The church building we've been meeting in for an on-campus Bible study isn't a Wesleyan church: it's United Methodist. I had seen a sign for the "Wesley Foundation" and assumed that meant it was a Wesleyan church. <Buzzer sound>. Nope. The Wesley Foundation is the student campus ministry; the full title of the congregation is "Wesley United Methodist Church at the University of Illinois."
The congregation's official website is at http://www.wesleyui.org/church/church.htm. The student website says "The Wesley Foundation at the U of I seeks to be a place where all persons feel welcome. We encourage everyone to shine for Christ in their own unique way" and "We are a part of the United Methodist Student Movement, but we welcome you here, no matter how you find menaing [sic] in Christ, or how your Christian or non-Christian spiritual beliefs work for you."
Talk about being salt and light in the world! Wow! What an effective statement to a dying world!
There's a website that lists local organizations and their attitude towards homosexuals. Here's the Wesley Foundation's rating:
"Wesley Foundation --- Religious Organizations, Publications, Resources
1203 W. GreenUrbana, IL 61801 (See map)
Notes: Wesley hosts the Rainbow Coffeehouse and advertises in the Praire Flame, however it is NOT an affirming congregation
Gay Owned: unknown"
Gay Owned: unknown"
The site isn't self-consistent, though. At another place on their website, this church made it onto the "affirming religious organizations" group. The full list is:
- Channing-Murray Foundation
- Chapel of St. John the Divine (Episcopal)
- Community United Church of Christ
- God Loves Everyone Equally (GLEE)
- Hillel Foundation
- Illinois Disciples Foundation
- Kehilat Keshet (Rainbow Community)
- McKinley Presbyterian Church & Foundation
- Sinai Temple
- St. Andrew's Lutheran Church
- Unitarian Universalist Church
- University Place Christian Church
- Urbana-Champaign Friends Meeting (Quakers):
- Wesley Foundation
LGBTs must feel ok there, since there's a Rainbow Coffeehouse that hosts there every Tuesday from 6-9:30. The Wesley Foundation website describes this ministry as the "Inclusive LGBT Coffehouse Hosted by the UIUC Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Office."
Still, though their official pronouncement is generally weak and inhibited (I picture the committee writing it wincing as they put down anything definite), the official policy of the Methodist denomination suprisingly gets past the statements about the need for sex education and the unquestionable fact that "[h]omosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth." It does clearly state that "sexual relations are only clearly affirmed in the marriage bond" and "[t]he United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching." (From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church - 2004. Copyright 2004 by The United Methodist Publishing House.)
How this local church can flaunt the official policy of its denomination I don't know.
BTW when I found this information, I also found the following interchange in a LGBT newsletter from back in 2007:
The "Ally" section is sponsored by SODA (Sexual Orientation Diversity Allies) Committee of Counseling Center, UIllinois Ally Network, and the Office of LGBT Resources. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to submit questions or content.
ALLY OF THE MONTH
Every month we will choose and publicly recognize an Ally from our network each month. We will include a brief interview with each ally of the month honoree. On behalf of the SODA Committee of the Counseling Center, the LGBT Ally Network, and the Office of LGBT Resources, we would like to congratulate Nora Few as our very first Ally of the Month!
Nora, we thank you publicly for your contributions, wisdom, knowledge, and experiences, and we value and appreciate all the work you do in and around the LGBTQ community at the University of Illinois.
We interviewed Nora to see what she had to share with her fellow allies:
1. What department(s) do you work out of on campus, and who do you primarily work with (students, faculty, staff)?
I was an assistant dean in the Graduate College for the last seven years. Recently I accepted a new position as executive assistant dean in the College of Medicine. Both in my former position and my present position I work primarily with students, but also with faculty and staff.
2. How long have you identified as an LGBTQ ally?
I have been an LGBTQ ally for almost thirty years.
3. What are the everyday ways you practice being an ally?
I try to make sure people I encounter know that I am an LGBTQ ally. Some of the ways are very simple such as displaying my ALLY poster in my office. Others take a little more effort. I try to incorporate acceptance, advocacy, and support of LGBTQ people into everything I do; into conversations, actions, decisions, language. I do this with particular care and attention when I encounter someone who seems in need of education, possibly because they have not had the opportunity to learn about LGBTQ concerns. Being an ally is an important part of my life.
4. Why did you become an ally?
My younger brother is gay. We are very close. My initial support of my brother grew into being a LGBTQ ally in all aspects of my life.
5. What advice would you give to newly identified LGBTQ allies?
A good way to begin is by doing lots of listening.