Header Image

LGBTQIA-Affirming

Chestnut Hill United Church: Where ALL are Welcome and Celebrated!

 

Voting to become a Reconciling Congregation

By congregational vote and in explicit disagreement with national church policy, the Chestnut Hill United Church voted Sunday, March 10, 2002 to stand for full participation of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons in the life of the United Methodist Church.

Capping a six month-long study of issues around faith and sexual orientation, the congregational voted by a wide margin to become what United Methodists call a “Reconciling Congregation.”  This label is the self-designated name of United Methodist churches who take an official stand against the official United Methodist denominational positions which condemn homosexuality.

In 2001 and 2002, the Chestnut Hill congregation held 17 different congregational events which examined this issue.  This “congregational study” was ordered by the local church’s Administrative Council and included Bible studies on the subject of faith and sexual orientation, coffee hour discussions, adult Sunday School classes, film discussions, and age and gender specific gatherings of members.

“This study has actually brought us much more than clarity on the issue of faith and sexual orientation.  It has also built important new levels of trust in the congregation.  We learned to talk with one another on a deeper level about other topics, because we took on this subject.” said Leslie Cheeseman, the chairperson of the congregational Reconciling Congregation Task Force.

“Since we already welcome people of all sexual orientations, some persons have wondered why we needed to take this official step to declare our welcome.” said Rev. Linda Noonan, one of the church’s pastors.  “Our congregation felt this was necessary because of the United Methodist denomination’s stand against full lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender participation.  This vote helps people understand that this particular congregation is a welcoming one.”

“Our local church is joining more than a hundred other United Methodist congregations across the country in stating its explicit welcome and support of gay and lesbian persons in all aspects of church life, “ said Dr. Hal Taussig, the other pastor.  “This includes advocacy for gay ordination, affirmation of services celebrating the sacred union of same sex couples, and the elimination of any intimation that homosexuality is a sin.”

“We believe that God loves persons of all sexual orientations equally.  We see the history of discrimination against gays and lesbians in churches as a violation of this love of God.  We hope that we and the larger United Methodist Church can continue to learn how to become freer of the homophobia that has so long scarred both churches and gays and lesbians.” said Joy Bergey, the church’s lay leader.

Decision to become an Open and Affirming Church

In December of 2009, this congregation voted to affiliate with the United Church of Christ, while also retaining standing as a United Methodist congregation.  See the article written about us in the Philadelphia Gay News. The United Church of Christ, since 1985 has called upon its congregations to declare themselves Open and Affirming churches - affirming the full participation and ministry of people of all sexual orientations.  In 2003 it added a resolution which extends that declaration to include persons who are transgender.  As part of the United Church of Christ, we are proud to declare ourselves an Open and Affirming congregation.

We embrace the diversity and affirm the dignity and worth of every person. The more we see one another as made in God’s image, the more fully we see God.

In Methodist language, that means we are a Reconciling Congregation.
In UCC  language, that means we are an Open and Affirming Congregation.