Rev. Chris Warren: “We are All Part of the Same Church”

By |2024-03-25T00:11:57-05:00March 24th, 2024|

By Rev. Chris Warren Like many in our denomination, I am grieving the division that is threatening our very existence. I have not always been Cumberland Presbyterian. I was called as a musician to serve a Cumberland Presbyterian church when I was 19. I had no expectation of being called to ministry in that same church years later. I start here because I deeply love the Confession of Faith. I read that document, and it is the reason I became Cumberland Presbyterian. At that time, I was just developing my faith, my understanding of scripture, and my place in God’s world. The beauty of the language in our Confession-- the ability we have as Cumberland Presbyterians to be a part of the same church even though we may understand some things about scripture differently--was one of the most important reasons I had for choosing this church as my home. I have never wavered from my commitment to the Confession of Faith. I imagine any of us can look at any written word and see something a little different from each other. I may read those words the same way you do, or I may read them in a different way than you do, but I want to be clear that I revere the words in the Confession. In many ways I feel that the division in our church has been created intentionally. I have read recently that this division has only been revealed, not created, and it seems natural that as a diverse group, we may experience some differences in understanding of scripture and the meaning of at least some parts of the Confession of Faith. But I don’t think the division needs to be as gaping as some claim. In fact, I think that whatever crack existed has been

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Rev. Sharon Huey: Praying We Embrace the Spirit’s Invitation

By |2024-03-14T01:36:50-05:00March 12th, 2024|

To the members of Presbytery del Cristo, Greetings to all of you in the name of Jesus Christ! May the One who loves and holds the Church be with us, now and always. I’m writing to offer my thoughts to you with regards to the proposed amendments which will come before our Presbytery next week. Passions are high and perhaps we’re coming to this meeting with anxiety and with the singular goal of ensuring that “our side” wins. But I’m praying that what marks our conversation would be a desire to listen deeply for what the Spirit is saying to the Cumberland Church and that we would accept the gift and receive the risk of a real conversation. This means listening to our brothers and sisters in Christ with curiosity and generosity, allowing our hearts to soften towards each other. This means speaking out of our deepest Christian convictions, yes, but also with the humility which understands that we can never, in ourselves, have the “full” picture. Thankfully, that’s God’s job and God is more than gracious to invite us to move forward, in spite of our limited visions, long-held assumptions, and fears. As we’re together, I pray that we’d be given a heart of humility before the One whose ways are not our ways and whose vision far exceeds our own. So, what is the invitation? What is the door the Spirit wishes to blow open so that we might live as a more resurrected Church? What of our own assumptions needs upending and refining so that we might live into this vision? Can we begin to imagine LGBTQ Christians fully integrated and fully flourishing in our congregations, not as a sign of moral and spiritual “decline,” but as a sign that God, through the Spirit, is breaking down

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Grace Fellowship Church: Voting No Affirms Unity

By |2024-03-14T00:58:10-05:00March 8th, 2024|

February 25, 2024 To our beloved partners in Christ in Del Cristo Presbytery, The staff and session of Grace Fellowship Community Church in San Francisco write to share our concerns with you over the proposed amendments to our Constitution. While we whole-heartedly affirm the letter from the former Moderators of the General Assembly from August 31, 2023, we wish to add our own thoughts to the conversation. Our life together bears witness to the Good News that Jesus brings. Jesus’ prayer in the upper room was that His church would be one. While we practice life together in this unity, we find ourselves with differences in our understanding of sexuality and gender. Grace Fellowship lives on the far reaches of our presbytery. This is where God has placed us. This is how God is shaping us. In our own congregation, we find diversity in ways that include race, age, gender, socio-economics, and theology. But, out of obedience and humility before Jesus, we are learning to treasure the unity of the Gospel, and the joy of having connection and relationship with the larger body in which God has placed us. We are working to explore how to reconcile our diversity. We start with listening in humility, and then engage with one another. We have read the passionate letters from our faithful Cumberland pastors and leaders on either side of the issues at hand. In the presence of such a difference of opinion and beliefs, we want to keep doors open, not shut them. The process and practice of how we engage may be as important as any conclusion we arrive at someday. We live by grace, and we extend that grace. For it is by grace we have been saved, through faith... it is a gift of God. We urge patience

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Are We Willing to Embrace Whosoever God Calls Today?

By |2024-04-08T03:45:25-05:00March 7th, 2024|

Persons seeking to bar from ministry individuals who choose not to marry, engaged couples who have relations before marriage, or persons in same-sex relationships, often claim the Confession of Faith as their authority in the matter, despite the fact it never rejects same-sex relationships nor addresses the topic of sex outside of marriage. It is important to note that the founders of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church elevated the importance of the divine call, recognizing that "The compilers of the Confession of Faith and Discipline of our church never intended it to be considered an infallible standard by which the Holy [Spirit] must be limited, when [God] calls [persons] to the sacred office." While upholding our Confession of Faith, we recognize it as a living document, not an infallible one. Therefore, it should be held with humility and not interpreted in a restrictive or exclusionary fashion. Rather, we should allow room for diverse interpretations and for human understanding to evolve, and for God's Spirit to manifest within our denomination through divine calling. For our founders, determining who was called was not about strict doctrinal conformity! In fact, our founders were willing to "scruple" with certain doctrines, and that is why the current vow taken by ministers and elders explicitly states that we believe the Confession "contains" the essential doctrines, which allows room for interpretation and for the Holy Spirit to work. The fact that the Confession of Faith may be amended is both a demonstration of humility and an acknowledgment that not everything within the Confession may be deemed essential. This reforming principle remains pertinent today, particularly in the face of attempts to force "strict subscription" to the Confession or to weaponize in a exclusionary way to disqualify a minority within the church whose callings have already been recognized, and who

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Elder John Talbott: Amendments A Simple But Wrong Solution

