In 2014, Mount Olivet entered into a period of reflection and discernment on how Mount Olivet could live out their vision statement as a congregation in relation to our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) brothers and sisters.
There were three motivating factors which prompted this time and process of discernment:
- As citizens of this country, we see attitudes towards the LGBT community changing with signs of greater acceptance/tolerance (i.e., civil recognition of gay marriage, workplace discrimination protections, etc.)
- As Christians, we try to reconcile the scriptural writings and traditional beliefs with Christ’s message of love for all and discerning how this reconciliation process impacts our message to the LGBT community.
- As part of the Methodist denomination, we have witnessed the varied responses to LGBT issues, notably same-sex unions, at all levels of the global United Methodist Church — from the local congregations up through the General Conference.
With these factors in mind, the Church Council elected to support a period of time for reflection and discernment on how the Mount Olivet community can respond, react and live out our vision statement in relation to our LGBT brothers and sisters.
We hosted three educational sessions:
- Session One: Go more in-depth on the three motivating factors for this period of reflection and discernment
- Session Two: Delve into the Methodist tradition and teachings on sexuality generally and homosexuality specifically, as well as how local congregations across the country have responded to those teachings
- Session Three: Explore the Scripture and different ways to read and understand relevant scriptural passages
All three educational sessions were held in the Mount Olivet Sanctuary. These educational sessions were designed to provide a foundation for this period of discernment. The sessions were also be videotaped and available on Mount Olivet’s website for viewing by persons unable to participate in person. Following the three educational sessions, and in keeping with Wesleyan tradition, all members of the Mount Olivet community were invited to participate in small groups for further and intensive reflection and discussion. Specifically, these groups were formed to provide a “sacred” time and space to reflect, discern and converse on Mount Olivet’s vision statement and its application to the LGBT community. These groups were facilitated by a small cadre of moderators. The moderators ensured both that the “sacred” aspect of this process were upheld and that participants felt they were in a safe space to provide views that will be heard and respected. At the end of this intentional period of discernment, we conducted an anonymous survey of the entire Mount Olivet community.
All adult members of the Mount Olivet community were invited and encouraged to attend the forums, to participate in the small groups and take the survey. In addition, Mount Olivet youth (middle school and high school students), especially those who have been confirmed, were invited to participate with parental blessing.
At the conclusion of the discernment period and survey, the cadre of moderators compiled and incorporated the viewpoints expressed throughout the process for a report to the Church Council for their consideration.