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Friday, April 17, 2015

Making A Difference in the Neighborhood and the World

Do you believe within yourself that you have gifts and abilities that you could use to make a contribution to the betterment of the world? Has a teacher, professor, potential employer, church official, or other person in authority ever told you that, because of your sexual orientation or gender identity you are definitely unqualified to make the contribution to the world that you know you are equipped to make?

Since 1995, “The Shower of Stoles” project has been highlighting this very challenge. Many women and men, of all denominations, have experienced a definite call to enter the ordained ministry. Because of the official policies of their denomination, they have, in escence, been told, that God’s call was not really for them. They would not be encouraged to be a Christian minister because the basic nature of who they are is sinful.

The “Shower of Stoles” project, (Welcomingresources.org/sosp.htm), has received stoles that fully ordained ministers would wear or one that has been made for persons who have been rejected as ministers in their own church. Attached to each stole is a laminated card that tells the call story of each person whose painful rejection by the Church of Jesus Christ has had a profound effect on their life.

Unfortunately, the United Methodist Church, a global denomination with representative governance from many continents, has a long way to go to be more affirming of all God’s children. It’s denominational governing body, the General Conference, meets every four years. It will next meet in May, 2016, in Portland, Oregon.

Legislation will be introduced there that will encourage the United Methodist Church to remove all discrimitory language from the “Book of Discipline.” This would include such paragraphs that state, specifically, that LGBTQ persons may not become ordained ministers, at least, if they have been openly gay in the presence of a bishop or other church official who is required to report such a thing to others in authority. Many closeted LGBTQ persons have been ordained in order to be able to follow their strong call from God. The Church has been richly blessed by their gifts, but they have payed a very unfair price. They have had to remain in the closet, not free to introduce their lovers to their congregations or to publicly celebrate their marriage in their churches in states where that would be leagal.

On Saturday, May 2, Grace United Methodist Church and St. John’s United Methodist Church will host the opening of a “Shower of Stoles” display at Grace, 5407 North Charles Street at the corner of Northern Parkway. (Parking is available at the church.)

The evening will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a free concert, open to the public, given by The New Wave Singers of Baltimore in the Church Sanctuary.

Following the concert all are invited to a reception in the room where 50 of the stoles in the collection will be on exhibit. A stole that was made for Rev. Frank Schaeffer, who lost his credentials as an ordained minister as a result of a Church trial for performing the wedding of his son to his gay partner, will be on display. After an appeal, Rev. Schaeffer has had his credentials restored.

The exhibit will be open to the public the following hours of each day through Sunday, May 10. Hosts from the Grace-St. John’s Cooperative Parish will be there to greet you.

Sunday, May 3 & 10, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, & Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday & Thursday 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, May 9, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Both churches of the Grace-St. John’s Cooperative Parish are Reconciling Congregations which openly welcome and affirm LGBTQ persons. St. John’s has been welcoming in this way for approximately 28 years. Grace will celebrate its Fifth Reconciling Sunday on May 3 at the 10 a.m. worship service.

The pastors of the Grace-St. John’s Cooperative Parish are: Lead Pastor, Rev. Dr. Amy P. McCullough: Associate Pastor for Grace, Rev. James McSavany: Associate Pastor for St. John’s, Rev. Irance Reddix.

St. John’s is located at the corner St. Paul Streets and 27th Street, entrance on 27th Street.

For more information about the “Shower of Stoles” exhibit, call Grace UMC at 410-433-6650.

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