To the people of Helena and the larger community we serve:

You have heard about the General Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC) which debated the roles of the LGBTQ+ individuals in the life of the denomination. By a thin margin, the conference voted to retain exclusionary language and stiffen the penalties for those who break the rules. The 53 percent to 47 percent vote shows the deep, painful divide in the UM Church.

Many in the denomination are rejoicing over this outcome, while many others (including a large majority of the delegates from the United States) are heartbroken. We are by no means "united."

Helena St. Paul’s United Methodist Church formally became a Reconciling Congregation seven years ago, joining many other United Methodist Churches in the nation and the world who stand for exclusivity and strongly oppose the official stance of our denomination on this issue.

We welcome all people of any age, color, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, economic status or disability into the full life and membership of our congregation.

We are deeply sorry for the harm, pain, and division of last week's action. We are especially sorry for the pain it causes for our LBGTQ+ siblings, family members, and members of our congregation here and at our sister church, Covenant United Methodist.

We are still St. Paul's and Covenant. We do not know what the future holds for our denomination, but we will continue to be welcoming and inclusive, no matter what. We have committed to this as a church, and we will continue to be a voice of inclusion in the Helena community. We will continue to live out our faith in this way.

Our local churches are not alone in this. We join with other churches of different denominations with similar beliefs. A large number of United States United Methodist churches share our stance. The Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church has and will continue to lead Christians across boundaries of exclusion. We are still committed to diversity and courage.

Though we are not all of one mind, we are of one heart. Pray for our ordained clergy, our laypeople, and our denomination. We face an uncertain future, but still certain that all of God's children are loved and called to service for others. All means all.

This opinion is signed by Patti Agnew, lead pastor, Helena United Methodist Ministries; Sami Pack-Toner, associate pastor, Helena United Methodist Ministries; Marti Johnson and Dianna Tande, St. Paul’s UMC lay leaders, Kathy Chase, Covenant UMC lay leader.

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