South Athol United Methodist Church flies rainbow flag of inclusion

Staff Writer
Published: 11/20/2019 6:38:39 AM
Modified: 11/20/2019 6:38:31 AM

ATHOL – A rainbow flag was hung last week on the front of the South Athol United Methodist Church at 65 Morgan St. as a way to differentiate itself from the United Methodist Church’s decision earlier this year to retain anti-gay policies.

The South Athol United Methodist Church is a Reconciling Church, meaning it is inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Zane Dubour, a member of the church’s administrative council, said the 3-by-5-foot rainbow-striped flag is a statement and acceptance of homosexuality.

“The issue is anti-gay rhetoric,” he said. “It’s an international news item and is in the Disciple of Methodists, and there’s a lot of us that have been fighting back.”

Dubour said when the hierarchal church revealed its anti-gay views back in January, “we were surprised.”

Dubour released a statement saying that hanging the rainbow flag is an assertion of the gay rights policy: “The rift between the South Athol United Methodist Church and its parent organization occurred in 1999 when the South Athol Church voted to become a ‘Reconciling Congregation’ and adopt a policy of inclusiveness for all regardless of (among other things) sexual orientation.”

“We felt as though if we didn’t say or do anything that we were complicit in the language,” Dubour said. “I want people to know that we’re accepting.”

Part of the church’s constitution and bylaws prohibits someone from being a pastor if they practice homosexuality, and if they are homosexual and don’t live with someone of the same sex, it doesn’t prohibit them from being a pastor. Dubour said there is a group of churches that have been active in fighting this. “The Reconciling churches created a mission statement that would allow homosexuals to participate in all aspects of church life.”

Dubour said the South Athol United Methodist Church​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ is the only Reconciling Church in the immediate area. The culture of the Methodist churches in Africa, is “very anti-gay” he said, and Southern states in the United States are more conservative and Reconciling is not as accepted.

“We don’t get much pushback in the liberal Northeast,” he said.

Dubour said about 15 years ago, when the idea of Reconciling was first broached, a few parishioners were anti-gay, believing the Bible said it’s wrong.

“We did a year-long study, meeting after meeting, analyzing words in the Bible,” Dubour said.

After a long process, the administrative council voted in favor of the Reconciling.

South Athol United Methodist Church pastor Judy Jones, according to the statement, said the global church’s discriminatory stance against gay and lesbian pastors is not reflective of the general opinion of the members within many United States churches, while the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church stands in distinct non-conformance.

“We’re not politically active,” Dubour said. “We love anyone who comes to our church, regardless of who they love.”

The South Athol United Methodist Church also hosts a popular church supper on the third Saturdays of the month from April to November. Dubour is the reservation chairman for the church suppers. He said the 2020 schedule, which will start up again in April, will be available soon.

For more information, call the South Athol United Methodist Church​​​​​​​ at 978-249-3167 or Pastor Judy Jones at 508-517-3063.

Reach Kathy Chaisson at 978-249-3535, ext. 656, or

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