the second is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” “All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments.”