Open Letter Of Commitment

Open Letter Of Commitment 

Pastor Justin Douglas and Pastor Alyson Wert

As many of you are likely already aware, we have resigned our Pastoral positions at The Bridge. This was a very hard decision for us both as we desired and sought out a different outcome. Ultimately, it is heartbreaking for us. It has been a privilege to serve as your Pastor’s. Our love for this community grows more and more with each passing year and we hope and pray that you have felt that from us.

We believe strongly that LGBT individuals should be included in the life of the church. As Pastors we often become aware of the painful realities individuals journey through as they reach out for prayer or counsel. As we have journeyed with LGBT individuals and educated ourselves with a variety of resources, we have come to see the harm that the church’s posture (at-large) often causes. 

We both got into ministry to love people and champion the way of Jesus. After all, the Scriptures say, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) For us, “Above all” isn’t a suggestion, but instead a command. We are also told that the greatest, of many great things, is love. We desire, as Pastors, to be agents of love. For some, our way of loving may come across as reckless or even heretical—however, we know that erring on the side of love and grace embodies the way of Jesus. 

While we are resigning from our Pastoral positions we are committed to this church family. We are not moving away or moving on, but instead we are moving forward. The vision God has given us for a community of belonging for all people here in the Central PA area will continue. Ultimately, we are committed to those of you who have caught the vision of a church that leads with belonging for all. We look forward to cultivating that community alongside you. The name of this new community is The Belong Collective and you can find out more at www.thebelongcollective.org

We would both like to thank Bishop Bryan Hoke for his time serving as our Bishop. While our concerns with the leadership of the Brethren In Christ are well documented, we have always seen Bryan as fair, honest, and respectable. We know this hasn’t been easy for Bryan, and we are truly sorry for the many difficult positions you’ve been placed in because of our convictions.

We would like to thank the Strategic Leadership Team (governing board) of The Bridge for their steadfast love, care, and commitment to us as Pastors. We couldn’t ask for a better team to journey with through this and we look forward to continuing that journey with you as The Belong Collective grows.

Finally, we are so thankful for each and every one of you who call yourselves Bridge Builders. You have supported us through encouraging texts, acts of service, hugs when you knew we needed them, consistent prayers, and so much more. We need you all to know that we have felt your love and we are so thankful for you. 

Grace and Peace,

Justin Douglas & Alyson Wert

Open Letter Of Resignation

Open Letter Of Resignation

5.30.19

This document is in response to Brethren in Christ (BIC) Leadership’s May 23, 2019 appeals decisions communication in which a response deadline of May 30, 2019 was given for Lead Pastor, Justin Douglas and the Strategic Leadership Team.

In May of 2018 our You Belong video, which had been published over a year prior, was brought into question through a malicious document that was distributed in various ways. The Bridge Leadership was contacted by BIC leadership to answer questions of theology and practice surrounding human sexuality. The Bridge leadership began further discerning our convictions and direction as an organization largely related to matters of LGBT inclusion and theology. With integrity, we notified our Bishop and Leadership Council of our shift in theology and how we desire to live out our core value of Belonging by Acceptance. Through this notification we also expressed the desire to remain connected to the Brethren in Christ: Justin, as a licensed pastor and The Bridge, as an affiliated ministry. After Pastor Justin’s license was revoked and our request to remain in a unique relationship was denied, we took action to appeal those decisions. Our request to appeal to General Conference Board was denied. We were required to appeal to the teams that made the initial ruling (Commission on Ministry and Doctrine and Leadership Council). This is not how we understood the appeals process would occur based on information in the Manual of Doctrine and Government (Article 13.6). We believe appealing to the same leadership boards that made these initial decisions was improper.

