Toward Unity and Justice — A Pastoral Letter from Pastor Cody Natland

Dear members and friends of Central United Methodist Church,

Over these past many months of the presidential campaign, it has become abundantly clear that there are deep divisions between people in our nation.  I don’t believe that these divisions are new, but rather have been revealed and brought to the forefront during the campaign and in these days after the election.  While disagreement isn’t itself a bad thing, the way that disagreement has been expressed in many attitudes and actions is deeply troubling.  It is my prayer that we will be able to move forward as a community and a nation, bridging the divides between us and working together in unity toward a better America.

As your Pastor, I feel the responsibility of speaking to the pain, division, and uncertainty that has been expressed over the past week.  I know that throughout our country there are millions of people today who are uncertain, who are scared, who are hurting.  I also realize that there are millions who would have been feeling those exact same things if the outcome of the election had been different.  Honestly, I cannot imagine a scenario in which the results of this election would have brought about an end to the deep divisions among us.

I invite you to join me in praying for all of our leaders, those who continue in their positions as well as those, including President-elect Donald Trump, who were elected to new positions last Tuesday.  But my hope for bridging the divisions between people in our nation rests not in the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, or any government or political party.  Rather, my hope for unity is firmly rooted in the good news of Jesus Christ, who calls us as his followers to be people of compassion and mercy, of hope and promise, of justice and love.  We have our work cut out for us as we strive to be the Church that God has called us to be, as we seek to understand one another, to live in the beauty of human diversity, and affirm the sacredness of all human life.

And so, as we seek unity, understanding, and dialogue, we must also re-affirm our commitment to justice, equality, and abundant life for all of God’s people.

Jesus reminded his disciples regularly to be mindful of “the least among us,” that is, the people who are the least empowered to speak out for justice, and who also have the most to lose.  As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to be advocates and allies for the marginalized.  I am proud to serve as the Pastor of a congregation that has taken a strong and public stance on this.  Every Sunday morning, I call attention to the yellow card that bears the text of our congregation’s “Welcoming Statement.”  That statement reads, in part:

We are committed to creating a community of grace where all feel completely welcome, regardless of age, status, economic condition, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or mental abilities.  We find all people to be of sacred worth and welcome everyone who comes here seeking the love of God.

Central United Methodist Church will continue to proclaim our commitment to the full inclusion of all people.  In the coming days, weeks, months, and years we will have much work to do as we live into the commitments that we have made. 

We will continue doing our best to reflect God’s light and love with all those both inside and outside our congregation who feel forgotten, diminished, and marginalized.  We will not tolerate hateful rhetoric or actions toward our brothers and sisters.  We will be a place of welcome and safety for broken and fearful members of society.  We will seek new opportunities to stand up and speak out as advocates and allies.

One of these opportunities is already on our calendar:  This Sunday, November 20th at 7pm we will hold a memorial and vigil service for Transgender Day Of Remembrance.  I encourage you to attend this event and show your support and solidarity with a  community that has faced great violence.  We will share prayer, reading of the names of those whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence, and holding vigil for the acceptance of the trans community.

We will stand with the LGBTQ community, people of color, the Latinx community, the Muslim community and other religious minorities, women, and all others who experience marginalization.

As we pray for God’s kingdom to be fully revealed in our midst, we commit to work together to build up the very kingdom we await.  May we place our full trust in God to guide us in doing this important work.  May God give us the strength to seek unity as we work together for the good of all of God’s beloved children.

I will conclude this letter by sharing and re-affirming the “Social Creed” of the United Methodist Church:

We believe in God, Creator of the world; and in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of creation. We believe in the Holy Spirit, through whom we acknowledge God’s gifts, and we repent of our sin in misusing these gifts to idolatrous ends.

We affirm the natural world as God’s handiwork and dedicate ourselves to its preservation, enhancement, and faithful use by humankind.

We joyfully receive for ourselves and others the blessings of community, sexuality, marriage, and the family.

We commit ourselves to the rights of men, women, children, youth, young adults, the aging, and people with disabilities; to improvement of the quality of life; and to the rights and dignity of all persons.

We believe in the right and duty of persons to work for the glory of God and the good of themselves and others and in the protection of their welfare in so doing; in the rights to property as a trust from God, collective bargaining, and responsible consumption; and in the elimination of economic and social distress.

We dedicate ourselves to peace throughout the world, to the rule of justice and law among nations, and to individual freedom for all people of the world.

We believe in the present and final triumph of God’s Word in human affairs and gladly accept our commission to manifest the life of the gospel in the world. Amen.

May it be so.

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May grace and peace be yours in abundance!

Pastor Cody Natland

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