Since 2019, Broomfield United Methodist Church has embraced a progressive stance on LGBTQ issues, despite wider opposition within the denomination and amid debates about same-sex marriage and ordination of LGBTQ clergy.
“The denomination is moving toward a split around that issue,” Pastor Don Bird said.
In 2019, delegates at the United Methodist Church’s General Conference approved the "Traditionalist Plan" to clarify the denomination's negative view on homosexuality. Dissension quickly arose, and delegates voted to send the proposal to its Judicial Council for final review, which is currently delayed until 2024 due to continuing COVID-related international travel restrictions.
“There are churches that have felt like we did when this came to a head in February of 2019,” Bird said. “We wanted to make a statement, not only to our church community, but also to the larger community.”
Following the General Conference debate, Bird organized a church town hall to discuss inclusionary approaches for LGBTQ individuals that attracted more than 150 Broomfield residents .
“For a lot of people it was voicing anger at what happened and there were others who supported that,” he said.
The town hall allowed differing opinions to be aired with subsequent smaller-group conversations held to seek an accord.
“It’s a journey,” he said. “This isn't something that you just say, ‘Hey, this is where it is and if you don't like it leave.”
The approach resonated with parishioner Calley Welborn, who began attending Broomfield United Methodist in 2018 after relocating from Austin.
“For me it was real simple, we were all created in God's image and that is love, which means we are love,” she said. “We were created to be exactly who God needed us to be for this world.”
Although not devoutly religious as a youth, Welborn found the spiritual path during her early 20s.
“I came to church late in life,” she said. “I was feeling like I wanted to have this spiritual connection.”
After researching numerous Christian faiths, Welborn found a comforting message at St. John's Union Methodist Church in Austin.
“It changed my life because the people were so welcoming, accepting and nonjudgmental,” she recalled. “For months when I first started going, I would just sit in the back and cry because I would think they were talking directly to me.”
Ari Shaffer, who has attended Broomfield United Methodist for 15 years, echoed those sentiments.
“I appreciate being welcomed and being able to be myself,” she said. “It's a brave step to advocate for others and I deeply appreciate BUMC for doing that.”
Shaffer applauded the church for desiring to learn and understand people who face different challenges, and doing so without judgment.
“Our LGBTQ+ family should be able to participate to the same degree as everyone else,” she said. “Not only being welcomed with open arms, but also to get married and be fully recognized within the church to serve in any role they are qualified for."
To help promote the messaging, Broomfield United Methodist adopted a rainbow heart logo on its website along with on site signage.
“Inside that heart it says, ‘We want you here,’” he said. “For inclusion to be lived out, belonging has to be a big part.”
While not disparaging alternate viewpoints, Bird acknowledged the messaging failed to resonate with the entire congregation.
“We did lose some people, but we also gained people as well,” he said. “Our motto is love like Jesus (with) no strings attached.”
In the long run, Bird said the goal is to open the religious institution to all comers.
“We all need each other … especially in spirituality and faith,” he said.“Sometimes we have to get comfortable with our uncomfortableness.”