By |2024-03-13T01:27:18-05:00March 6th, 2024|

February 2024 Dear Friends and Family of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and Presbytery del Cristo, I write this letter with trepidation, because I know how emotional the upcoming vote on the proposed amendments has become. I’ve been impressed with the thoughtful letters shared from several of you and so I would like to offer my input in that same sense of civility and connection. For those of you who don’t know me, I’ve been part of Grace Fellowship in San Francisco since 1990, have served as an elder since 2003, and have served on the Presbytery del Cristo Congregational Care Committee and the CPC/CPCA Unified Committee on Theology and Social Concern. Over the past two years, I’ve taken a sabbatical from Grace Fellowship to worship with other local congregations, from Roman Catholic to Mennonite trying to gain perspective on what God is doing in this neighborhood. The thoughts in this letter are mine alone and reflect things I’ve learned both ministering at Grace Fellowship and looking outside the Cumberland to see how other traditions handle sexuality discussions. Several letters have discussed the polity implications of these amendments and I have nothing to add since they were penned by people, such as the 13 former moderators, with a deep understanding of the history and function of the Cumberland. If I were voting, I would give great weight to what these people say. Likewise, the letters that deal with the Biblical texts are extremely helpful and I, a layperson with no formal training in theology, read them with great respect. Our culture is very different in many ways from the ancient cultures in which these texts were penned, so we need the educated voices to help us see what God was communicating to God’s people in those days and today. What I

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Rev. Tami Terpstra: A Chaplain’s View, A Mother’s Heart

By |2024-03-13T01:28:29-05:00March 6th, 2024|

Rev. Tami Terpstra Staff Chaplain and Specialty Chaplain in Adult Psychiatric Care Denver Health Medical Center, Denver, CO Original Date of Submission: September 30, 2019 Initially addressed to the Unified Committee on Theology & Social Concerns (UCTSC), this letter was revised on February 29, 2024, and is now offered for consideration in conjunction with proposed constitutional amendments currently undergoing review in the church presbyteries. As a recently ordained minister of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and as a chaplain who specializes in ministering to patients within three secure adult psychiatric units at Denver Health Medical Center, Colorado’s public hospital, it is important that I minister to all, regardless of race, or sexual or gender identity. Our denomination, it seems, is searching for how to do the same. Weekly, I encounter patients who have experienced deep rejection by their families and faith communities because they fall somewhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Usually, they have just attempted suicide. Therefore, I thank you for this invitation to provide feedback on the matter of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and its posture towards our LGBTQ+ siblings, sisters, and brothers, and for the diligence this committee has already exhibited. My prayer would be that all of our discussions may be tender, and that the expansive love of God would be our guide. Speaking on behalf of those LGBTQ+ patients to whom I have ministered, I would also pray we understand that, whether or not we are aware of it, it is highly likely that the life of someone we already know and love is at stake. Guidance from our Confession of Faith Before delving into specifics, it is important to highlight certain principles in the CPC Confession of Faith (COF) on which we already agree, and which provide a crucial theological frame for this discussion. First, we

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Rev. Dwight Liles: A Pastor’s Profound Transformation

By |2024-03-13T02:58:32-05:00February 28th, 2024|

Have you ever been confident in your views but then found the need to reconsider them as you gained more information and experience? Rev. Dwight Liles once penned a letter to the Cumberland Presbyterian magazine expressing his belief, based on his interpretation of certain biblical passages, that homosexuality is a sin. However, something occurred that led to a complete transformation in his perspective. He now declares, "I affirm that my LGBT brothers and sisters in Christ should be treated fully as brothers and sisters in Christ, and should be treated as absolutely nothing less than brothers and sisters in Christ." Curious about this shift? Learn more by watching the video! https://youtu.be/5zlbfh2NSZk Rev. Dwight Liles is an ordained minister in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church as well as a Dove Award-winning professional songwriter who has had many of his Christian songs recorded, published, and sung in churches around the world. You might be familiar with his widely acclaimed song "We are an Offering." We invite you to dive deeper into this important conversation. At www.welcomingcps.org, you'll find more stories and resources on reconciling faith and the Bible with LGBTQ+ inclusion. Thanks to Rev. Chris Warren and Seed Creative Care for helping to make this video possible!| Related Links Discernment Resources for Amendments https://www.welcomingcps.org/presbyteries/ Recommendation to Reject the Proposed Amendments (Ed Adair) https://www.welcomingcps.org/adair-recommendation-2023 Japan Presbytery’s Response to the Proposed Amendments to the Constitution https://www.welcomingcps.org/japan-presbyterys-response-to-the-proposed-amendments-spring-2023/ Reasons to Deny Proposed Amendments from Welcoming Cumberland Presbyterians https://www.welcomingcps.org/reasons-to-deny-proposed-amendments/ Proposed Constitutional Amendments (2023) https://www.welcomingcps.org/proposed-amendments-2023/

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Dr. Hubert Morrow: The Confession of Faith in Cumberland Presbyterian History

By |2024-03-13T04:02:42-05:00February 11th, 2024|

The Confession of Faith in Cumberland Presbyterian History Author: Hubert W. Morrow Source: The Journal of Presbyterian History (1997-), FALL 1998, Vol. 76, No. 3 (FALL 1998), pp. 187-197 Published by: Presbyterian Historical Society JSTOR Link: https://www.jstor.org/stable/23335461 Dr. Hubert Morrow's essay explores the evolving understanding of the nature and authority of a confession of faith in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. In general, it is that a confession of faith is regarded as a living document, which periodically should be reexamined in light of what the church at a given point in its history believes to be the essential teachings of scripture. Morrow explores the historical context of the suspension of one-half of Cumberland Presbytery's ministers in 1805 due to their loose subscription to the doctrines of predestination and limited atonement in the Westminster Confession. He highlights the refusal of these ministers to strictly adhere to the Confession on certain points, who argued that it was not intended to be an infallible standard standard by which the Holy Spirit must be limited, when God calls persons to ministry. According to Morrow, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church's history including it's bold steps to revise its confession of faith in 1814, 1883, and 1984 reflect the following four key affirmations: (1 ) It is important that a church confess its faith; that it state in a relatively brief and systematic way what are believed to be the essential theological doctrines found in scripture. (2) It is important that a church remember at all times that such a confession of faith is a "document of human composure," and therefore reflects the imperfections and limits of human understanding. It should never become a "paper pope." (3) A confession of faith should reflect the "working theology" in the preaching of its ministers and in the beliefs of

