A church for all

Reverend Ryan Scott gives a sermon on Sunday, March 3 during the Toledo Trinity United Methodist Church’s Transfiguration Sunday service. (Photo by Stephanie Blair)

Local Methodists defy denominational leadership

TOLEDO — Going against an international decision by the United Methodist Church leadership, Trinity UMC in Toledo will be joining the ranks of those continuing to include LGBTQ persons, allowing them to lead and be married within their congregation.

In the last days of February, United Methodist Delegates from around the globe convened in St. Louis, Mo. and voted on LGBTQ inclusion in the church. Despite the outcome excluding all LGBTQ persons from being married or ordained by the church, Trinity United Methodist Church in Toledo has announced it will continue including people regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

“We believe each and every person, no matter your sexual orientation or gender identity, are beloved and valued children of God,” said Reverend Ryan Scott in a press release. “No denominational policy can erase the divine dignity of queer people. We are indeed worthy of marriage and we are indeed worthy to lead the church.”

As for the vote in Missouri, exclusion only won out by a small margin — 53 percent for, 47 against — and there is hope across the globe that it will be overturned before the decision goes into effect in January 2020.

“That vote is not the end of it because of the other steps that it has to go through,” said Aldis Letey, a retired UMC reverend and a congregation member at Trinity in Toledo.

The UMC’s judicial council, which Letey described by saying “It’s like our supreme court,” will be going through the legislation and determining whether it is constitutional, following the UMC’s constitution. The decision may be adopted or thrown out entirely.

Scott, who is openly gay, began leading Trinity UMC in Toledo over a year and half ago. At that time there were some members of the congregation who were uncomfortable with him leading, but he said now the church “has moved beyond that, or the people who were really uncomfortable with it found homes elsewhere.”

Now, the congregation is united in supporting and welcoming queer folk, as is the regional church leadership.

Scott said that several local church leaders reached out to him after the decision, offering support. As Trinity is the only United Methodist Church in Lincoln County, this was quite meaningful for Scott.

“It’s been very uplifting,” said Scott. “It’s great to know that there’s this support out there.”

Elizabeth Jones, the wife of Letey and a retired UMC reverend herself, put it this way: “There is a real community here that buoys us up when our spirits have been broken or dashed.”

A local perspective

On Sunday, the Transformation Sunday service had a clear message, which was boldly printed on the front of the day’s programs: “We’re sorry.”

Scott announced the news of the denominational leadership’s late February decision, as well as that of Trinity UMC in Toledo. Jones and Letey joined Scott in leading the service as liturgists, and the three each wore a rainbow accent with their vestments.

Many in the pews also wore a piece of rainbow clothing, showing support for their queer community members. The songs and scripture chosen for that Sunday centered on everyone being a child of God and inclusion.

Going forward, Trinity UMC in Toledo plans “to engage in deeper and in more meaningful ways with LGBTQ people on the Central Oregon Coast and beyond,” though there are not solid plans for those efforts just yet.

“People in the church have come to realize in this last year and a half that they cared about the issue, but they didn’t really know how to engage with it too much,” said Scott. “And I think one thing the leadership of the church has been engaging people in is how they can get active in these missions and ministries to help change the world to be a more loving and inclusive place for everybody.”

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