Baldwin First UMC to include ‘safe place’ wording in welcoming statement
After a unanimous vote Jan. 24 by the council of the Baldwin First United Methodist Church, BFUMC became the first church in Baldwin City to include a welcoming statement acknowledging it as a “safe space.”
A safe space means a place that is openly welcoming of all people, especially in terms of sexual orientation.
Matthew Potterton, adviser to the Baker University Gay-Straight Alliance group, began working at the church about a year ago, before he was the group’s adviser. Several months after he began working, a parishioner at the church approached Potterton about making the church a safe space.
“Both the pastor (The Rev. Connie Wilson) and I agreed that it needed to be a parishioner-led thing,” Potterton said. “Whatever she believed and whatever I believed shouldn’t be the driving force, it should be because that’s what the church felt.”
The parishioner, separate from Potterton, then put together a campaign and took it to the council.
“He showed how many other Methodist churches, not only in the United States but even some around here, had welcoming statements on their Web sites and he made the argument that we shouldn’t allow anyone to feel uncomfortable, regardless of their sexual orientation, in our church,” Potterton said.
As the GSA adviser, he hopes a welcoming statement will be posted on the church’s Web site, so that members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, often shortened to LGBT, can and feel safe, Potterton said. He also said Wilson has mentioned a statement about how the church is safe and welcoming of all people as part of the service.
The Baker GSA group has offered to give safe-space training at the church, where members of the church would be taught what to do if someone comes to them with a LGBT concern.
“We’re not sure what our role is going to be in that, but we want to help in any way that we can,” Potterton said. “We see it as only a positive.”
The GSA group has also reached out to Baldwin High School, with the hopes of starting a group at the school.
Potterton thinks the decision for the BFUMC to become a safe space could open the door to other members of the Baldwin City community to follow.
“I see this move the church is making really big and I think someday we can look back at this as really a huge step toward the bigger mission,” Potterton said, “which is getting everybody to understand this.”