Dear FirstChurch,
Since our meeting on March 4, I have been humbled, encouraged and energized by the response of this congregation to the denominational decision made in St. Louis. Your thoughts, opinions and beliefs have been vital to my ability to minister, guiding me as I serve as your leader during this time in the life of our church.
Our leadership team was adamant that we would not devise a plan forward without first hearing from our members who identify as LGBTQ+, and making space for them to inform how we move forward. So, on two occasions, Rev. Willet and I have met with those members. We heard firsthand the pain, sorrow, hurt and confusion this decision caused them, and we were able to begin to process those emotions together as a faith family. In addition, they shared what they would like to see FirstChurch do in response. That feedback has shaped our formal plan to move forward.

I want to make it clear that FirstChurch remains committed to the theology of the Open Table – ALL are welcome here. Yet, we realize that simply being welcoming is not enough. We must work from the inside out to tear down structures that expose anyone to hurt, harm or hate. We stand with our LGBTQ+ siblings during this time, and we will all work together to ensure that the United Methodist Church is one where all have the opportunity to participate fully in the life of the Church.

Thus, we are eager to make this commitment known to those inside and outside our church. We have created a campaign to outwardly establish ourselves as a welcoming, affirming church, offering a visible, external sign of our theology of an Open Table welcoming all into our church. This coming week, we will be launching the ‘This is us.’ campaign, which showcases the diversity and beautiful complexity of our congregation. With this campaign, we offer an immediate response to affirm and stand with our LGBTQ+ siblings, and seize the opportunity to think more broadly about how Church should look, feel and function. How can we see, sense and create a “Big C” Church and a FirstChurch that embodies the Kin-dom of God in its truest form? This campaign takes a stand for “ALL Means ALL” offering a platform for us to re-imagine what being a faith community really means.

This week, we will be installing ‘This is us.’ campaign banners on Ross Avenue and Harwood Street, displaying the following pictures of our members and a short, sharp message that makes it clear we welcome ALL. In the Easter Sunday bulletin, you will see the campaign launch on the cover of FirstNews Weekly, and a non-discriminatory statement that aligns with both the campaign as well as our current mission statement for the church. That statement will remain in our bulletin moving forward. Advertising and social media presence for this campaign will be carried out for the next several weeks.

As part of this campaign, we will roll out a robust theological and spiritual programmatic and training regimen with these ideas at the center. The plan for that programming is still unfolding, but it will definitely offer opportunities for education and engagement throughout the end of 2019. 
Here’s how you can be a part of this campaign and movement NOW:
  • Share your thoughts. As part of the ‘This is us.’ campaign, you are invited to submit thoughts/comments/testimonials about how the denominational decision affected you, what FirstChurch means to you and how FirstChurch should be embodying welcome and inclusion. These comments will be used throughout the campaign in online and print form. Make your voice heard as we show the world ‘This is us.'
  • Visit the Table. In response to the denomination’s decision, a group of members wanted to create an experience that brought to life our theology of an Open Table, and would provide opportunities for people to come together. So on Ross Avenue, there is an installation of a long turquoise table that we are calling “A Table for Dallas.” The idea is to offer a place where the community can come and meet, discuss and find common ground. Some of our Sunday School classes have already taken advantage of spending time at the Table, and our Variations Choir has already gathered for an impromptu concert (see photo of the Genesis class and Variations' video below!) We encourage you to visit the table – on Sunday or any other day of the week. Come sit and meet someone new!
  • Attend on May 6. The Judicial Council will vote at the end of April on whether the Traditional Plan is a violation of the UMC Constitution. On May 6, we will hold another all-church meeting to discuss the outcome of that vote, and how we will move forward as a result. Join this powerful night of community as we discuss these crucial issues.
  • Sign the covenant. There has been a covenant developed by a group of pastors since the 2019 General Conference. The covenant is an invitation to sign on in affirmation of the substance of the One Church Plan as a living reality in our churches and conferences, starting right here in North Texas. The goal is to have as many lay members of United Methodist Churches as possible sign it before May 12, 2019. Click here to read the covenant and sign if you agree to this affirmation.

This is a time of transition for us; change is often discomforting. I am grateful to witness this church come together in a powerful way as we move into the unknown. I am certain that we will build a church where all can discover God’s Love, and have the opportunity to grow disciples, connect communities and serve the world.

Together, we are held . . .

In God’s Love,

Dr. Andy Stoker

1928 Ross Ave
Dallas, TX 75201