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Rev. Dr. George Estes Opposes Amendments

By |2024-02-27T03:22:42-06:00January 18th, 2024|

As follows is a letter from Honorably Retired Minister, Rev. Dr. George R. Estes, expressing opposition to proposed amendments to the Church Constitution. These amendments intend to remove persons in same-sex relationships from church leadership: In a church fight, the first casualty is the gospel. Those whom our Lord especially charged to love one another find themselves harboring feelings of suspicion, anger and competitiveness toward brothers and sisters in Christ. Half-truths and exaggerations mark the tense dialog that often accompanies such disputes. When sharp differences of opinion arise in the church, it is incumbent upon us to reassess our commitment to the way of Christ as we make our way through the difficulties. The proposed amendment(s) to the Constitution that General Assembly has sent to the presbyteries for deliberation and action is a matter eliciting strong emotions on all sides. Supporters of the amendment typically think of themselves as faithful to Scripture while its opponents argue the same from their perspective. Some self-styled “orthodox” Cumberland Presbyterians have sought to disengage from those they perceive to be “progressive” Cumberland Presbyterians. The antipathy of the latter group is less organized but no less dedicated to their vision of the Church. There has been a tendency on the part of supporters of the amendment to regard its opponents as Constitutional Cumberlands as distinct from Confessional Cumberlands, i.e., themselves. There is no such line of demarcation. In the history of our Church the vows of church membership and of ordination have seen no ideological division between the Confession and the Constitution. The Cumberland Presbyterian Church came into existence in response to a legalistic predestinarianism and elitist requirements for clergy. Faith and constitution were involved. They still are. The actions and attitudes of those fostering the amendment have been demonstrably schismatic. The Church is at

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Our Stories: God Has Called Me To Serve

By |2023-09-25T01:16:07-05:00September 23rd, 2023|

Faithful servants of God and the church are facing a profound challenge as they await a decision on the amendments being deliberated in the presbyteries. These are their stories... God Has Called Me To Serve Anonymous Cumberland Presbyterian Minister In the rural area where I grew up, we assumed that everyone was alike. The reality, as I came to understand, is that everyone is different in their own way. I just did not realize it when I was young. When I entered college, I had an awakening and discovered that there were a lot of things I had not experienced. For example, two of my female classmates (one black and one white) were known as a couple. I make a point of their different races because, at the time, such commingling was considered heresy. But then, to make matters worse, they were a couple… Well, as far as I knew--based on the culture in which I grew up--they were hell-bound! This was how I was raised. People of different races didn’t date. And still, for many people today, people of same gender…well, to many, that is still considered a bridge too far. Imagine my own personal struggles when I went to Seminary; and for the first time, because of people I met, had classes with, and walked beside in faith, I wrestled with these social issues. It was quite the Jacob moment. It was during this time that I came to terms with who God created me to be. After all, how does one tackle the issues of faith and ultimately not come to know oneself even better? It is only through God’s grace and the special intervention by some very near and dear people that I am able to tell this story. You see, when I was entrapped by

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Our Stories: Our Lives Have Callings on Them

By |2024-01-29T00:43:01-06:00September 15th, 2023|

As presbyteries deliberate upon proposed amendments that intend to exclude a whole class of persons, let us bear in mind the gravity of these changes. They will profoundly impact the lives of individuals already faithfully serving within our denomination, especially those who identify as LGBTQ+, their families, and their congregations. For personal insight into these issues, we share a story from an anonymous Cumberland Presbyterian minister. Their story serves to illustrate the experience of a person of faith, a Cumberland Presbyterian minister, who has both answered God's call and also identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. In a spirit of love, compassion, and our commitment to following Christ's example, let us recognize that God calls who God wills, and it is our shared responsibility to ensure that all members of our church family hearing God's call are given the opportunity to answer and serve within our denominations. As individuals open up and share their testimonies, let it be our prayer that the love of Christ unite us. May we practice forbearance, making room for one another, becoming a church that reflects God's boundless love and grace for all. Our Lives Have Callings on Them anonymous Cumberland Presbyterian minister As a child born into the Cumberland Presbyterian church, a member of a family who loves the Lord and a person who obeyed God’s call to serve in the ministry, my life has been unreservedly impacted by the church for the entirety of my existence in flesh. As an infant, I was dedicated to the Lord to be raised in the church and my church family took great pride in being the community that raised me. At 7 years old, my father led me to know Christ. By the time I was 13 years old, I realized that I was

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Proposed Constitutional Amendments (2023)

By |2024-02-27T03:04:55-06:00September 5th, 2023|

Presented below are the proposed constitutional amendments taken from the "Summary of Actions" provided by Michael Sharpe, Stated Clerk of the Assembly. These amendments were deliberated upon during the 192nd General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, which convened in Denton, Texas, from June 19 to 23, 2023, where they narrowly passed with a one-vote margin. The next step involves presbyteries voting. However, they cannot be incorporated into the church constitution without three-quarters of the presbyteries approving them. The amendments have been criticized as unnecessary, as each presbytery and session already possesses the rightful authority to ordain individuals they deem suitable, raising concerns about potential infringement upon that right. They aim to disqualify both existing and potential leaders of the church, raising serious concerns about disruption to the unity of the church and intrusion into people's private lives. They target individuals in sexual relationships outside of marriage, encompassing divorced persons, engaged couples, disabled couples at risk of losing benefits upon marriage, same-sex couples, or any couple not yet married or opting not to marry for personal reasons, disqualifying them from a call to serve as an Elder or Minister. The full text of the amendments follow: JOINT COMMITTEE ON AMENDMENTS Approved sending the following proposed changes to the Constitution to the Presbyteries for vote: 1. That the Constitution be amended by adding the following Paragraph 2.92 and renumbering subsequent sections as appropriate: 2.92 When a person is in a sexual relationship that is outside the boundaries of marriage as described in the Confession of Faith 6.17, then such a situation makes that person ineligible to be ordained to the office of elder. 2. That the Constitution be amended by adding the following sentence at the end of the current Paragraph 2.73: When a person is in a sexual relationship that

