Until (June 12), most people would have thought of Disney World when hearing of the city named Orlando. (Lately), however, Orlando focuses us on one of the deadliest hate crimes in our nation's history. 49 persons were killed by a lone gunman filled with hate. Dozens more were seriously injured. This act of hatred was directed toward the LGBT community at the Pulse dance club in Orlando.
Several members of the LGBT community in our area have conveyed to me their fears. There have been 18 attacks on the LGBT community in the last nine months in the Oak Lawn area. Understandably, they are concerned about their safety, and the recent killings in Orlando heightened their fears. I, too, am very concerned. Of course, we have prayed for the victims of the Orlando massacre, their families, and their friends. I hope you have also prayed for the LGBT community in the North Texas Conference.
As I worship in various congregations, I am privileged to meet the diverse people who are United Methodists in the North Texas Conference. Often, I meet a same-gendered couple who have found a spiritual home in one of our churches. They introduce me to their children and share with me how they are involved in their local church. On other occasions, I meet single persons who are actively engaged in their church's ministry and are leaders in those ministries.
What (June 12) demonstrated for us is that not all of our members feel safe. Many of God's beloved children are LGBT. Hate directed toward any particular group of people has no place in the life of a Christian. We will continue to pray for the safety of our brothers and sisters. But, let's begin conversations with LGBT persons we know in our churches or in other areas of our lives and listen to their stories of struggle, fear, and fulfillment.
May we provide not only a spiritual house of safety, but also engage together in the witness of Christ in our broken world.
Bishop Michael McKee