In my September Cornerstone article, I noted that through the work of the Christian Education & Social Justice Committee (CESJ) and by approval of Session, MPC has been recognized as a Matthew 25 Church as well as a More Light Congregation (MLP—MLP is a network of over 230 congregations from within the PC(USA). For more info, go to www.mlp.org), briefly explaining what those designations mean for our church family as we move forward as More People Caring. As a Matthew 25 Church and a More Light Congregation, we are showing that MPC does welcome all. At the time, the CESJ Committee was also introducing a new column for the newsletter, Inclusion Corner, intended as an informative and educational piece, a way for us to explore the various aspects of being a More Light Congregation and the ways to become living disciples of Jesus Christ in our community and the world as we live out Matthew 25, focusing on building congregational vitality and dismantling structural racism. Perhaps we jumped into the deep end while most of us are still wading and testing the waters, rather than start with some of the reasons the committee and ultimately Session arrived at these decisions.
In 2018, MPC families and individuals began requesting that the church be more transparent about being welcoming to all people. As a result, the then Peacemaking and Social Justice Committee began to explore the possibility of becoming a More Light Congregation. The pandemic stalled their efforts until 2021 when the Peacemaking and Social Justice Committee merged with the Christian Education Committee. The newly formed Christian Education & Social Justice Committee, which included two staff members at the time, then Associate Pastor Mark Allio and myself, continued this work, also suggesting that we explore becoming a Matthew 25 church as well. In March, CESJ chair, Dr. Jennifer Thomson, presented information about Matthew 25 and MLP and the reasons the committee felt called to become both a Matthew 25 church and a More Light Congregation to Session. CESJ placed two motions in front of session, one to become a Matthew 25 Church and the other to become a More Light Congregation. After much discernment, conversations, and sharing of MLP and Matthew 25 resources, Session voted unanimously on each motion.
MPC individuals and families, CESJ members, and Session made their decisions because we want to honor the baptismal vows that we make each time a child is baptized here. We were heartbroken to learn the following statistics from the CDC and the American Journal of Preventive Medicine:
1. Research shows that LGBTQIA+ youth (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual) attempt suicide at 5x the rate of the national average (CDC. (2016). Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Risk Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.)
2. LGBTQIA+ individuals from families who do not accept them attempt suicide at 8x the rate of other LGBTQIA+ individuals. (https://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/pdf/leading_causes_of_death_by_age_group_2018-508.pdf)
3. Young LGBTQIA+ people who stated that religion was very important to them had suicide rates as much as 4x higher than the rates of non-religious LGBTQIA+ youth and nearly 10x the rates for individuals identifying as cisgender and heterosexual (Lytle, M. C., Blosnich, J. R., De Luca, S. M., & Brownson, C. (2018). Association of religiosity with sexual minority suicide ideation and attempt. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 54(5), 644– 651. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2018.01.019).
Yet, we were encouraged by the research that shows it only takes one adult in the life of an LGBTQ youth who accepts them, for that suicide rate to drop by 40% (The Trevor Project. (2019). National Survey on LGBTQ Mental Health. New York, New York: The Trevor Project. )
As Pastor Kathryn noted in her June 13, 2021 sermon, “Friends, if this is the impact of one affirming adult...Imagine what an entire church full of affirming adults can do.”
We believe that our openness about being a congregation that welcomes everyone (and means it!) could save lives. Once the decision to be a more light congregation was made, CESJ and MPC Staff began to look at ways in which we could demonstrate that we were an open and affirming congregation. In a decision made together, one way that the Staff felt they could show this was by adding our pronouns to our email signature and in the bulletin. Another way, and with Session approval, is to display the various LBGTQIA+ flags at the Youth Center as a symbol to our youth here at MPC and in the community that all are welcome and that this is a safe place. We’ll follow-up with more information in next month’s Inclusion Corner.
MPC is already known as “More People Caring” through our work in the community. We see this effort of inclusivity as just one more way for MPC to be “More People Caring.”
Mechanicsburg Presbyterian Church300 East Simpson Street | Mechanicsburg, PA 17055717-697-0351