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An Open Letter from 13 Former Moderators

By |2024-03-13T04:16:14-05:00September 5th, 2023|

We are grateful to share an open letter from thirteen of nineteen former General Assembly Moderators who stand united in opposition to the proposed exclusionary constitutional amendments. These individuals, representing various theological perspectives, have come together out of their deep love for our denomination and shared hope for its vibrant future. They wisely implore us to consider the harmful implications of these amendments, urging thoughtful discernment and reflection. We encourage you to read their concerns, as we echo their call for grace and unity. We earnestly pray that the church’s presbyteries will reject these divisive amendments and remember that we are one body in Christ Jesus. As we navigate our journey ahead, may we all do so with an abundance of grace, love, and understanding. August 31, 2023 Dear Cumberland Presbyterian Family, The former Moderators of the General Assembly (GA) of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church (CPC) signed below have profound reservations concerning the proposed Constitutional Amendments that are currently placed before our presbyteries. Like our church, we all stand at different theological perspectives on many issues except for our common love for our denomination. Our hope for its vibrant future compels us to pen this plea for preserving the foundational spirit of Cumberland Presbyterianism which is threatened by the proposed Constitutional Amendments. We pray that you take time for discernment before the impending vote to consider underlying concerns that cause us to stand united in opposition to its passage. Here are a few of the reasons why we are opposed to these Amendments: -Will weaken the authority and power of lower judicatories (Synod, Presbytery, Session). The 1894 General Assembly endorsed Louisa Woosley as a lay evangelist. While many were not individually receptive to women in ministry, they recognized the power of the presbytery to ordain. The authority for the ordination

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Ed Adair: Recommendation to Reject Proposed Amendments

By |2024-03-13T02:42:11-05:00August 7th, 2023|

Ed Adair This article highlights how the proposed amendments present multiple issues relative to their interpretation, implementation, application, and enforcement. Originally published as a Letter to the Editor in the Cumberland Presbyterian magazine, it has been reprinted here with some edits. The author, Edward H. Adair, holds a law degree from the University of Kentucky College of Law, class of 1985, and has served in roles such as Federal Law Clerk and Special Assistant United States Attorney for the Department of the Interior. Currently, he is a Licentiate under the care of the Presbytery of East Tennessee and fulfills the role of Privacy and Regulatory Specialist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. To Whom It May Concern, I am writing to share my reflections and deliberations concerning the proposed amendments to the Cumberland Presbyterian Church's (CPC) Constitution. I respectfully submit that I do not favor the proposed amendments. In my view, excluding individuals from serving as Elders, Ministers, or in other positions of leadership within the CPC based on their identification as members of the LGBTQIA+ community is not aligned with the teachings of the Holy Scriptures when we consider the historical, cultural, and linguistic contexts in which the scriptures were written. Furthermore, such exclusion is inconsistent with the love, compassion, and inclusive nature of the Kingdom of God as proclaimed, preached, and embodied by Christ. Notwithstanding this conviction, I have approached my reading, interpretation, analysis, and commentary on the proposed amendments as objectively as possible. I understand that not everyone shares the same viewpoint on this issue, and I acknowledge that convictions and emotions run deep. This document aims to promote dialogue and discernment, driven by the conviction that a variety of perspectives enriches the depth and breadth of our process. At our core, we are members

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Dr. Campbell Pleads for Those Facing Exclusion

By |2024-03-13T03:56:24-05:00June 21st, 2023|

Rev. Dr. Thomas D. Campbell was honored on the evening of June 21, 2023, at the 192nd General Assembly for his service and contributions to the Cumberland Presbyterian Church with the Program of Alternate Studies. Dr. Campbell was the Director of the Program of Alternate Studies at Memphis Theological Seminary for sixteen years. He has served as the moderator of General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian denomination, moderator of Texas Synod and moderator of four different presbyteries. He has served congregations in Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Texas, and Tennessee, with three of those being new church developments and one redevelopment. Dr. Campbell has preached revivals at more than 40 churches across the denomination. His writings include Brothers of the Faith, One Family Under God, The Bible and the Calendar and Campbell’s Collection. In his concluding remarks, Dr. Campbell addressed the proposed amendments, emphasizing the inclusive nature of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, lifting up a plea for the embrace of all Cumberland Presbyterians: “I grew up in an inclusive [Cumberland Presbyterian] church. We didn’t know the word exclusive. I don't like it. I don't. That’s not who we are. We do not exclude anybody, including our own people!” “The great NBA coach, Doc Rivers, he was the coach of the Boston Celtics for many years and he was an African American. He spoke on an issue one time, the fact that black people were simply not appreciated and often had disadvantages caused by bad policing among other things. He said these words, “We love America. Why can’t you love us back?” Well, I know some Cumberland Presbyterians who grew up in the church, who learned from the church, who were nurtured in the church, who gave their money to the church, who have been educated in our institutions in this church, and

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Reasons to Deny Proposed Amendments (2023)

By |2024-03-13T04:21:59-05:00June 21st, 2023|

Welcoming Cumberland Presbyterians is an independent grassroots movement of LGBTQ+ Cumberland Presbyterians and clergy, elders and laity who wish to increase participation in the church by living out our confessional calling to seek reconciliation among all groups of people (CoF, 6.32) and embrace all people in the life of the church (CoF, 6.16). The proposed amendments seek to modify the Constitution of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in such a way as to target individuals in a sexual relationship outside marriage. This could encompass engaged couples, disabled couples at risk of losing benefits upon marriage, same-sex couples, or any couple yet to marry or opting not to marry for personal reasons, disqualifying them from a call to serve as an Elder or Minister. We urge the Church to deny these amendments. We oppose the proposed amendments for being divisive, exclusionary, unnecessary and dangerous. They threaten the rightful and appropriate authority and discretion of our diverse presbyteries and sessions to ordain those whom they deem qualified. The following concerns are not an exhaustive list, but we hope it will be a starting place for further conversation: For the sake of unity, it is crucial we recognize that the church consists of those who, in good faith, come to different interpretative conclusions on the complex issue of sexuality. As "God alone is Lord of the Conscience," members should retain the prerogative to live according to their conscience. The proposed amendments are unnecessary because each presbytery and session already has the rightful authority to ordain those they deem qualified.  We believe the wisest path forward for the church is to continue respecting the rightful authority of our sessions and presbyteries to ordain those they deem qualified, uphold privacy and freedom of conscience for personal relationships, and practice tolerance and forbearance towards those with differing

