As the town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, held its annual Celebrate Jesus Easter Parade on Saturday, one local church was left out, and at least one church member believes their exclusion had to do with the message the church wanted its members to carry on signs in the parade, KNWA (Rogers, Arkansas) is reporting.
The message Eureka Springs First Methodist Church wanted to promote: “Jesus loves all.”
Church member Suzie Bell says that the church was initially given approval to participate in the parade, but then the parade organizers changed their minds a week before the parade was scheduled to start.
Officially, no reason was given for First Methodist’s exclusion from the parade. Bell, however, believes that their exclusion has to do with the church’s welcoming of the LGBTQ community.
“They wanted to know what our banner was going to say, and it said ‘Jesus loves all.’ They had decided that they did not want us in the parade, and that we weren’t welcome. It was based purely on our love and acceptance of the LGBT community.”
Eureka Springs First Methodist, like some other Methodist congregations throughout the world, is a “reconciling congregation,” meaning that the church is making an effort to publicly welcome the LGBTQ community.
Eureka Springs, a town of 2,000 atop the Ozark Mountains in northwest Arkansas, is in many ways a study in contrasts, according to the Guardian. A hundred years ago, well-heeled travelers came from the east to soak in the town’s rejuvenating spas. Nowadays, the Victorian town has become one of the most gay-friendly tourist destinations in the U.S. — a distinction that doesn’t sit well with religious conservatives who live in and around the town, where a 67-foot statue of Jesus keeps watch over an outdoor theater that, until it closed in 2012 due to declining attendance, hosted a nightly Passion Play six months out of the year. An Oklahoma-based pastor has since bought the theater and brought the play back.
As for the Methodist church’s exclusion from the parade, organizer Laura Nichols declined to give specifics, according to KOLR (Springfield, Missouri), but instead issued a statement.
“This day isn’t a day of pointing fingers or playing the blame game. This parade is to honor our Lord and Savior and for praising God for sending His only Son who willingly went to the cross, died and rose on the third day that when we repent of our sins and accept Him… Regardless of what has been stated in the papers. We do not have anything against the Methodist Church. After all my uncle was a Methodist minister. Nor do we have anything against the homosexual community.”
Bell is not happy with the parade organizer’s lack of an explanation.
“I’m sad, I’m sad that this is something that would divide Christians, It doesn’t seem right.”
[Image courtesy of: Shutterstock/Suzanne Tucker]