Welcome and Inclusion
Welcome and Including All - Consensus Statement
WELCOME AND INCLUSION
The Discernment Team of First Baptist Church of Asheville is grateful for everyone who shared in our listening sessions, attended the March Bible study, spoke with one of our ministers or committee members, and prayed for our process of discernment. We heard your stories, hopes, and fears, and “weighed carefully” everything you said (1 Corinthians 14:29).
We learned that when you put two Baptists in a room, you often have three different opinions. That is one of the gifts of our church’s identity. We value the freedom of conscience, the freedom to read and study Scripture in community, and the freedom to hold differing views while still loving one another.
Based on what we heard in the discernment sessions and through much prayer, we offer this consensus statement to express what “seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15:28).
“To all who mourn and need comfort – to all who are weary and need rest – to all who are friendless and wish friendship – to all who are homeless and wish sheltering love – to all who pray and to all who do not, and ought – to all who sin and need a savior, and to whosoever will – this church opens wide the door and makes free a place, and in the name of Jesus, the Lord, says welcome” (reaffirmed, First Baptist Church of Asheville bulletin, 1938).
As new creations in Jesus Christ, and as priests to one another, we joyfully proclaim the sacred worth of all people, and we welcome all as beloved children of God, whatever their age, race, physical or mental ability, gender, level of education, marital status, economic circumstance, sexual orientation, and religious background, to participate in all aspects of the life and ministry of our congregation.
Those who profess faith in the God of Jesus Christ, who are members of our congregation, and who are called by the Spirit to use their unique gifts for the building up of the body of Christ, may share in the graces of church membership over a lifetime, including baptism, the Lord’s Supper, marriage, parent-child dedication, deacon ordination, ordination to Gospel ministry, teaching, and pastoral care.
Charge to the Congregation
For generations, we have aspired to welcome all, hoping that those who come will find love, friendship, and grace. We charge the congregation to continue to read and study Scripture together, listen to one another’s stories, and pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We encourage everyone to seek out the rich stories in our congregation, for they are gifts from God. As we listen to one another, may we deepen our friendships and experience God in new ways.
While our Baptist distinctive of the freedom of conscience makes room for differing views on faith, our highest calling is to embody Jesus’ prayer “that they may all be one…so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21). May all people know that we are Christians by our love, as we live the way of grace and the mission of unity in Christ.
Scripture and LGBTQ Bible Study
Welcome and Inclusion
Mary Cunningham, Chair of Deacons at First Baptist of Asheville, has appointed an ad-hoc team to guide our church’s response to our desired future statement: First Baptist will be a church that welcomes and includes all in a way consistent with God’s love and wisdom. This team was formed in response to the stories our congregation shared during roundtables early in 2018 and our hopes as a congregation as they relate to welcome and inclusion of all. Please note the church by-laws supporting the development of the team and the charge from the chair. Watch for updates as the team guides us through this season of prayer and discernment.
AD HOC COMMITTEES
“When the Pastor and the officers of the Deacons conclude that a committee other than one of the Support Committees is needed for a special purpose, the Chairperson of Deacons may, with the advice of the Pastor, appoint members and a Chairperson to serve for the purpose necessary to complete the special task.”
From the By-Laws of the First Baptist Church Statement of Policy, adopted Dec. 13, 2015, p. 15.
Charge to the Committee
1) To help the congregation discern with love our desired future “to welcome and include all in a way consistent with God’s love and wisdom,” and specifically, how God is calling us to welcome and include LGBTQ persons.
2) To plan, implement, and process a series of church-wide discernment sessions that a) invite a culture of learning with LGBTQ people, and b) foster and enable consensus about welcome and inclusion.
3) To craft a consensus statement for the church, based on their conclusions about the discernment sessions, that seeks to express what “seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15:28).
Welcome and Inclusion Discernment Team Members
Jan Busey, Chair
Mindy Allen, Kelly Belcher, Woody Edney, Bob Gilkeson, Patricia Glazener, Ron Gough, Mark Green, Donna Lewis, Beatty Logan, Chelsea Setzer, Matthew Stacey
Tommy Bratton, ministerial liaison