SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Religion and homosexuality remains a tough and divisive conversation for many Americans. Just this year, the governing body for the United Methodist denomination strengthened bans on gay clergy and same-sex weddings in the church. That vote maintains, “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teachings.” However, delegates who represent United Methodist churches in KELOLAND and the Dakotas are pushing back in favor of LGBTQ inclusivity in the church.
When Chris Larson plays the organ, he says that’s how he shares the song inside him and how he shows his Christian faith in God.
“I took to music as a way to be able to express emotions,” Larson said.
At a young age, he learned he couldn’t express all of himself at the church he grew up in.
“Growing up, like being gay wasn’t even an option,” Larson said.
It’s something he wrestled with for a long time. Larson, an organist and musical director at First United Methodist Church in Vermillion, says it hurt when more than half of the voting members of the General Conference for the United Methodists not only doubled down on banning gay marriage and gay clergy, it added penalties to pastors who violate these restrictions.
Just last week, at the Dakotas Annual Conference, which includes United Methodist Churches in South Dakota, delegates brought forth a different resolution.
“When we disagree with those and find they’re hurting other people, we want to speak out against that,” Jennifer Larsen, member of First United Methodist in Sioux Falls, said.
62-percent of the Dakotas’ delegation voted for the resolution to eliminate discriminatory language, restrictions, and penalties toward LGBTQ members.
“And we do affirm the sacred worth of all LGBTQ persons,” Larsen said.
The eventual goal is to allow gay marriage and gay clergy members in the church.
Brady Mallory: “Would you like to get married in the Methodist Church?”
Chris: “I would love to get married.”
The conversation is far from over, and Larson and Larsen recognize not everyone agrees with this position.
“Our primary goal is to engage in this discussion process in the most loving and Christian way we can,” Jennifer said.
Ideas and opinions are as different as the notes Chris plays every Sunday, and the organist says there’s a way to get them to work in harmony.
“You come from all sorts of different backgrounds, but you come together to make music. That’s the main goal,” Chris said.