Asbury United Methodist Rev. Gayla Rapp isn’t shy about expressing her disappointment with her denomination’s most recent vote on whether to openly welcome gay men and women.
“I watched what was happening and hoped and prayed,” she said of the moments before delegates at the once-every-four-years Methodist general conference voted on the issue this May. “But it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, which is the way I think God wants the church to be — a place that welcomes everyone.”
But determined not to let a setback stand in their way, Rapp and a group of five other Methodist ministers from the region decided to come together and hold an event demonstrating their commitment to making the Methodist faith an open and affirming one that welcome members of the LGBT community.
Starting Thursday evening, Asbury will play host to pastors and lay people from across Kansas and Nebraska at “Our Family Gathering,” a three-day event it bills as a “public sign of our solidarity.” The event is free and open to the public.
“Now it’s time to heal the broken hearted and continue this journey that we have,” Rapp said. “This is our way to keep moving us forward to becoming that place of justice that is inclusive.”
Our Family Gathering kicks off with performances by the Heartland Men’s Chorus, Kansas City’s Gay Men’s Chorus, and a message from Rev. Jane Florence, the senior pastor at First United Methodist Church in Omaha, Neb.
On Friday, Revs. Joe Cobb and Leigh Anne Taylor, authors of the memoir “Our Family Outing,” will be the featured speakers. Previously married, Cobb and Taylor split after Cobb came to terms with his homosexuality. The book chronicles how the two reconciled his sexuality with his position in the church, and ultimately reshaped their own family.
Rapp said the entire weekend is designed to demonstrate the power of inclusiveness and tolerance.
“It’s so important to us to keep a very positive tone,” she said. ” This isn’t about calling other side stupid or wrong. It’s about showing how beautiful and powerful it can be to accept people who are different from you, who may see the world in a different way.”