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Hear the Stories of our LGBTQ+ Allies

By |2023-06-17T20:12:25-05:00June 17th, 2023|

Welcome to our new series of videos, where Cumberland Presbyterian clergy and laity share their personal journeys of reconciling faith and the Bible with acceptance and support for our LGBTQ siblings. Inspired by the 1984 Confession of Faith, which encourages us to embrace one another (6.16) with the grace of Christ (5.10), share insights, and grow together (1.07), this series aims to foster a spirit of dialogue and understanding. Watch these stories and learn about why these Cumberland Presbyterians have become friends and allies to members of the LGBTQ+ community: Rev. Billy Price, Rev. Dwight Liles, Rev. Chris Warren, Rev. Byron Forester, Rev. Tommy Clark, Pat Pottorff White, Cheryl S, Jeff F, Jordan H In addition, we have extended invitations to several Cumberland Presbyterians who identify as LGBTQ+ to share their personal stories, allowing the church to gain a deeper understanding of the individuals who will be greatly impacted by rulings of General Assembly and church judicatories. Furthermore, we have curated a collection of written stories offering further insight into the experiences and perspectives of members of our church family, available at www.welcomingcps.org/our-stories. We encourage everyone to explore these stories as we navigate this important conversation. We are deeply grateful for each person who has shared (and will share) their personal story of why they are a friend and ally of the LGBTQ+ community. We pray that these stories serve as a source of comfort and hope, especially for those who have faced harmed or felt abandoned by the church. We pray too that God will touch the hearts of all those who view them. Our hope is that through witnessing the love and compassion we aim to convey, these videos will have a transformative impact on the minds and hearts of all who engage with them. If you would like

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“Your Call Is a Call to All of Us”

By |2023-09-21T03:16:04-05:00June 17th, 2023|

A message from Reverend Lisa Anderson, pastor of Colonial Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Moderator of the 184th General Assembly: Nine years ago a very unexpected thing happened. After saying no four times to people in my presbytery, I agreed to be nominated for Moderator of our General Assembly. About this time on that Monday I began to read all of the texts, messages, emails and listen to voice mail messages from literally hundreds of people congratulating me for being elected. It was absolutely not expected. The emotions were all over the place. Gratitude for the confidence, joy that my completely supportive spouse, family and closest friends were around me, regret that my father missed out on this event that would have been special for him, anxiety that I would get it all wrong, excitement that the year was going to be full of new experiences and most of all awe that even when we do not expect it God opens doors we cannot resist walking through. I said yes to my call to ministry at the Assembly that celebrated the 100th anniversary of the ordination of Louisa Woosley, the first ordination of a woman in the denomination. My call was clarified while listening to the voices of Mary Lin Hudson, Missy DeBerry and Donna Heflin. I said yes again to a call to serve the church as moderator on the 125th anniversary of that ordination and was inspired by the voices of Tiffany McClung, Deborah Matthews and women nearing ordination Whitney Brown, Anna Sweet and Ellen Hudson. One of the messages that night was from a dear seminary friend, he included the usual good thoughts and prayer. But also a challenge. He brought to my attention the young people and many others in the church who are quietly suffering from marginalization

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“Song of Change” by Rev. Dwight Liles

By |2024-04-16T00:48:53-05:00April 23rd, 2023|

As described in the Confession of Faith for Cumberland Presbyterians, the church, both as a collective and through its individual members, has a calling to promote reconciliation, love, and justice among all individuals, classes, races, and nations (6.32). These values are at the core of our beliefs as a church, and so we should strive to live them out in our daily lives. That's why we're excited to share "Song of Change" by Dove Award-winning Gospel/CCM songwriter and Cumberland Presbyterian Minister Rev. Dwight Liles. This powerful new protest anthem echoes the values of promoting justice that we hold dear and inspires us to come together to create a more peaceful and just world. Please listen and share this song widely! Rev. Liles emphasizes: "I have sole ownership of this song and wish for it to be used freely for the cause of justice, peace, and equity for all people." As we raise our voices and join hands, we can help spread this message and work towards a better future for all. Dwight Liles · Song Of Change (Remixed) SONG OF CHANGE  It is time to lift our voices It is time to make it clear That we won't stop demanding justice And we refuse to live in fear CHORUS With songs of change, songs of freedom Songs of hope and songs of love Keep on singing, keep on marching Join your hands and rise above They will try to keep us quiet They will try to block our way But we will speak the truth to power And we will walk into the day CHORUS We will not resort to violence In our quest for what we seek But we will not remain in silence We will stand and we will speak CHORUS Words and music copyright 2023 by Dwight Liles.

