Church working with Lutherans Concerned to increase outreach to GLBT residents of surrounding neighborhood
The congregation of Dallas’ First United Lutheran Church has voted unanimously to becoming a reconciling congregation, meaning that the church in East Dallas welcomes GLBT people to not only attend but to be fully integrated into the life of the church.
First United Lutheran is the eighth Lutheran congregation in Texas to become “reconciled in Christ,” according to spokesman Ron Gubrud.
“What it means for us as a congregation is that we’re open to have anyone come and worship with us,” said Gubrud. “The good news of Christ is open to all people. We’re forgiven through Jesus, and it’s not our place to judge. It’s our place to share our relationship with God.”
Gubrud initiated the process last fall for First United Lutheran to become a reconciling congregation. He said he was prompted to do so by the experiences his two gay brothers and his lesbian sister had with religion.
The congregation’s unanimous vote came in January, he said.
“It is unusual to have a vote like this be unanimous,” Gubrud said. “But we are a small church.”
He said 28 of the church’s about 40 or 45 members attended the service during which the vote was held. But he said he feels certain the vote would still have been overwhelmingly positive if all the members had attended.
“During the time we were studying this and talking to people about it, we spoke with every member of the congregation. The only person who had any kind of negative feelings about it was a woman who had grown up in a Baptist tradition and viewed homosexuality as a sin,” Gubrud said. “We hooked her up with the pastor for further study on it. She was there at the meeting, and she voted yes.”
Gubrud said the church has already started outreach to the GLBT community in an effort to bring more people into the congregation. Part of the impetus for the outreach is the church’s location; it is in East Dallas’ M Streets area that has a significant GLBT population, he said.
“We realize that we need to start reaching out to people in our surrounding neighborhood, to say, “‘We are here for you,’ and to be a place where you can have a relationship with God,” Gubrud said. “There will be other outreach programs we will start soon, too. Just to the north of us is a large Hispanic population that we want to reach out to.
“In our mission statement, we talk about becoming multicultural, not only in our worship but in our congregation itself,” he said.
Gubrud said the outreach to GLBT people began last fall when the church presented a concert by openly lesbian Christian performer Marsha Stevens. A contingent from First United Lutheran also marched in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade last year, and members plan to participate again this year, he said.
The church is also planning to hold a service of healing for people affected by HIV on May 21. The service is being presented in conjunction with the North Texas Chapter of Lutherans Concerned, the local chapter of Lutherans Concerned/North America.
“We are also going to run a series of ads in the newspaper to let the gay community know that we are here for them,” Gubrud continued. “We will be working with Lutherans Concerned to identify what the community needs and wants, and what we can do to meet those needs.”
But the church’s main goal is to simply provide a spiritual home for GLBT people who have been looking for that, Gubrud said.
“We are here to provide a place where people can get the traditional style of Lutheran worship and still be welcomed for who they are,” he said.
First United Lutheran Church of Dallas is located at 6202 E. Mockingbird Lane in Dallas. Worship services are held each Sunday at 10:30 a.m. For more information call the church at 214-821-5929 or visit the website at www.dallaslutheran.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, April 14, 2006.