East Waynesville Baptist Church has shown the world what their theology is all about: exclusion and division. Hopefully, that will change now that their pastor – who helped kick out church members who voted for John Kerry – has resigned in disgrace.
If East Waynesville Baptist Church is looking for a model of how to be a welcoming congregation they might consider looking just down the road at First Congregational United Church of Christ of Asheville, North Carolina. This UCC congregation adopted a statement in 2002 that East Waynesville Baptist Church might consider borrowing:
We believe all persons are created in the image of a loving God, who not only creates but also embodies, embraces and celebrates diversity. As disciples of Jesus, we are called to restore justice wherever God's creation is broken or divided.
We acknowledge that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons have long been excluded, rejected and dishonored by the Church. This practice, often implicitly condoned by silence, continues today. While persons of minority sexual orientations have historically been a part of faith communities, many, out of fear or rejection, have been unable to live openly the fullness of their lives. Others have left or never joined a church.
We also recognize that other marginalized people have been excluded. When any person's opportunity for spiritual growth and worship is limited by injustice, our own growth is restricted and our worship diminished. We celebrate that this congregation has been a welcoming community of faith and now wish to make our welcome explicit for all. Therefore:
We invite people of every race, nationality, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, ability, financial means, ethnic and spiritual background into the full life and ministry of this congregation.
As one expression of this invitation we declare First Congregational United Church of Christ, Asheville, NC to be an "Open and Affirming" congregation of the United Church of Christ. With God's help, we will challenge injustice based on sexual orientation. We promise to support and honor all loving and mutual relationships. With a spirit of thankfulness for all God's gifts we humbly and prayerfully enter into this covenant with one another.
Approved by congregational vote on January 27, 2002.
Christianity is a faith founded on God’s love for creation – all creation. We are called “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6:8)." Asheville, NC is fortunate to have several churches that reject exclusion and embrace diversity.