Please note: this is a response to an article which appeared in the Dallas Voice on April 26. It will appear in next week's edition. I plan to meet with the editor of the paper and the writer of the article next week.
"Are you a gay church?”
This question was asked to me over the phone on the morning of September 18, 2011, the morning of the Alan Ross Freedom Parade. Oak Lawn United Methodist Church has, for several years, had a float in the parade, distributed free water bottles to attendees, and welcomed crowds to gather on our campus for the parade. I was appointed to Oak Lawn earlier in the summer, so this was my first parade. I proudly walked with other members of our congregation in support of our community and our place within it.
Last week, the Dallas Voice published an article by David Taffet called “Local Methodists Keep Up Fight for LGBT Inclusion.” The article focused on issues surrounding the United Methodist Church’s General Conference, our official decision-making body, which met recently in Tampa, Florida. The Conference would hopefully reconsider, and possibly reverse, the UMC’s stance on homosexuality, which is considered, vaguely, “incompatible with Christian teaching.” United Methodist pastors may not preside at same sex unions, nor may they be “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals.”
The article mentioned a couple who left Oak Lawn twenty-two years ago after a contentious sermon delivered here. The only other mention of Oak Lawn was a line which read, [today it is] “’amazingly diverse in its people’s culture and lifestyles.’” No reference for the quote was offered—neither I, nor any staff member, nor, as far as I know, anyone from Oak Lawn, was asked to contribute to the story in any way. Had I been asked to contribute, I would have said something similar to what I say every Sunday before the congregation: "We are proud to be a place where everyone is valued and respected as a child of God, made in God's own image." I have heard several people say how much they appreciate this. The thing is: no one coached me on that. My first Sunday here I literally stood up to welcome folk to church and those words came out. I did not plan it in any way. It's who Oak Lawn is. It's important for everyone who calls Oak Lawn home for their heart knows this.
“Are you a gay church?,” the person asked on the morning of the Alan Ross Freedom Parade. “No,” I said. “We are a people church. Everyone is welcome here.” Our goal is to create a truly inclusive congregation: gay and straight, conservative and liberal, long-time Christian and newly baptized. If you have been looking for such a place, please join us for worship soon—services are held every Sunday at 8:30 and 11:00 a.m.