On March 10th, Highlands United Methodist Church, Denver, hung a banner to proclaim a collection of values we hold as a congregation. Each statement on the banner is rooted in scripture, honors the Methodist tradition of social holiness, honors the gospel we see lived in Jesus, and plays a role in our desire to Build a Home Where All Belong. You can learn more about each banner statement below.
We are grateful that we have both the opportunity and ability to make these statements without fear, knowing that each of them also calls us forward into more work as individuals and a congregation.
We are proud to join many of our neighbors in displaying these important values. We also appreciate the inspiration for the banner offered by First Community Church Dallas, who was inspired by Kindness Is Everything.
Our Hearts, Minds, & Doors are Open
This has been the motto of the United Methodist Church since 2000. It is an aspirational statement that encourages our congregation to constantly ask if we are living up to it.
We open our hearts to receive the grace God offers all people. We celebrate that God loves us as we are and works within us to help us grow into more loving people. We open our minds to actively think through our beliefs, which are as varied as the many people who are a part of our community. We engage questions and don’t settle for simple answers that ignore the complexities of life. We open our doors to all people, with no exceptions, believing that when we embrace diversity, we embrace God. We also open our doors to send our congregation out into the world to serve- because the world needs people who believe in making a difference.
Black Lives Matter
Our society has struggled with the truth that black bodies are seen and treated differently than white bodies. Amidst racial inequity, intentional effort and attention are needed to bring about substantive change in how each of us, and the systems of which we are a part, engage black lives.
We reflect on the powerful words of Acts 10:34, when Peter proclaimed “I really am learning that God doesn’t show partiality to one group of people over another.”
The United Methodist Church, while working through its own history and issues of institutional racism, has spoken on racial and ethnic justice this way:
“we recognize racism as sin and affirm the ultimate and temporal worth of all persons. We rejoice in the gifts that particular ethnic histories and cultures bring to our total life. We commit as the Church to move beyond symbolic expressions and representative models that do not challenge unjust systems of power and access.” UMC Social Principles
We recognize that our congregation is mostly white and so we continue to seek out opportunities, with other congregations and through organizations like SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice), to learn and be active in building relationships that help us grow.
Science is Real
Our Christian faith is made stronger by embracing the cumulative learning of the scientific community. A 4.5 billion year old world does not contradict scripture, but instead invites us to appreciate the timelessness of God’s creation. For many people of faith, including those who engage science professionally, developing deeper understandings of the world around us actually creates a deeper faith. Acknowledging the human role in climate change allows us to make changes in our living that fulfill our scriptural mandate to be stewards of creation.
The United Methodist Church has an entire section of its Social Principles dedicated to the Natural World. Here are a couple highlights:
“We recognize science as a legitimate interpretation of God’s natural world. We affirm the validity of the claims of science in describing the natural world and in determining what is scientific…” UMC Social Principles
“We acknowledge the global impact of humanity’s disregard for God’s creation. Rampant industrialization and the corresponding increase in the use of fossil fuels have led to a buildup of pollutants in the earth’s atmosphere. These “greenhouse gas” emissions threaten to alter dramatically the earth’s climate for generations to come with severe environmental, economic, and social implications. The adverse impacts of global climate change disproportionately affect individuals and nations least responsible for the emissions. We therefore support efforts of all governments to require mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and call on individuals, congregations, businesses, industries, and communities to reduce their emissions.” UMC Social Principles
(Our congregation was the first church to be “Certified Green” by the city of Denver; see more about our Green Team here)
Women’s Rights = Human Rights
Our world is a better place when women play an equal role in leadership and relationship. Our congregation has women in 12 of our 15 elected leadership roles. We, at Highlands, have a female bishop and a legacy of gifted female clergy who have served our congregation. We celebrate scriptural witness and ministry of women like Esther, Ruth, Phoebe, and Dorcas.
At the same time, we must acknowledge the continuing challenges faced by women across the country, around the world, and within the Church. The United Methodist Church has spoken regularly on the importance of women and women’s rights.
