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Riverside congregation recognized as 'welcoming' church

Ascension Lutheran promotes inclusion for all sexual orientations

June 26th, 2018 12:59 PM

The Rev. Chris Honig (above) has been pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church in Riverside since September 2016. In May, his congregation adopted a welcoming statement promoting inclusion of people of all sexual orientations. | Alexa Rogals/Staff Photographer

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By Bob Skolnik

Contributing Reporter

Ascension Lutheran Church in Riverside is now officially a welcoming church for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

At its congregational meeting on May 20, church members unanimously voted to adopt a welcoming statement.

"We welcome and affirm everyone regardless of age, race or culture, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or relationship status," the church's welcoming statement says in part.

The vote came after more than a year of discussing the issue. 

"We devoted a lot of time and energy to kind of laying the groundwork and meeting with people and talking about it," said Rev. Chris Honig, the pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church. "We were really open about what we were doing,"

Honig, 32, came to Ascension in September 2016. 

Ascension has been recognized as a Reconciling in Christ welcoming church by Reconciling Works, a national organization that works for promote inclusion for those of all sexual orientations in Lutheran churches.

"We welcome Ascension Lutheran Church to the Reconciling in Christ family," said Aubrey Thonvold, the executive director of Reconciling Works, in a press release. "It is with love we are called to welcome all God's children into our congregations, communities, and our world. We thank Ascension for being an active member working for reconciliation and growth within the church so people of all sexual orientations and gender identities can share a lived experience of love, welcome, and family."

Honig said that formal adoption of the welcoming statement was an important step for the church.

"This is just a way for us to kind of deepen and expand our vision for ministry," Honig said. "It's one thing to say that we are a welcoming church, but to actually talk about what that means and unpack it, I think, is something entirely different."

Honig said the church will look for ways to make an impact in the community, mentioning working for better polices for transgendered youth in local school districts.

Ascension Church, a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has about 380 members, 150 of whom are engaged with the church on a regular basis, said Honig.

This story has been changed to clarify a quote from Rev. Chris Honig.