by Brittany Burrows
It was a Sunday we had all been eagerly anticipating; the day when we would finally get to meet Olivia Adelle, the youngest member of our Greenland Hills UMC family. Our youth minister, Gary, and his partner, Tony, had posted pictures of their precious new baby all over Facebook, but today was the day that we would get to meet her face to face.
As worship started, I entered the sanctuary and sat down with friends. I did not recognize the gentleman sitting in front of me, so I figured he was a visitor, perhaps one who had decided to come to our church after seeing words like “open,” “affirming,” and “inclusive” on our website.
Though welcoming to the LGBT community, Greenland Hills is not a Reconciling church. We are currently in the discernment stage of the Reconciling process. As much as I want us to become Reconciling, I love that my church wants each member of our family to be on board before taking this step.
As paraphrased from our website, Greenland Hills is an eclectic family of all ages, with singles, couples and families of all kinds, seasoned theologians, and religious refugees, seeking to transform the world as we share God’s love. Our family is beautiful in its diversity, and in its passion to reach beyond the walls of our church to serve with those in intercity Dallas, El Salvador, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Becoming Reconciling will simply affirm who this church already is, a family that truly embraces all people.
As our worship service began, Pastor Marti reminded us to join for the reception after worship to meet baby Olivia. She then continued with an announcement that our conference’s newly appointed Bishop, Michael McKee, was joining us in the service today, as she extended her hand towards the visitor sitting in front of me.
Suddenly, I was filled with questions. Did Bishop McKee visit our church knowing that we are a congregation that embraces all people, even LGBT persons? Did he notice the two women on the row in front of him sitting with their children? How did he feel about the announcement that we would be celebrating the daughter of our youth minister and his same-gender partner? Would he attend her party?
But as I observed Bishop McKee during the service, I noticed that he seemed totally comfortable. I was impressed by his benediction, as he affirmed our ministry and our members. And yes, he did attend the party and introduced himself to Olivia’s dads.
Bishop McKee’s affirming presence at worship and at Olivia’s party gives me hope. I am hopeful that one day, after years of seminary and service to the United Methodist Church, Gary will be ordained as a United Methodist minister. I am hopeful that one day, the United Methodist Church will recognize and celebrate his partnership with Tony. I am hopeful that one day, Olivia can proudly say she is part of a denomination that affirms her family.
In the meantime, this is my message to Olivia and her parents, to Bishop McKee, and to all those who struggle to find a church that accepts them: welcome to our family.
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Brittany Burrows joined RMN in 2012 as the Southeast Regional Organizer. A lifelong United Methodist, Brittany has served local congregations as a youth minister and musician, and has worked alongside United Methodists in central Africa as an orphanage volunteer and schoolteacher. She is a graduate of the social work program at The University of North Texas and went to seminary at Perkins School of Theology, where she focused her studies on church and urban ministries. In addition to working with congregations through RMN, Brittany currently serves as a campus minister in Texas.