Alton’s Main Street Methodist to host discussion on LGBTQ inclusion

ALTON — The Church and Society Committee of Alton’s Main Street United Methodist Church is sponsoring a program entitled “Conversations Concerning LGBTQ Within the Church and Community,” beginning Thursday, Sept. 20, The (Alton) Telegraph reported.

From the Telegraph:

There will be four separate sessions held on consecutive Thursday evenings, starting at 7 p.m.

The purpose of the program, according to Committee Chairperson Thomas Johnson, is to give people the opportunity to learn more about lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and queer issues.

“Pursuant to the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church, we are committed to supporting basic human rights and liberties for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation,” said Johnson. “The United Methodist Church will be meeting this winter in St. Louis, Missouri, to consider how the church moves forward on issues of ordaining LGBTQ clergy and conducting same sex weddings. We have a duty as Christians and as human beings to have knowledge and an understanding of the facts and issues surrounding these topics.”

Jaimie Heilman, Executive Director of TES (Trans Education Service, LLC), in St. Louis, Missouri, will speak on Sept. 20 on “LGBTQ 101”, providing a basic understanding of terminology, demographics, and information about persons who identify as LGBTQ and the issues they face.

On Sept. 27, Dr. Jill Baker, Vice Moderator of the Illinois South Conference of the United Church of Christ, will speak on being a welcoming and inclusive church. Dr. Baker is active in the local, conference and national levels of the UCC, and is the director of Rainbow Camp, a trainer in the Building an Inclusive Church curriculum, and an adjunct faculty member at Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri.

Anthony Rothert, the Legal Director for the Missouri ACLU, will provide information on legal and civil issues involving LGBTQ rights, including gay marriage in a civil sense, legal status, wedding cakes and other issues of the day. Mr. Rothert, while now based in St. Louis, previously practiced law in Madison County and brings a solid legal background to the program. He will conduct the session on Oct. 4.

Finally, on Oct. 11, a panel of religious and lay people will discuss the upcoming United Methodist vote on “The Way Forward,” referring to the process whereby the UMC will vote on how to proceed with LGBTQ issues, and where other main line churches stand on ordaining LGBTQ clergy, gay marriage, and other related matters. Panelists will include Retired United Methodist Pastor Bob Phillips, and Retired United Methodist Bishop Bill Lewis, among others.

Refreshments will be served during each session. The newspaper reported that people could contact the church office at 618-462-2495 for more information.

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