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Japan Presbytery’s Response to the Proposed Amendments to the Constitution

By |2024-03-13T02:45:46-05:00March 21st, 2023|

On March 11, 2023, Japan Presbytery publicly announced their official response to the proposed exclusionary amendments to the Constitution of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America. Japan Presbytery urges the church to carefully consider its concerns and reject the proposed amendments, in part, because their approval will hinder the church's evangelistic efforts. The full statement follows: Japan Presbytery’s Response to the Proposed Amendments to the Constitution 2.92, 4.2, and 6.35 Praise the name of the Lord! We, Japan Presbytery, extend our heartfelt greetings to all our brothers and sisters in Christ of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church around the world. We salute you for your unceasing service to the Lord and for your faithful ministry in each region, even in these difficult times. It is our great joy that we are saved by the gospel of reconciliation in the Lord Jesus Christ and connected with you in the bond of Christ to be one family of God’s people. Our General Assembly is a precious place where we reaffirm our identity as a global faith community. Now we of Japan Presbytery must share our concern about the constitutional amendments referred to the Joint Committee on Amendments by the 191st General Assembly. We beg you to listen to a voice from Asia before this matter is finally decided. The Confession of Faith of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church states that “God’s word spoken in and through the scriptures should be understood in the light of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth” (1.06). Jesus always acted to do God’s will even when he was criticized for breaking the Law. “What would Jesus do” is the principle our Confession of Faith upholds. If we exclude someone on the basis of rules in existing documents, we disobey that

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In Christ, We Stand Against Exclusion & Oppression

By |2023-01-02T20:50:30-06:00October 30th, 2022|

Statement from a grassroots body of concerned Cumberland Presbyterians who take seriously our Call to love and minister in partnership with our siblings in Christ without regard for race, gender identity, or sexual orientation toward the realization of the Kingdom of God: In anticipation of our 191st General Assembly held in June 2022, many Cumberland Presbyterians were aware that Commissioners to that Assembly would be considering at least two exclusionary memorials, the submission of which represented the culmination of an extended campaign by a group of self-styled “traditionalists”, ultimately, to force adoption of their own legalistic, self-righteous, and hypocritical interpretation of scripture—that God could not possibly call members of the LGBTQ+ community to Christian service and ministry—as the will of our entire denomination. Regardless of one’s stance on the issues the memorials raised, there is little doubt that if fully implemented (or carried out), they would bring untold bitterness and division to the denomination.  While fomenting such bitterness and division may have been one of the goals of the memorials, reason and concerns for our unity prevailed within the Committee assigned the task of making recommendations on them. After thoughtful consideration and prayer, the Committee recommended denial in both cases.  Unfortunately, the body chose to reject the wisdom of the Committee and instead to slander the LGBTQ+ community and sanction the inevitable turmoil and pain that surely the memorials’ authors knew would result. It was an action that not only puts our denomination squarely on the wrong side of history, but also leaves us teetering tragically outside the foundations of our own faith.  At issue in this debate was the simple question, “will we divide the church by refusing to recognize and accept members of the LGBTQ+ community whom God calls and has already planted into the full faith, fellowship,

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Unity Amidst Diversity: By the Grace of God

By |2024-02-27T03:09:43-06:00October 10th, 2022|

By Matt McDonell Are we to be distracted by questions about sexual orientation, when we allow murderers to stand in the pulpit? Okay, I admit it, that headline is sensationalized and intended to grab your attention, but if you’re willing to stick with me for a bit I think you’ll see what I’m trying to say. There has been sharp division among Christians on the question of killing for as long as there has been a church (well, maybe not that long, but going at least as far back as Constantine). Is it ever permissible for a Christian to take a human life? The earliest church fathers held to a conviction that taking up the sword was not permissible for adherents to The Way. No less an authoritative voice than Saint Augustine argues for the permissibility of Christians to participate in a war so long as it is a “just war”, and Thomas Aquinas himself argued that a Christian political leader should use all force and authority available - up to and including the threat of execution - to compel adherence to the tenets of the faith by all under their influence, whether they identify as Christian or not (and who wouldn’t agree to identify as Christian under such persuasive incentives?). Among the worldwide fellowship of believers from those times up until today, there remain individuals, congregations, and entire denominations that hold firmly to the belief and practice of pacifism with the conviction that the taking of any human life is forbidden to Christians under any circumstances. The importance of these convictions is recognized even by our secular government, which will grant exemptions from military service on the grounds of conscientious objection for anyone holding to a conviction that their Christian faith prohibits the taking of a life no matter

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LGBTQI+ Solidarity Sunday

By |2023-09-28T02:41:40-05:00September 1st, 2022|

Ecumenical/Interfaith Anti-Violence Initiative Sunday, October 8, 2023 (or anytime in October) Join us in observing Solidarity Sunday, October 8th, 2023. Individuals from diverse faiths will pray together for an end to violence, hate, and harassment directed against our LGBTQI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex) neighbors, as well as all groups subjected such injustices. Anti-LGBTQI+ violence, hate, and harassment are a plague upon our churches, communities and world. In the USA, our LGBTQI+ neighbors are among the most targeted groups for hate crimes. Globally, 69 countries criminalize consensual sexual acts between adults of the same sex and 15 countries criminalize the gender identity and/or expression of transgender people. Consensual same-sex acts are punishable by death in eleven countries. While people of faith have differing stances on issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity, we can all agree that violence, hate and harassment are not acceptable and that we must do our part to end them. Solidarity is coming together in spite of differences to protect the vulnerable and agreeing to stand together against violence, hate and harassment in our church and in society. The Cumberland Presbyterian Confession of Faith and the 190th General Assembly's Statement Against Oppression calls on Cumberland Presbyterians to advocate for ALL victims of violence (without discriminating against those who are LGBTQI+) and to work together to end the oppression of sexual minorities in church and society, as expressed in the perpetration of hate, denigration, and violence. "The church is an advocate for all victims of violence and all those whom the law or society treats as less than persons for whom Christ died." (Cumberland Presbyterian Confession of Faith, 6.31) "Echoing the Holy Scriptures, the Confession declares that humans are created in the image of God, so we believe that there is no place in

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I must stand in dissent and protest

By |2023-04-24T01:01:33-05:00June 24th, 2022|

Rev. Dwight Liles Rev. Dwight Liles writes regarding the exclusionary statement approved by the 191st General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church: I cannot be silent about this, at whatever risk. I cannot be silent. The Confession of Faith of my denomination, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, states in article 6.31 the following: "The covenant community affirms the lordship of Christ who sought out the poor, the oppressed, the sick, and the helpless. In her corporate life and through her individual members, the church is an advocate for all victims of violence and all those whom the law or society treats as less than persons for whom Christ died. Such advocacy involves not only opposition to all unjust laws and forms of injustice but even more support for those attitudes and actions which embody the way of Christ, which is to overcome evil with good." This week, the General Assembly of my denomination, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, adopted a statement towards the LGBTQ+ community within our denomination that stands in direct contradiction to the above paragraph of our Confession of Faith. I must stand in dissent and protest. I've seen too many of my LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters disowned by their families, turned out of their churches, insulted, oppressed, and driven to depression, despair, and suicide, to remain silent. I am an ally of the LBGTQ+ community, and I will be so even if it costs me my ordination, and if because of that stand I am never invited to stand behind a pulpit again. I cannot be silent. The action taken this week by the 2022 General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church against the LGBTQ+ community within our denomination does not represent me, and I do not approve.

