Rachel started it. She brought some ribbons she’d made to church the Sunday after General Conference. Then, the next day, she brought more to our Open Hearts Group meeting. Everyone wanted one. We decided we’d make more and put them out at church—in case other people might want to wear one.
By the way, if you don’t know, the rainbow ribbon represents the LGBTQ+ community and the black and white one represents their allies—family and friends who support and love them. And, Open Hearts is a group of LGBTQ+ people, family and friends at FUMC Hurst who began meeting because a young woman who grew up in our church thought we needed a support group (see full text of the Open Hearts Welcoming Statement below).
I put a ribbon on my black robe that first Sunday. Hadn’t really planned to—hadn’t really thought it through—didn’t even know how my boss would react. All I knew was that I had to wear it. And, after all, it’s just a ribbon.
But, it didn’t take long for me to understand that it’s not just a ribbon. It has significance for many people. I have discovered that seeing these rainbow ribbons popping up around the church, raised some questions and concerns for some people. I have heard that some are uncomfortable, uneasy—maybe even fearful. I have heard that some long-time members are looking for a new church. I have heard it said more than once, “When are we going to stop talking about this issue?”
It isn’t just a ribbon and I understand that for many people it represents a controversial issue that has preoccupied our denomination for years. But, I don’t wear this ribbon because of an issue. I wear it for people. I wear this ribbon for my life-long friend who I love like a brother and who happens to be a gay man. He was a Methodist most of his life, but became an Episcopalian after he came out. I wear this ribbon for the young woman I met through my daughter who told me she has to “pretend to be straight and wear a dress and heels” when she goes to church with her mom. I wear this ribbon for the young man who told me he grew up in the church, but isn’t welcome since he came out as a gay man. He said he misses church and prays daily for God to help him find one that will accept him as he is. When are we going to stop talking about this “issue?” In my opinion, we can’t stop the conversation until the heartbreaking stories stop and all of Christ’s churches welcome all God’s children.
People choose to wear rainbow ribbons for many reasons. People choose not to wear them for many reasons. That’s perfectly fine! I have very personal reasons for wearing one, but also, I think it serves as a reminder to others (and myself!) that United Methodists have always said we welcome all people. It is a reminder to others (and myself!) to continue to talk and pray about how we live into that radical statement. Because, I think for Jesus, all means all.
Welcoming Statement of the Open Hearts Group—
Open Hearts is a group within First United Methodist Church of Hurst, specifically dedicated to living out Christ’s example of radical welcome and inclusion, particularly to people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
We offer a place of sanctuary for people to share experiences and find support.
We believe that the love of God is freely given to all people, and that it is not the province of imperfect humans to place limits on this divine gift.
We invite and affirm LGBTQ+ people and advocate for the full inclusion of all those called to the mission and ministry of this church, and for the safety and dignity of all people in God’s world.