Hoping to inspire inclusion, Methodist pastor invites gay choirs to service

Portland church pushes for LGBTQ equality

PORTLAND, Ore. -- If you listened closely to the sounds of Sunday morning church service at Montavilla United Methodist Church, you would hear a message of equality.

“This is at the heart of who God is: love and acceptance,” said Pastor Tim Winslea.

On Sunday, Pastor Winslea invited the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus and Bridging Voices GSA Youth Chorus to sing during worship.

It was a musical statement, and its timing was strategic.

This week the United Methodist Church wraps up its General Conference, which has brought 3,000 global leaders to Portland to discuss important issues facing the Church.

One of the big issues, is the inclusion of the LGBTQ community as clergy, and whether to recognize same sex marriage.

Around the country and world, the church is divided on the issues. Many are pushing for change, and many are against it.

Pastor Winslea understands it’s a difficult topic, but he feels it’s an important one to talk about.

“It's an issue of justice and trying to figure out how to get all the different opinions and sides on that,” he said. “I would like to see that anyone who is called and qualified, to be able to be ordained, to be able to be clergy. Although the Methodist Church does many wonderful things, this is an area we have not yet reached maturity.”

Winslea hopes the decision to bring the choirs to his church sends a message to conference leaders, and inspires them to make a change to church policy.

So does Jeanne Knepper, a lesbian and member of the church.

“My life is at the heart of the struggle for inclusion in the church,” she said.

“We definitely want to lend our voices to support the efforts of the welcoming congregations. I know they've been struggling and having these conversations for 44 years. We want to as much as we can, help them see and hear a message of warmth and acceptance and realize people are people,” said Erik Gullickson, the Artistic Director of Bridging Voices Youth Chorus.

The United Methodist Church wraps up its convention Friday. It could make decisions on the issues by then.


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