More Light Presbyterians is happy to welcome Highlands United Presbyterian Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming into our family of More Light churches. The Highlands faith community is our first More Light church in the State of Wyoming!
The Session voted to become More Light understanding that they may face some pushback for the decision. Wyoming is a conservative state with a largely Republican electorate where LGBTQ rights often challenge strongly held religious beliefs. For example, First Presbyterian Church in Casper left the Presbyterian Church (USA) last year to join the Evangelical Presbyterian Church because of the denomination’s decision to ordain openly lesbian and gay candidates for the ministry. It should be noted that attitudes are changing and two measures to permit same-sex civil unions and a ban on discrimination against LGBTQ people made it out of committee this year to the full Wyoming House and Senate.
Highland’s decision to become More Light is the natural outgrowth of a long history of welcome and inclusion. On the pastors page, Rev. Rodger McDaniel (pictured above) describes the church as a “come as you are” community of faith.
Highlands is a welcoming, “come as you are” church that strives to be a place where you can have a relationship with God and with others on the same journey while living out your own personal calling. We are intentionally diverse, believing we can be closer to God when we learn from others about how God works in their lives.
Highlands entered into a discernment process about becoming More Light that spanned two months. They invited all interested parishioners to participate. In an email to More Light Presbyterians, Clerk of Session Laura Griffith described this process:
LGBTQ members told their stories as did members who are parents of LGBTQ children. One gay couple talked about how they were marginalized in their last church and their search for another. A lesbian member told of her experiences in churches that claimed to “welcome all.” The LGBTQ members currently attending Highlands were clear that they felt welcomed and would continue to attend regardless of the decision to become a More Light church. With a single dissenting vote, the Session approved the resolution.
Becoming a More Light church is not the only Wyoming first for Highlands. They were the first Presbyterian church in the state to elect an openly gay man to their Session. Rev. Rodger McDaniel describes this moment in an interview with the Wyoming Tribune Eagle about becoming More Light.
Highlands United’s pastor, the Rev. Rodger McDaniel, said members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community have been a consistent part of the church for decades. He noted that it was the first Presbyterian church in Wyoming to elect an openly gay person to its Session.
“We’ve had an increasing number of gay people attending the church,” McDaniel said. “And their presence in the pews shines some light on the issue. If they’re going to attend and others are going to attend, it seems to me we should have the discussion of how far out ahead of that issue we want to get.”…
“We were talking about making this change, and one person asked us, ‘Why on Earth wouldn’t you do that?’” said Session member Cathy Lyman.
“We need to do these things. That’s part of our spirituality.”
Lyman said she felt the mission of any church should be to welcome everyone, without judgment.
But she said while many churches may claim that anyone is welcome within their doors, not all who walk inside may feel that way.
“There’s a difference in saying ‘you’re welcome’ meaning ‘you can come into the building,’” she said.
“For us it means we welcome you as a human being. Any of us has things about ourselves that others could judge us for or reject us. And that’s not what Highlands is about. Highlands is about acceptance and respect.”
Rev. Rodger McDaniel was also interviewed on CBS 5 about the congregation’s decision:
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More Light Presbyterians congratulates Highlands United Presbyterian Church on making your welcome of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (lgbtq) people the first official and public statement in the State of Wyoming.