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Inclusion at Highland

Update from Church Council Chair Chuck Stuber – October 12, 2020

I hope this finds everyone doing well and staying safe in these crazy times.

I wanted to provide an update on developments concerning furthering inclusion at Highland. At the end of August, our congregation voted on a Statement of Inclusion that our Church Council had discussed, drafted, and passed in February. 264 individuals voted on the Statement of Inclusion during August, and the statement was approved by a margin of 80.3% in favor to 19.7%. The Statement of Inclusion was again considered by the Church Council during their meeting on October 11. The Church Council again approved the statement with one change, replacing “actions of the clergy” with “the rights of the clergy.” The current Statement of Inclusion now reads as follows:

“We recognize that as children of God all people are of sacred worth. Because Christ has opened the church to all people, we fully welcome, accept, and affirm each and every person into full fellowship, without regard to their age, economic class, educational level, gender identity, marital status, mental ability, nationality, physical ability, race, or sexual orientation. It will be our position to support the candidacy and ordination of qualified persons regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Likewise, we will support the rights of the clergy of Highland UMC to perform marriages for all couples who seek to be married.”

The Church Council decided that a task force should be established to evaluate the process for Highland to become a Reconciling Ministries congregation.  Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) is a collection of United Methodist congregations, groups, and individuals who are committed to the full inclusion of all people in church life regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. You can learn more about RMN at rmnetwork.org. In the coming weeks, Highland’s task force will be working toward this objective and will report their findings at the next Church Council meeting. The Church Council will in turn keep the congregation apprised of the progress involving this important issue.

It is my hope that all of our Highland family will stay together through this process. Regardless of how you voted on the Statement of Inclusion, Highland is a place where everyone is welcome. Just because someone has a different view
on a particular issue does not mean that we cannot all come together to worship, fellowship together, support each other, serve our community and the world, and glorify God through all of the positive activities and initiatives going on at Highland. I hope everyone will feel welcome and stay with Highland, and I hope anyone who has left for any reason will consider returning to Highland.

God’s blessings to you all.
Chuck Stuber

Background

The United Methodist Church has struggled with questions around sexual orientation for decades. The current official position of the denomination forbids the ordination of self-avowed, practicing homosexuals, United Methodist clergy are not allowed to perform same sex marriages, and same sex marriages cannot be performed in United Methodist church facilities. The North Carolina Conference voted last June to support actions by General Conference that would change the current Discipline in favor of full inclusion for LGBTQIA+ individuals, both in terms of ordination and marriage ceremonies. The next General Conference has been postponed until the end of August 2021, but these questions remain before our denomination.