Once again, church doors are being used to proclaim a disagreement with the reigning orthodoxy, this time the United Methodist Church’s refusal to ordain gay pastors or allow same-sex marriages. Martin Luther had launched the Protestant Reformation in 1517 by nailing to a church door tracts that objected to the Catholic Church selling salvation for money. Two hundred years later, the Methodist church formed, and today, the First United Methodist Church on Anapamu Street in Santa Barbara has nailed to its doors six banners in the colors of the rainbow to affirm its support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersexual, asexual, and all members of the community.
“God’s Doors Are Open To All” the banners proclaim. The church’s senior pastor, the Rev. Dr. Mark Richardson, wrote in an announcement on April 3 that his church and congregation joined the many around the world who believed “everyone is to be welcomed, blessed and affirmed at God’s table.”
Precipitating the crisis was a February decision by the church’s General Conference to observe a 1972 policy that “homosexuality was incompatible with Christian teaching.” To counter the Traditional Plan, as the policy is known, the Reconciling Ministries Network formed to advocate for the inclusion of LGBTQIA+ individuals, including as pastors and to be married by and in the church.
“Unfortunately the institutional church gets it wrong sometimes,” Richardson wrote. “This is a sin for which the United Methodist Church will need to repent.”