What if CHURCH was more than a place to go to Sunday Worship Services? What if we lived our faith both inside and outside the church walls, serving our neighbors and those around the World? What if we put our beliefs into action and created systemic change that could transform the lives of others?

Construction for the long awaited Rooftop Connector and Prayer Garden will soon begin and with its completion, not only will there be a magnificent view of the courtyard, but there will also be a new accessible entrance to the historic Sanctuary at Rome First. The Rooftop Connector and Prayer Garden will allow folks to enter through the Wilder Center elevator and ascend to the second floor and take a short walk via a beautiful covered walkway into the Sanctuary. The added accessibility provided by the Covered Roof Top Connector is an addition that is welcomed by all.

Accessibility is an outward demonstration of hospitality, caring and commitment to inclusion for all. Isn’t that what followers of Christ are called to offer? The United Methodist Church is a Global Church that has a long and illustrious history of being an Inviting and Inclusive Community of Christ Followers.

I share with you a copy of a Pastoral Letter to the People of the United Methodist Church FROM THE WOMEN BISHOPS OF THE COUNCIL OF BISHOPS

May 7, 2018 Grace and peace! We, the active and retired women bishops of The United Methodist Church, are writing in response to the news release this week, announcing the results of five proposed amendments to our Constitution that were approved at the 2016 General Conference and then sent on to the annual conferences. We are deeply grieved that two of the amendments did not receive the necessary 2/3 aggregate vote of all the annual conferences in The United Methodist Church. Both are related to the right of girls, women, and other vulnerable groups to full access to a meaningful life.
Amendment #1, which added language that both men and women are made in the image of God and that we will confront and seek to eliminate discrimination against women and girls, received an aggregate vote of 66.5%, falling short of the necessary 2/3 majority by .2 % (less than 100 votes).
Amendment #2, which added this language, “… nor shall any member be denied access to an equal place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church because of race, color, gender, national origin, ability, age, marital status, or economic condition,” received an aggregate vote of 61.3%, again falling short of a 2/3 vote…
Like Rachel weeping for her children, so we as episcopal leaders weep for our church. We weep for the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual harm that is inflicted upon women and girls because of this action. We weep for those who are denied the ability to use their gifts to make a difference in the world. We also weep for those who are not protected from exclusion in the church because of race, color, gender, national origin, ability, age, marital status, or economic condition.
After the Bishop’s letter was written and distributed, some additional information came to light –
The Rev. Gary W. Graves, Secretary of the General Conference, announced May 10, that an error was made in the text of a proposed Constitutional amendment as it was presented for voting, and which subsequently failed to pass. Amendment #1 of the five constitutional amendments that were approved by the 2016 General Conference--and which narrowly failed to be ratified--included a sentence which had been removed by the legislative body.
Graves, who became secretary on December 1, 2016, said he was made aware of the error today (Thursday, May 10) and immediately began to take corrective action. Graves expressed regret that the mistake occurred and said it was simply a matter of human error. “A new ballot is being prepared for voting by annual conferences at their next meeting; however, some conferences will not meet again until 2019,” said Graves.
The proposed amendments were sent via email to bishops and annual conference secretaries by the former secretary of the General Conference, the Rev. Gere Reist, who also voiced his apologies. The sentence that should not have been included in the amendment was removed by a vote of 746-56, but was inadvertently included in the version that was distributed. That sentence reads as follows: "The United Methodist Church recognizes it is contrary to Scripture and to logic to say that God is male or female, as maleness and femaleness are characteristics of human bodies and cultures, not characteristics of the divine."
The text as approved by the General Conference should have read: “As the Holy Scripture reveals, both men and women are made in the image of God and, therefore, men and women are of equal value in the eyes of God. The United Methodist Church acknowledges the long history of discrimination against women and girls. The United Methodist Church shall confront and seek to eliminate discrimination against women and girls, whether in organizations or in individuals, in every facet of its life and in society at large. The United Methodist Church shall work collaboratively with others to address concerns that threaten the cause of women’s and girls’ equality and well-being.”
The proposed Constitutional amendment, which would have created a new paragraph focused on gender justice, was approved by 31,304 voters (66.5%), as opposed to 15,753 "no" votes. A two-thirds majority is required for passage.

We still have a long way to go as Christ followers. I add my thoughts to the Episcopal Letter. As a parent of two daughters, my heart is heavy from the news of the lack of passage for these two amendments to our United Methodist Constitution. In our household, we seek to affirm the sacred worth of all God’s people. Denise and I were intentional in teaching our daughters that they are created in the image of God and have a responsibility to creation to extend to All the love, mercy and grace that they have received from our Heavenly Father.

I understand that as a white, heterosexual male I have been afforded “rights and privileges” that are denied others because of the color of their skin, sexual orientation or gender. I for one believe this “exclusion or discrimination” is contrary to what Jesus calls us to.

If I understand what Jesus is saying in the Gospel of John, and the Radical Grace offered by God through Jesus Christ, then I have to ask, why aren’t we as United Methodists doing the same? I join my voice with the voices of others seeking to work for gender equality and inclusion for ALL God’s children.

I remember a sad chapter in the history of the great State of Georgia, when then Governor Lester Maddox stood at the door of his restaurant, “The PICKRICK”, and closed the restaurant doors forever, rather than serve Blacks. I cannot speak to the condition of his heart, but his mind and doors were definitely closed. The eyes of the nation were on the state of Georgia because of the actions of one person who shed a “poor light” on the entire State.

16 He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day. And He stood up to read. 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. When He had unrolled the scroll, He found the place where it was written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
because He has anointed Me
to preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the broken-hearted,
to preach deliverance to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed;
19 to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”[a]

20 Then He rolled up the scroll, and He gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all those who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
— Luke 4:16-21 (MEV)

As a denomination, we are at a crucial juncture for our future. The Spirit of the Lord is upon us and the failure to ratify the Constitutional amendments for inclusive protections for ALL is unacceptable. ALL People are God’s People. And as followers of Christ we must stand up, and speak out in favor of Radical Inclusion for ALL. The Gospel (Good News) is Good News because it is “release for the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, and liberty those who are oppressed.”

As a Husband, A Father of Two Daughters, A Brother to Two Sisters, An Uncle to Three Nieces, I will lift my voice and speak out for inclusion and equality for ALL. Accessibility is more than just ramps, elevators and non-skid surfaces; it means opening doors that are closed because of race, color, gender, national origin, ability, age, marital status, or economic condition. I will stand at the door and seek entrance for ALL.

I close with the words from one of my favorite hymns and a GOOD WORD from Ephesians –
Let All the World in Every Corner Sing – Let all the world in every corner sing, my God and king! The heavens are not too high, His praise may thither fly, The earth is not too low, His praises there may grow. Let all the world in every corner sing, my God and king!
Let all the world in every corner sing, my God and king! The church with psalms must shout, no door can keep them out; But, above all, the heart must bear the longest part. Let all the world in every corner sing, my God and king!

Ephesians 2:13-18 – “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15 He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16 and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.17 So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.

I pray for Accessibility for ALL.
Thank God that God’s Love, Mercy and Grace are for ALL.

See you in the place where ALL are Welcomed and Accepted as we seek to have open, hearts, minds and doors!

Robert ><>