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First Lutheran Church of Bothell recognized for public statement of welcome
First Lutheran Church of Bothell wants the public to know they accept all people into their congregation.
The church sent out a statement of welcome for all people of sexual orientations and gender identities. The statement reads, "we welcome everyone, without exception and regardless of sex, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical and mental ability, age, or station in life. We recognize that each person is a unique creation of God and, through Grace, a child of God.
Rev. Tor Kristian Berg, Pastor of First Lutheran Church, sees this statement as an extension of the congregation’s core value of hospitality.
“This congregation, since its founding in 1886, has been a place of welcome," he said. "In our culture there are so few places for people of faith to encounter the grace of Jesus fully without being judged or maligned for who they are. We hope to live into this reality.”
The statement led a group called ReconcilingWorks to give First Lutheran the Reconciling in Christ recognition. This means the congregation will be listed on a roster of congregations, organizations, and synods in the United States and Canada, which publicly welcome members of all sexual orientation and gender identities.
ReconcilingWorks is a Christian Ministry affirming God's love for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
“We are deeply grateful for this grace filled gesture by First Lutheran Church," said Emily Eastwood, executive director of ReconcilingWorks. "Their witness and leadership is a beacon of hope for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities and the next step on the path to reconciling and healing within the church and society.”
ReconcilingWorks is a Christian ministry affirming God’s love for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Reconciling in Christ is a program of ReconcilingWorks.
Berg said the congregation voted unanimously to make the welcome announcement.
"We decided it's high time our church embodies all of God's creation, not just parts," Berg said. "We do not think it is a sin to be LGBT; it is how those individuals were made. We believe it is more important to focus on how we treat each other."
Berg said he hopes this will cause members of his community to feel safe and draw in other members that might not feel comfortable attending church.
"Our focus is never on numbers, such as, how many people can we bring in? Our focus is on being faithful," Berg said.
Parents of LGBT children in Berg's congregation have stepped forward and expressed gratitude for the church's stance.
"They are relieved that their children are welcome and can come here and feel loved," he said. "We really need to do away with any sort of shame that surrounds this issue. Jesus never said, 'let's love everyone but this person.' He commanded us to love everybody."