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Testimonies of Diverse Cumberland Presbyterians

By |2024-03-13T04:25:27-05:00June 22nd, 2022|

There are a diversity of Cumberland Presbyterians faithfully serving the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and they have been gifts to the denomination throughout its history. We invited a few folks to share their stories in order to help people throughout the church know a few of those whom the exclusionary amendments and discussions on LGBTQ+ inclusion affect most directly. These stories reveal deep faith and commitment to the church but also the damage that comes when people choose intolerance and seek to limit God’s calling on all kinds of people. These stories are an expression of our commitment to God, to the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and to sharing the truth of our experiences and our faith. We recognize that our gay and lesbian siblings are not an exception when Scripture declares that God will pour out God’s Spirit on all flesh and that God is no respecter of persons. We hope these stories will be a step towards deeper connection and greater unity as we seek to break down any walls that may exist between us. Thanks for watching! WCP Stories: Allison & Elicia WCP Stories: Michael WCP Stories: Angela WCP Stories: Mandy and Jamie WCP Stories: Christi WCP Stories: Obed WCP Stories: Michael L If you are interested in sharing your story as a part of this project, please contact us. We will also accept anonymous submissions using an alias.

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Concerns with Exclusionary Memorials (2022)

By |2022-07-06T23:22:59-05:00June 21st, 2022|

Welcoming Cumberland Presbyterians is a grassroots movement of LGBTQIA+ Cumberland Presbyterians and clergy, elders and laity who wish to increase participation in the church by living out our confessional calling to seek reconciliation among all groups of people and embrace all people in the life of the church. We have read and studied the memorials from Arkansas and Grace Presbyteries and find them to be divisive, exclusionary, unnecessary and even dangerous. It is our recommendation that the General Assembly deny these exclusionary memorials because they attempt to usurp the rightful and appropriate authority and discretion of presbytery and session to ordain who they see fit. The following concerns are not an exhaustive list, but we hope it will be a starting place for further conversation with our LGBTQIA+ siblings and their supporters.  It is essential we recognize that the church consists of those who in good faith come to different interpretative conclusions on the complex issue of sexuality and its members will exercise the prerogative to live according to their conscience. We believe the wisest path forward for the church is to continue to respect the rightful authority of presbytery to ordain who they see fit, respect freedom of conscience on same-sex relationships, and practice tolerance and forbearance towards those they disagree with rather than attempting to force universal conformity. It is very concerning that these memorials fail to recognize that LGBTQIA+ people are already faithfully serving the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and have been gifts to the denomination throughout its history. When Scripture declares God will pour out God’s Spirit on all flesh and that God is no respecter of persons this includes LGBTQIA+ people. But these memorials attempt to remove faithful servants of God from leadership and limit how God is moving in the hearts of members of the

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Message to Commissioners from Rev. Abby Cole Keller

By |2024-02-27T03:08:50-06:00June 17th, 2022|

Rev. Abby Cole Keller Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  (Matthew 22:34-40) This past Sunday I preached a sermon on how God created each person with different aspects of God’s self. Thus, it is all of us in totality that reflect a part of God’s wonder and might. It takes the whole body to see the vastness and diversity of God. It takes the totality of God’s people to truly reflect the complexity of who God is—and even then, we fall short, by rejecting those that we deem ungodlike.   Jesus prayed that we be one. But, too often sin causes us to divide. This division prevents us from seeing the fullness of God and the wholeness that God desires for us. Political differences, theological pondering and pandering, humankind imposed ‘ideals’ all stand in the way of what God desires for God’s people, unity.   Story after story in the Bible, New and Old Testaments alike, reveal to us that God desires God’s people to work together for the glory of God. Yet, humanity works so hard to divide. Human nature (and sin) makes us divide into “us” and “them”; male and female; black, white and brown; and yes, now around differences in human sexuality and identity. God desires unity in God’s people, yet sin separates us from each other and thus from

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On Respecting the Blessing of Conscience

By |2022-06-22T16:45:51-05:00June 28th, 2021|

When I was an adolescent, I pictured my conscience as being God’s way of speaking to me—reminding me, when faced with a choice of two paths to take, that there was generally a right path and a wrong path, and helping me to choose the right one. Or if I chose the wrong path—as I sometimes did, despite the urging of my conscience—that the guilt I subsequently felt was the result of having tuned my conscience out; or to my child-like way of thinking—of having disobeyed, and thus disappointed God. Like most children, the choices with which I found myself faced were pretty much binary in nature—left or right, black or white, truth or falsehood, love or hate. Because I was reared in a caring community of faith—the Cumberland Presbyterian Church—my conscience was lovingly nurtured into a mature process for discerning the will of God in even complex choices through the encouragement of my Sunday School teachers, Youth Group Leaders, Pastors, and spiritual mentors. I was taught to study the foundations of my faith, encouraged to question them freely in my efforts to understand, to compare scripture with scripture, to pray and be open for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to employ critical thinking in using the intellect with which I’d been blessed, and ultimately, to think for myself—hand in hand with the Lord of our conscience. In 1991, the 161st General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church issued a Statement on the Sanctity of Persons as a means of coming to grips with the vast array of passionately-held opinions on abortion that were threatening to rip both the church and our society apart. In the end, that body proclaimed that “since Cumberland Presbyterians affirm a variety of views on abortion, it is not appropriate for the General Assembly

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A Theology for Inclusion of the LGBTQIA+ Community

