Dear congregation of Clemson UMC:
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus, the One who was dead but now lives through his diverse people throughout the Church.
As you know, after nearly a year-long process, the Church Council approved a congregational vote on a proposed Statement of Welcome developed by the Reconciling Ministries Task Force, a statement that states that we welcome persons in this church regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. This statement was provided to the church in several forms over the last few months and a straw poll was conducted over a two-week period to test the congregation’s readiness for approving it. The straw poll vote passed 77% – 23%.
Last Wednesday, May 17, a town hall meeting was held to give persons opportunities to ask questions about the statement prior to the congregational vote. Bob Brookover, the co-chair of the Reconciling Ministries Team, fielded questions and listened to comments and statements by those attending. It was apparent at that meeting that some persons were concerned with the statement and the implications of aligning our church with the Reconciling Ministries Network. Since that meeting, feedback has continued to come to us and others, to a point where we feel that our community needs to take a collective breath before proceeding with the vote. Therefore, the upcoming voting will be delayed in order to give the Church Council time to consider the feedback we have received. The Church Council will meet on Wednesday, September 6, at 6 p.m. At this meeting, the council will hear from the Reconciling Ministries Team, consider the input received from others, and reschedule the congregational vote accordingly.
I know some of you will be saddened by this development. After talking to Bob today, we both feel it’s in the best interest of the church as a whole to allow time and space for the Spirit to move, for tempers to calm, for feedback to be considered, and for discernment to take place. God’s work is uncomfortable at times. Read the book of Acts and you will see a church struggling with similar issues pertaining to the inclusion of Gentiles. So let us all pray for the church, pray for those who have been marginalized by the church, and seek God’s direction on ways we might be able to be partners with God in particular ways in this community.
Grace and peace,