Leaders from Gay and Lesbian Affirming Disciples (GLAD), the National Convocation, North American Pacific Asian Disciples (NAPAD) and Obra Hispana, gathered in Indianapolis to build relationships and discuss GA 1327 “Becoming a People of Grace and Welcome to All.” The meeting was convened by Moderator Regina Morton and General Minister and President Sharon E. Watkins.
At the close of the meeting the leaders expressed the desire to continue the dialogue. According to Watkins, “When we gather at General Assembly, we will already have laid some groundwork for understanding the deep convictions of the individuals involved in the dialogue. It is courageous and painful work to stay in the room to talk about matters about which we are in such disagreement. We will gather at General Assembly to reflect on this first meeting and to pray for the conversations that will take place in Orlando. Next steps include convening the dialogue table again after July to build on what we learned in this first session.”
The opportunity for dialogue grew out of a discussion of the resolution on Facebook. The Rev. Xose Escamilla asked for leaders from the ministries who have written letters to the church in opposition to 1327 to meet with the submitters for dialogue. Moderator Morton opened the meeting reminding the participants that our purpose “is to gather diverse voices to hear and understand our varied perspectives.”
The group followed a process outlined by Morton and Watkins that established guidelines for discussion, but more importantly began with each person sharing his or her faith story. In the sharing, each story humanized the discussion. “The participants came, willing to be vulnerable for the sake of the unity of the church. They questioned one another; shared painful stories; and engaged in the meaningful dialogue that happens when we gather around the table as equal members in the faith,” said Watkins.
Mark Johnston, director of Open and Affirming Ministries for GLAD, shared the purpose of the resolution. “GA 1327 is about welcome and grace. The resolution is about recognizing the baptism of all persons and making space for everyone as a child of God at the table of Jesus Christ.”
The Obra Hispana letter distributed in late January openly declared opposition to the resolution. “We understand that true liberty within our denomination is to feel at home without being pressured or forced to believe a certain way in what is regarded as ‘non-essentials’, especially by a voting resolution” said the Rev. Huberto Pimentel, National Hispanic Pastor. The Hispanic and Bi-Lingual Fellowship passed a resolution declaring homosexuality as sin and reaffirmed it at their July 2012 asamblea.
The Rev. Dr. Timothy James, associate general minister and administrative secretary for the National Convocation said, “The National Convocation wrote in response to (the January version of) Resolution 1327 because we are concerned about the unity and the wholeness of the Church. To take a vote on this most divisive issue has the potential to severely harm the Church. It’s frightening. We need to continue to dialogue with the determination to have/keep all persons at the table in spite of our differences.” The National Convocation Board of Directors requested that all persons, including people who have been delivered from their unwanted homosexuality through counseling, be included in the conversation.
NAPAD released this pastoral letter this week.
As the day ended there were words of appreciation for the honesty of sharing and words of frustration for portions of the interaction that had been particularly difficult. There was a commitment to continue to pray for each other, for the Church, and for the Orlando General Assembly. And there was a commitment to meet again.