A Letter from the Church Council and Board of Deacons
Dear Church Family,
For some months, the Church Council and Board of Deacons have been involved in conversations about the extent to which persons of different sexualities and gender identities are included in the life of our church. We are writing to make you aware of those discussions and their resulting actions as well as to seek your thoughtful participation as we move forward together.
At the conclusion of our Write the Vision process last year, we adopted new language to describe who we are as a congregation. “The First Baptist Church of Christ . . . affirms the image of God in all people,” our Vision Statement proclaims, and our Core Values contain a commitment to “accept, include, and value all people.” Offering a wide welcome is central to our identity, yet we also recognize the word “all” has not always meant “all” in church, or in culture. Our Hospitality in Relationships task force has been asking who may not be certain that our welcome extends to them. They have identified several groups, but the conversation has focused primarily on sexuality and gender. At their recommendation, the Church Council and Deacons agreed to continue this conversation.
Over the course of four meetings this spring, church leadership considered what privileges of membership might not be open to everyone. The body agreed that the language we use is inclusive of everyone, but recognized that we lack clarity, particularly around the issue of same-sex marriage.
In our May 7 meeting, two motions were brought to the floor and carried. The first is a statement of support: “The Church Council and Board of Deacons of the First Baptist Church of Christ support the full inclusion in the life of the church of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.” This motion carried 31-3.
The second motion sought to be clarifying and actionable: “In light of this statement, the Church Council and Board of Deacons recommend that full inclusion encompasses same-sex marriage in our church facilities.” This motion carried 25-5, and will go before the church in conference.
There have, of course, been a variety of opinions and experiences shared in these conversations that are represented in these votes. Ours is a church that takes pride in its ability to engage difficult topics and maintain unity even when we disagree. Know that these values were on full display. Dissent was voiced and appreciated. Still, concern that we take meaningful steps to be truly inclusive was the driving force, and the motions passed decisively.
Before a church-wide vote is held, there will be plenty of opportunities for questions and discussion. We are working to form a team to lead us through these conversations, and we will keep the church updated as plans develop. Our hope is that we can walk through this process as a united congregation—that we will love one another though we may not agree, that we will trust one another though we may not understand, that we will stand beside one another all along the way. May we remember that we share the common goal of a church in which all people are welcomed and loved.
Bonnie Chappell Chuck Dumas
Chair of Deacons Chair of Church Council