Considering its small size of 2.1 square miles, it’s no wonder Little City of Falls Church has fostered such a tight-knit community. While the “problem” of being “queer” (a generic reference to homosexuality that is understood in a non-pejorative sense) has persisted in various churches for decades, local churches across the city have made it their mission to be more inclusive and open. to people, no matter who they are.
There are a number of prominent signs outside churches in the small town displaying rainbow flags and emphasizing “all are welcome”.
One case is Diane Maloney. She has been on staff at Falls Church Presbyterian for nearly four years, where she serves as Director of Spiritual Growth and Community Engagement.
“One of the things that drew me to Falls Presbyterian Church was how open and assertive they were,” Maloney said. “As a queer person myself, it’s very hard to find church jobs and hard to find places that will accept and welcome you with open arms as yourself.”
Falls Church Presbyterian joined the Covenant Network of Presbyterians in the mid-90s. Essentially, a sub-ministry that churches can join that “seeks equity that is not yet fully realized for LGBTQIA+ people in the church and society” by “engaging”, “educating” and “equipping”.
Maloney grew up attending churches and youth groups and found herself called to ministry during her teenage years.
“When I realized I was queer a year or two later, I felt like I couldn’t have both things, so I spent a lot of time struggling with that and trying to decide if I live my life in the closet as a minister because I feel like that’s where God calls me Or do I live as I feel like I am and disregard this thing that I feel called to,” she said of her experience as a teenager and young adult. “I did my undergraduate degree and then I went to seminary and I I was still undecided. In seminary, I had this change in me to understand the entirety of Scripture and who God is. God is love and where there is love, God is present. It changed some things in my head and made me feel like I could live my life like that. Once I finished seminary I started looking for an open and assertive church where I could be myself and that’s how I found Falls Church Presbyterian.
Working with many teenagers in the church, Maloney makes sure everyone feels loved and accepted. It includes a mural (shown with this item) that features the quote “You Belong Here”.
“For me, as someone who works with young people and who has invested a large part of my life in teenagers, I wanted this to be a message that they hear while climbing the stairs. You belong here no matter what,” Maloney said.
While Falls Church Presbyterian has been asserting for many years, things are not so simple in The United Methodist Church. While Dulin Methodist and Christ Crossman Falls Church strives to be as inclusive as possible, there are barriers in place.
The United Methodist Church has a general conference every four years, but has been delayed due to Covid-19. The lecture offers a discussion of issues such as queer affirmation and same-sex marriages in the church. The General Conference is the “only body that can set official policy and speak for the denomination,” according to UMC.org.
According to JP Hong, senior pastor of Christ Crossman, “We have been working towards a peaceful dissolution so that there will be a more centrist and progressive denomination, and then those who are more traditional will withdraw and form their own more traditional denomination. . In the middle from this, our Falls Church congregation definitely aligns with the more progressive and liberal view of what inclusion should entail and should look like.
Hong was placed in Christ Crossman nearly four years ago, working to bring more inclusion to the church.
“When I walked in, it was very clear that this congregation was healing from some of this tension from the past year where their senior pastor had a different theological view than the majority of the congregation,” Hong said. . “One of the first things that happened when I walked in was the need and the desire to clarify our position. We had a series of town hall meetings where people had the opportunity to express their thoughts and their opinions.As a congregation, we voted to recognize that we were a congregation that, when we say we are fully inclusive, included people of different genders and sexual identities.
Reverend Dave Kirkland, pastor of Dulin Church, expressed similar concerns to Hong as they await decisions to be made by the General Conference.
From next week’s edition of the News-Press: Count the historic Falls Church Episcopal on that list, too.