The senior pastor of the Travis Park United Methodist Church in San Antonio says he is feeling angry and hurt after the General Conference of The United Methodist Church voted on February 26 to prohibit same-sex weddings and LGBTQ clergy.
However, in a letter to Travis Park congregants shortly after the vote, the Rev. Eric Vogt said, “Now more than ever, we must cultivate a community that shares God’s love with and through people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. With and through not only words but action.”
“We must continue to celebrate a fully open table ‘where all are welcome, and love is always the answer to hate.’ We all miss out on God’s gifts when a broken and divided church fails to recognize and encourage the gifts of LGBTQ people, and so anything less than full and equal inclusion hurts God, hurts us, and hurts our witness,” Rev. Vogt added.
Travis Park has long been a stalwart supporter of San Antonio’s LGBTQ community.
Shortly before the General Conference vote, members of the church’s congregation held a Solidarity Walk along the Main Avenue Strip. “With hope and a prayer that our church would move forward in a truly inclusive way,” Billie Watts, Travis Park associate minister, said in a prayer at Crockett Park, KENS-TV reported.
During the 2013 fight to pass the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance members of Travis Park’s reconciling ministries team joined CAUSA, the group that was leading the efforts to enact the ordinance. The Rev. Monte Marshall, the church’s senior pastor at the time, told United Methodist Insight in an interview that “he believed the congregation was on solid ground in backing the non-discrimination ordinance because of the denomination’s Social Principles found in the Book of Discipline.”
For several years, the church hosted concerts of the now defunct Alamo City Men’s Chorale. During the past two years, services for the city’s Transgender Day of Remembrance observance have been held at Travis Park.
In 2014, the Travis Park congregation agreed to make space in their building for a homeless shelter for LGBTQ youth that was being organized by the Thrive Youth Center. (Thanks to a last minute negotiation with the city, the shelter ended up at Haven for Hope.)
On March 4, the church’s council issued a statement that said in part:
The Church Council of Travis Park Church finds the decision by General Conference 2019 to be incompatible with Christian teaching and denounces the discriminatory policies of the United Methodist Church. Therefore, we will be in discussions with our congregation regarding our affiliation with the denomination.
Travis Park will uphold the equality of LGBTQIA people at all times and in all of our practices. We continue our fervent commitment to welcome and affirm LGBTQIA people and fully celebrate their love among us, including their right to enter into the covenant of marriage in our sanctuary.
We believe that we are all children of God through Christ. We embrace our Wesleyan heritage, which emphasizes Christian living by putting love into action through grace, faith, and good works. All people should be free to use their gifts and talents as God has given them. We stand for unconditional love and justice for our LGBTQIA siblings and community.
Travis Park is committed to following Isaiah 43:19, “I am about to do a new thing; Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
For Rev. Vogt, the goal is to keep his congregation united.
“It is tempting in our despairing moments to give up, to walk away,” Vogt wrote in his pastoral letter. “Who could blame you, especially the LGBTQ siblings in our church family? But now is the time that we need to come together. We need to hear each other’s pain and care for each other. . . So please – I ask this especially of my LGBTQ siblings in Christ – please don’t walk away just yet. We need you and your voice. Let’s stay connected to one another and see where the Holy Spirit leads us.”