A Pastoral Letter from Rev. John Woodall

Dear Friends,

It is difficult to know what to say or think about the events of the last two days. The hate-filled terrorist act, which took place in Orlando, shows humanity at its worst. Innocent children of God were killed and wounded. Later in the day, tragedy was averted in West Hollywood as law enforcement apprehended an individual and his vehicle loaded with weapons and explosives – possibly headed to the Gay Pride Festival and Parade. These events are reminders of the brokenness that is our world. We need to be in prayer for the families who will be forever changed by these events and for the devastation this creates for communities. Let us pray that God’s grace and love might be felt during this time of senseless tragedy.

What cannot escape us is that the targets of this violence were members of LGBTQ community. Our Bishop, Minerva Carcaño, sent a message yesterday with which I deeply resonate. She reminded us that, sadly, churches have contributed to the climate which perpetuates messages of hate. This results in making people second class citizens or being excluded all together. Our United Methodist Church friends, at the world wide level is complicit. When our Book of Discipline proclaims that all persons are of “sacred worth” while preserving language which states that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching”, we are a part of the problem. I would maintain that this kind of statement is incompatible with being a follower of Jesus. We need to repent of our behavior which contributes to fostering a climate of suspicion and hate.

I am blessed to be Pastor of a congregation that believes in the full inclusion of all persons in the community of faith and full participation in all of the ministries of the church. Fortunately, Westwood does not stand alone in this belief. But, it is not enough to just make pronouncements. God calls us to be a part of the solution. While we pray for the people who have been so deeply affected, let us also listen to God’s voice speaking to us so that we might better understand the way to proclaim our belief in words and action.

John R. Woodall
Sr. Pastor, Westwood United Methodist Church