Mission Friends for Inclusion

Why We Supported the Re-election of President Gary Walter

Two weeks ago, we urged the delegates of the 2016 Annual Meeting to vote “yes” to re-elect President Gary Walter. Krista Brumberg Stevens read the following statement explaining why.

I stand here as a delegate who, with many of my church members, lament our denominational failure to love and more fully include our LGBTQ brothers and sisters and their gifts in our church.
I stand here as a long-time covenanter who has disagreed with some of Gary Walters’ public statements on this topic in the past few years, and the selective resources that have been put forth. I disagree with Bill Henson, in his view that faithful LGBTQ Christians must choose between celibacy and conformity to hetersexual marriage.

I stand here as a representative of Mission Friend 4 inclusion who has been disheartened with the notion in the recently revised guidelines for clergy that the only principled options for dissent are to either align oneself with the Covenant’s position on human sexuality or seek communion elsewhere—a position which seems to contradict the will of the 2004 Annual Meeting that rejected the notion that clergy and lay people must affirm the Covenant’s position both publicly and privately in order to maintain standing in the Covenant. I support Dave Kersten’s call from last night to continue to engage our scripture for guidance on this topic.

I stand here to advocate for a third way.

Which is why I also stand here to support the nomination of Gary Walter for a third term as president because I believe that at our best, we as Covenant people are called to work together and find unity in the midst of discord and disagreement.

President Walter has shown himself as someone who is willing to both listen to and engage with folk who disagree with the denomination’s stance. Mission Friends 4 Inclusion looks forward to engaging in hard conversations that begin with acknowledging the deep grief and pain that has been caused by our leaders to LGBTQ individuals and their friends and families. So many have left our denomination because of uncharitable words and actions as well as silence; we hope that as we celebrate 40 years to ordain women, and remember the often difficult conversations that surrounded that vote, that we will remember the work we are called to do to fully include all of God’s children in and with our ministry, especially our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.

I stand here in expectant hope that we will strengthen under President Walter’s continued leadership. I urge a “yes” vote on the reelection of President Walter, and I urge our President, the Council of Administrators, all members of the Executive board, indeed all Covenanters to not just hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to our church especially in matters of inclusion, but to speak out and act on the call of the Holy Spirit as we seek to follow the mission of our church and to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.