Methodist Minister: Westport Church Still Welcomes All

Almost as soon as the United Methodist Church voted last week to increase restrictions against same-sex marriage, and the ordination of LGBT clergy, Heather Sinclair’s phone rang. Her email inbox filled up.

The pastor of the United Methodist Church of Westport and Weston is a longtime advocate of LGBT rights. Years ago, the Weston Road congregation voted to become an “open and affirming” church, embracing LGBT parishioners.

The messages Sinclair got were supportive. “We’re with you,” they said.

Many of the first calls came from other clergy members in Westport.

“They felt like condolences,” Sinclair — who took over the pulpit last summer from longtime minister Ed Horne — says.

“It was like when a family member dies. One pastor told me, ‘I don’t know what to say.’ That’s what I say when I’m with someone who’s grieving.”

Last summer, Rev. Heather Sinclair was still unpacking in her new office.

The vote — taken by delegates at the church’s global conference in St. Louis — was both expected and a surprise, Sinclair says.

“The official stance for the past 40 years has been to exclude LGBT people from marriage and ordination. But this region has spoken out strongly against it.”

The vote was 53% for the measure to uphold and strengthen the bans, 47% against.

“We’re clearly not a ‘united’ Methodist Church,” Sinclair notes. “That’s part of where my sadness and heartbreak is.”

The other part is her desire for the church she loves to embrace LGBT members, fully and in all capacities. The statement adopted several years ago by the Westport church welcomes people of “all ages, races, abilities, sexual orientations, gender identities and economic circumstances.”

The United Methodist Church on Weston Road.

Sinclair was at the St. Louis conference, though not as a voting delegate. “It was a blessing to be there to support friends and colleagues with prayers, hugs, singing, fellowship, chocolate, coffee and more,” she emailed Westport church members when she returned.

“Now more than ever, we must be the love of Christ in the world, to our LGBTIA friends, family and neighbors, and to those who doubt our commitment to that love. Hope moves us forward.”

Yesterday morning, at her church’s men’s monthly breakfast, she offered reflections and thoughts on her experience in St. Louis.

Across the US, churches are wrestling with the question of whether to secede from the official organization and start a new denomination — or perhaps stay and fight.

The issue is complex. Deeds to Methodist churches are held in a general trust. “We can’t just take our building and leave,” Sinclair explains.

As the local congregation debates next steps, the pastor vows, “We’re here to be the same church as before. We’ll still serve dinner at the Gillespie Center. We’ll still prepare for Lent. We’ll still be a welcoming ministry to everyone.”

And she’ll still be buoyed by all the messages of support she’s received. Including so many from her fellow ministers and rabbis, all around town.

(Hat tip: Don Roth)

14 responses to “Methodist Minister: Westport Church Still Welcomes All

  1. Charles Taylor

    I’ve been an Inclusive Methodist all my life. This move by the Methodist Church makes me Sick!

  2. Kevin Brumit

    Makes us sad too. But we’re the same open welcoming church we’ve always been! Come by one Sunday to see!

  3. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    The Golden Rule – They must have been asleep when God taught that one.

  4. Bart Shuldman

    What is the value of organized religion? The Catholic Church is now finally admitting to sexual abuse of not only children but nuns. Why priests cannot marry is beyond me.

    Is it all about the money? Cannot be about religion if the people in charge are raping.

    Now the Methodist Church makes a decision that will clearly split the church. What’s the value to some members such as those in Westport?

    Why not just have your church and together pray and live the values you seek? Would we not be better off?

    Just had to ask. As I watch the Catholic Church I wonder what benefit is created by being so organized and controlled.

    Be interested in others opinion.

    Bart Shuldman

    • The Unitarian Church welcomes everyone, regardless of race, creed or sexual orientation. We believe in the worth and dignity of every human being. Come try us out some time.

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

      This has been going on for years. Probably since day 1. As to control that’s out of control – that’s what happens when people are bred not to question authority. And are abused, threatened and condemned when they do.

  5. Reverend Dr. James Edgar Litzinger Jr.

    Love the SINNER!
    Hate the SIN!
    We are to love no matter what and pray for our brothers and sisters.
    Homosexuality is a sin (lesbianism , busexuality , sexual beastiality , pedophilism ,etc…). We must come to Christ for redemption and salvation(the only wat to the father is thru me {Jesus Christ}). Wake up church” there is people sleeping and satan is getting un.Wake up wake up , wake up!
    Read Leviticus this us the Law other then the 10 commandmaents.. Remember Jesus even said I did not come to abolish the law(get rid of it!) but to fulfill it.
    Peiple we must ask Our Father for forgiveness for all things(no matter what our country is in JEOPARDY!).
    If we want to see our country great again (we must put God and His laws 1st… Put the bible , prayer back in school again) , stop allowing LGBT groups frim takung pisition in the church(God’s holiness will leave”ICHABOD!). Repent one and all from all wickednes and look to God this day!
    That is myself and all others {from the top to the bottom!}
    Stop hiding (remember Adam and Eve even tried ro hide from rheir sin)/(So mant have even some committed suicide in their sin!)
    Cime on Church wake yp !
    Stop the sin and get everything right with our God,a true 100% Living God(not a false God but true!)

    (addicted 2 Jesus!)

    Reverend Dr. James E. Litzinger Jr.

    Song of Solomon chapter 8 verse 6
    Read this and put a seal on your heart!

    • Eric Buchroeder SHS ‘70

      Kool Aid Kool Aid Tastes Great Wish We Had Some Can’t Wait!!!

    • Brian Faucher

      This is exactly why people are leaving organized religion more and more. I don’t think you understand how crazy you sound to everyone who doesn’t believe the exact same things you do. Proselytizing doesn’t convert people to your side, it turns them away.

      You mention leviticus, but I bet you have shaved your beard, eaten shellfish, pork, dairy and meat in the same meal (cheeseburger?), or worn clothes of different fabrics together, right? those are all forbidden in the old testament too… have you stoned any adulterers lately? cut off the hands of any thieves? if not, god probably isn’t too happy with you right now! (i could go on, there are literally hundreds of laws in the old testament that should still apply if being gay is still a sin, right?)

      Do you even have any connection to Westport, or do you just google for stories about LGBT and churches, to post your diatribe?

      also, you may want to use spellcheck next time (it’s built right into your browser, just right click in the comment text box and there will be an option in the menu for it)

      feel free to tell me i’m going to hell for daring to oppose a religious authority figure, that’s fine, I won’t bother to reply or check this page again. I’ll tell the devil you said hi.

    • David Stalling

      Yikes! Thank God (not your God; my nonjudgmental, loving, gay-friendly accepting God) for the First Amendment!

    • Elizabeth Thibault

      No, your values are not universal. We do not promote hate. We are tolerant and inclusive here. Please look at yourself and try to understand why you would try to persecute someone for being born a certain way. Stop trying to hide your behavior behind a book.

  6. John Bright

    There were no increase in restrictions. UMC voted to retain the current restrictive language related to LGBTQ+ ordination and performing same-sex weddings.

  7. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    “Just can’t take our building and leave” Why not? What shelter is a building if you can’t live your principles?