By |2024-03-13T23:48:13-05:00June 21st, 2021|

A Theology for Inclusion of the LGBTQIA+ Community in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church (CPC) by Rev. Chris Warren The inclusion of the LGBTQIA+ community in Christian Churches is an important topic for the Church of the early 21st century. Many have chosen a “side” and have become entrenched. Something like a battle line has been drawn. For the traditionalist, a common sense reading of scripture is clearly against same-sex relationships. For the progressive the whole arc of scripture is clear about inclusion. A careful, culturally-sensitive reading of scripture, sensitive to the culture when scripture was written and the cultural meaning given to similar words in modern usage, must be taken into account before excluding an entire community of people. This paper supports the inclusion of the LGBTQIA community in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Its purpose is to introduce readers who may be unfamiliar with cultural and biblical studies to alternate understandings of passages that have been used to exclude this community from full fellowship in the Church. Examples from the Church’s History The Cumberland Presbyterian Confession of Faith (COF) reads in section 1.07: “In order to understand God’s word spoken in and through the scriptures, persons must have the illumination of God’s own Spirit. Moreover, they should study the writings of the Bible in their historical settings, compare scripture with scripture, listen to the witness of the church throughout the centuries, and share insights with others in the covenant community.” The Introduction to the 1883 Confession of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, the first independent confession of faith created by the church reads, “God alone is Lord of the conscience, and has left it unfettered by the doctrines and commandments of men [sic] which are in any thing contrary to his word. The right of private judgment, therefore, in respect to

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Open Letter for Freedom of Conscience on Human Sexuality

By |2022-06-22T16:47:17-05:00June 21st, 2021|

To: The Unified Committee on Theology and Social Concerns From: A grassroots body of concerned Cumberland Presbyterians advocating for the freedom of conscience bequeathed to all of us by our founders, specifically concerning a denominational position on human sexuality Pursuant to the granting of its request (from the 189th General Assembly) for more time to consider the issues surrounding the development of a denominational statement on human sexuality, the Unified Committee of Theology and Social Concerns has solicited input from Cumberland Presbyterians as they consider the task before them. It is no secret that passionate debate on this topic has consumed a significant amount time at meetings of Presbyteries, meetings of Sessions, and in private and public conversation among faithful Cumberland Presbyterians. A concern we wish to highlight with this communication is that in much of the debate, a critical detail concerning an essential element of Cumberland Presbyterianism—a detail that arguably has defined who we are to countless Christians who have come to faith precisely because of the freedom we encourage to be open to new understandings of scripture and growth through the influence of the Holy Spirit—has been neglected. As a reminder, on 4 February 1810, almost 210 years ago, Reverends Samuel McAdow, Finis Ewing, and Samuel King drafted a document organizing a new presbytery within the Presbyterian denomination to which they belonged after that body had failed to address grievances for which they had previously sought relief. Among other precipitating disagreements they had with their denomination was one over the doctrine of predestination, which they viewed as a form of fatalism. In their document establishing Cumberland Presbytery, our founders laid out certain conditions that those who wished to become members of the new body would have to meet. Significantly, one doctrinal condition was that “all candidates for the

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Cumberland Presbyterian Youth and Young Adult Statement on Inclusion

By |2022-06-26T02:22:50-05:00June 21st, 2021|

June 28, 2021 Dear Members of the Committee on Theology and Social Concerns and Unification Task Force, First, I want to thank you for your dedication and attention to this matter. I know that many in our churches have pushed for a quick answer or a hurried response, and I am heartened and grateful for your deliberateness and careful consideration of each person’s voice. Attached to this note is the Cumberland Presbyterian Youth and Young Adult Statement on Inclusion. It is not affiliated with or endorsed by the Ministry Council or any other official body of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. It is also not meant to be representative of all youth or young adults in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Rather, it seeks to capture the voices of those who have not been previously heard--a contingency of people who yearn to see a full affirmation of all people in our church. As of June 28, 2021, 164 people have signed this statement. Of those who reported their age, 71% of the respondents were between the ages of 13-30. Among the 143 people who listed a presbytery, 15 different presbyteries were represented, including Andes and Medellin Presbyteries. As a representative of the signatories, I hope that you will prayerfully and earnestly consider our words. Our beliefs are based upon the teachings and scripture we learned in our CP churches, at church camp, and in youth group. We were taught by our leaders that each person is welcomed in church, loved by God, and called to serve God, including by serving as church leaders; we are now seeking to live out that teaching. Contrary to some characterizations of this view, our statement is drawn from Christ’s message of love and grounded in our reading of Scripture. While we may disagree, I ask that

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From Welcome to Mission: A Pastor’s Transformative Response to the AIDS Crisis

By |2024-03-13T23:44:51-05:00December 1st, 2023|

Rev. Betty Youngman by Rev. Betty Youngman My first pastorate was with the Meadowbrook Church in Fort Worth, Texas. It was a small congregation located in what was called “a transitional” neighborhood… elderly folk were moving out and mostly African-American families were moving in. I frequently preached that we should welcome whoever came to our door, and the congregation affirmed this goal. Among those we welcomed was a very nice gay couple. Their return for the second Sunday was a signal to me that it was time for a pastoral visit. What I learned on that visit changed the direction of my life. The guys had just moved into our neighborhood to be near friends of theirs who needed their help. While I visited, they asked, would I please make a hospital visit to a close friend who had AIDS. This was during the early days of the AIDS epidemic and fear was pervasive. Scientists had determined that the disease was transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids…probably. But when I arrived at the hospital I found the patient in strict isolation, and visitors were required to gown up, head to toe. My path from the door of his room to his bedside took forever. My mantra “you can’t get this from touch” seemed as much a prayer for God’s guidance as a wish to be anywhere else but in this hospital. What I learned from that very young and very ill gentleman changed the course of the Meadowbrook congregation. He was one of five living in a one-room apartment…four of whom had AIDS. All had been separated from their families of origin. The fifth person was employed, trying simultaneously to pay rent and to provide food and nursing care to his friends. This apartment was located no

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