“…We reject the erroneous notion that one gender is superior to another, that one gender must strive against another, and that members of one gender may receive love, power, and esteem only at the expense of another… We understand our gender diversity to be a gift from God, intended to add to the rich variety of human experience and perspective; and we guard against attitudes and traditions that would use this good gift to leave members of one sex more vulnerable in relationships than members of another.” UMC Social Principles
“We affirm women and men to be equal in every aspect of their common life. We therefore urge that every effort be made to eliminate sex-role stereotypes in activity and portrayal of family life and in all aspects of voluntary and compensatory participation in the Church and society. We affirm the right of women to equal treatment in employment, responsibility, promotion, and compensation. We affirm the importance of women in decision-making positions at all levels of Church and society and urge such bodies to guarantee their presence through policies of employment and recruitment… We affirm the right of women to live free from violence and abuse and urge governments to enact policies that protect women against all forms of violence and discrimination in any sector of society.” UMC Social Principles
No Human Is Illegal
With the exception of indigenous peoples*, ours is a country of immigrants. As people of faith, our scriptures are filled with calls for hospitality to the stranger and a definition of ‘neighbor’ that transcends borders and nationalities. The United Methodist Church has given us a call to accountability in the statement “All nations have the right to secure their borders, but the primary concern for Christians should be the welfare of immigrants” (from the Resolution linked below)
We reject the idea that who a person is and where they are from can make that person illegal. Those whose only legal transgression is their presence in our country should not be sent away.
We encourage you to read the incredible resolution on Welcoming the Migrant to the US, with its specific calls to action for congregations.
Additionally, here is a list of more than 60 scriptures that speak to welcoming refugees and immigrants.
*Issues of justice and reconciliation for indigenous peoples is an ongoing process for our country and for people of Christian faith. We continue our journey of repentance for the atrocities in our Christian and US history that decimated peoples and cultures.
Diversity is Beautiful
“When we truly embrace diversity, we embrace God.” These words have been a part of the United Methodist effort to be a church of open hearts, minds, and doors for nearly two decades. Believing that all people are created in the image of the divine, in our deeper diversity, a deeper relationship with God can be found.
We celebrate and seek to create space for visible and invisible diversity, be that racial, ethnic, sexual or gender identity, age, socio-economic, ability, religious belief, or any other differing factor society far too often uses to divide people.
The United Methodist Churches of Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah have come together to specifically address issues of diversity and the challenges we face.
AC18: RESOLUTION TO EMBRACE THE MARGINS
Even here in the Rocky Mountain Conference, we do not need to look far to find where lines are being drawn and darkened that separate people placing some in the privileged body and the rest in the margins. We, as the faith community and people known as the Rocky Mountain Conference, will no longer perpetuate these behaviors, but instead actively work with intentionality and boldness to be known as demonstrators of God’s unconditional grace and love for all.
We resolve to actively work to eradicate the lines that define margins in our world by moving towards active listening, patient prayer, and nurturing relationships with those with whom we differ.
We resolve that it is not the responsibility of those on the margins or those who actively work alongside those on the margins, but everyone’s responsibility as the hands and hearts of Jesus Christ to hold ourselves and each other accountable to eliminating boundaries that create othering and inequality.
We resolve that God’s call to be in relationships built in love and grace shall motivate us to be intentional in radically engaging the oppression and hurt caused by racism (personal and institutional), classism, nationalism, sexism, heterosexism, cisgenderism, agism, and discrimination based on being differently abled.”
And from the United Methodist Church’s Social Principles:
“We recognize racism as sin and affirm the ultimate and temporal worth of all persons. We rejoice in the gifts that particular ethnic histories and cultures bring to our total life. We commit as the Church to move beyond symbolic expressions and representative models that do not challenge unjust systems of power and access.” UMC Social Principles
Muslims, Jews, Atheists: All are our Neighbors
Our beliefs leave room for other beliefs. We recognize that there is a world of religious and philosophical ideologies outside of our own. We appreciate this and believe it helps us grow in our own tradition to respect and engage in dialogue with others. This has led us to be active members in the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, because we believe in their vision:
“Interfaith Alliance of Colorado envisions a pluralistic civil society in which people and communities of faith uphold and contribute to diversity, respect, justice, and opportunity for all. Through connecting and building relationships between people of multiple faiths, The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado drives social change toward human rights, equality, and opportunity for all people.”
Our denomination shares this vision too:
“The intent in developing interreligious relationships is not to amalgamate all faiths into one religion. In dialogue, we mutually seek insight into the wisdom of other traditions and we hope to overcome our fears and misapprehensions.” UMC Book of Resolutions, Called to be Neighbors
Love is Love
For many United Methodists, opening our doors to marriage equality is an extension of opening our hearts and minds to what God is doing in the world.
As a congregation and as a pastor we value loving committed relationships, regardless of gender. Whether in our sanctuaries or another perfect venue you’ve picked out, we will bless your union and celebrate your wedding.
It’s not just about marriage equality.
It’s recognizing God loves all people…
It’s trusting the Spirit is moving us forward…
It’s standing proudly for equality and justice…
It’s living publicly into our values every day…
It’s believing we can live into a better tomorrow…
It’s about all this and more.
You can read the Bible faithfully and support GLBTQ people and marriage equality. Find our Bible study here