Reverend Dr Kimberleigh Buchanan
Reading about the Killearn United Methodist Church’s vote to leave its denomination, my mind went back to a denominational meeting in Macon, Georgia in 1999. The church I was serving at the time in Atlanta had voted to accommodate people of all sexual orientations. In early 1999, the Georgia Baptist Convention informed us that we were not in conformity with the denomination. After several conversations with members of Congress, the decision was made to vote on our retention in Congress.
On a cool November day, about 2,000 Baptists gathered in an arena in Macon. Several of us had traveled from Atlanta to attend the meeting.
Any hope we had of a positive outcome was quickly dashed when people started debating the issue. After three people spoke out in favor of us remaining in the denomination, many others spoke out against us, irritating the crowd, stamping their feet and repeatedly calling homosexuality an “abomination.”
As a straight clergyman, I was already committed to supporting people in the LGBTQ+ community. But when I looked at one of our members and saw him wince every time the word “abomination” was said, when I saw the utter devastation caused by the rejection of his beloved denomination , I knew I was called to lead congregations that welcome people, no matter who they are and no matter who they love.
Not recognizing the full humanity of others is never of God. Celebrating each person for the beloved child of God that they are is of God.
In April, I became pastor of United Church in Tallahassee, a congregation that has been welcoming people from the LGBTQ+ community for more than three decades. We welcome all people in all aspects of our church life. We do this because we are committed to celebrating each person as the beloved child of God that they are, no matter who they are. It doesn’t matter who they love.
My heart breaks for the members of Killearn UMC.
Church splits cause significant pain to all involved. My prayers are with this congregation and their pastors. At the same time, I will offer a prayer of thanks for those congregations – including my own – who truly celebrate and welcome all.
Reverend Dr. Kimberleigh Buchanan is pastor of the United Church of Tallahassee, an open and assertive congregation of the United Church of Christ.
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