It was not my intent to make this a single-issue blog, but right now the dominant faith issue is the homosexual question.
The more people I talk to and questions I ask, the more I find churches across York County are dealing with this issue in some form or another.
Heidelberg United Church of Christ in downtown York is the latest church to vote on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issue. Sunday, the congregation voted unanimously to declare itself an Open and Affirming Congregation. Here’s my story:
Heidelberg United Church of Christ in York voted unanimously Sunday to grant full “membership and ministry” rights to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, said the Rev. Amy Schultz.
The West Philadelphia Street church is the latest congregation to vote for “open and affirming” status, a designation created by the UCC in a 1985 decision. The denomination was the first to pave the way for LGBT members.
Heidelberg is about the 1,050th UCC congregation nationwide to adopt the open status, Schultz said.
“I preached a sermon last December where I raised it as a possibility,” she said. “My perception was that we might be ready. … This church has a long history of being more progressive.”
Schultz came aboard a few months before, tasked with revitalizing Heidelberg. The church had been losing members, she said, but is starting to grow again with about 100 active members.
Heidelberg has openly LGBT members and has for years, Schultz said. The church set up a committee to study the issue and held several programs and a panel discussion over the past year.
“It’s about retooling ourselves,” Schultz said. “But there was also a sense that this was the right thing to do.”
The UCC umbrella includes a wide spectrum of church beliefs, with a strong liberal wing. In 1972, a UCC church ordained the first openly gay pastor of a mainline church denomination.
“The church as a whole has taken these stances, but it gets lived out at the local level,” Schultz said. “There are some (UCC) churches in York County who will probably never take the vote we have.”
Here’s the text of the Heidelberg resolution approved Sunday:
“The people of God at Heidelberg, United Church of Christ, of York,
Pennsylvania, affirm our regard for the worth and dignity of all persons as
beloved children of God. We recognize, celebrate, and give thanks for the
many diverse gifts of God among us. We declare ourselves to be an Open and
Affirming congregation, welcoming into full membership and participation in
the Body of Christ persons of every race, language, age, gender, sexual
orientation, gender identity or gender expression, physical or mental
ability, and economic or marital status.
“We acknowledge that throughout history the Christian church has often
condemned and excluded gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons from
the community of faith, or has condoned such condemnation and exclusion by
its silence. We hold that such discrimination is incompatible with the
gospel of Jesus Christ. We commit ourselves to work diligently to end all
oppression and discrimination which afflict God’s people in our society. We
affirm and celebrate all relationships founded on the principles of God’s
love and justice.”