In a May 23, 2019 conversation with Bishop Bryan Hoke, Pastor Justin was made aware that the BIC was pursuing John Reitz for Interim Pastor of The Bridge Church. Without The Bridge’s knowledge, John (a staff member of The Bridge under Pastor Justin’s leadership) was contacted by BIC National Director Alan Robinson regarding the potential to become the future Interim Pastor for The Bridge Church. These Interim Pastor discussions occurred prior to the completion of our official appeals process and it would seem they have been occurring for some time. Due to John’s consideration of this potential Interim Pastor position without Pastor Justin being notified, he became privy to confidential conversations regarding The Bridge's appeals planning, processing, and information.

The process of appeals, as experienced by us, was unfair because the BIC National Director Alan Robinson was preparing and planning for a specific outcome, while exclusively overseeing and directing the appeals process.

As part of our commitment to ensure a successful transition of leadership, our staff has prepared detailed information outlining various processes to help onboard the new leadership of The Bridge. All staff and ministry leaders have removed personal property and returned Bridge-owned property. The compensation provided on June 1, 2019 will be Pastor Aly and Pastor Justin’s last pay period to receive a paycheck, healthcare, and benefits via The Bridge Church. Pastor Justin and his family will vacate the parsonage as soon as possible, but no later than July 31, 2019.

It is with deep disappointment that the undersigned staff and volunteers are resigning in protest of the process executed by BIC Leadership. 

Resigning Effective 5/31/19

Justin Douglas (Lead Pastor)

Alyson Wert (Campus Pastor)

Bob Raves (SLT Member/Treasurer)

Nancy Shirley (SLT Member)

Chelsea Miller (SLT Member)

Chad Krebs (SLT Member)

Nick Cargas (SLT Member)

Chris Dilger (BridgeKidz Director)

Lynn Diven (Rental Coordinator)

Glenn Shirley (Worship Leader)

Ryan Moran (Worship Leader)

Curtis Smith (Worship Leader)  

Rose Hoerner (Hospitality Leader)

Sherri Long (Communications Director)

Beth Raves (First Impressions Leader)

Bryan Goody (Worship Leader Midtown)

Allen Fernandez (Audio Leader Midtown)

Keith Landers (Slides Leader Midtown)

Kyle Bohn (Hospitality Leader Midtown)       

Kristin Johnson (First Impressions Leader Midtown)

Resigning Effective 6/9/19

(In order to allow all necessary financial procedures to be transferred appropriately)

David Baker (Accountant)

Kim Baker (Accountant)

Beyond Boundaries - 016 - 190th w/ Movita Johnson-Harrell

Movita Johnson-Harrell is a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, she represents the 190th district. She is the first female Muslim member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. I like to think of her as a friend. I got to know Movita through her work bringing awareness to gun violence. I was part of a demonstration that Movita helped organize. She is a passionate, energetic, and inspiring woman. I haven’t had a chance to talk with her since she won her election and moved into this role as a Representative just a couple months ago. So we talk about that and much more.

Follow Movita on Facebook 

Follow Movita on Twitter

Follow Movita on The Gram

Please subscribe, like, comment, and share this episode of Beyond Boundaries.

If you have questions or comments you’d like us to consider for future Beyond Boundaries episodes please comment below. I want this podcast to spark meaningful conversations so please let feel free to use the comment section below as a chance to dialogue or reach out to me @pastorjustindouglas on Instagram.

Beyond Boundaries - 015 - Addiction w/ CJ Holowach

CJ Holowach joins me and shares his story of addiction. It is an incredible story. If you’d like to learn more about Caron’s College Success Program you can reach out and contact CJ Holowach at his email - cholowach@caron.org

Also, you can learn more by going to the Caron Website. If you want to make a contribution to the great work CJ and the team at LVC are doing you can go find the donate button on the Caron Website and type in these special instructions, “Please allocate this donation towards Collegiate Success Department-Pennsylvania, Lebanon Valley College.”

Please subscribe, like, comment, and share this episode of Beyond Boundaries.

If you have questions or comments you’d like us to consider for future Beyond Boundaries episodes please comment below. I want this podcast to spark meaningful conversations so please let feel free to use the comment section below as a chance to dialogue or reach out to me @pastorjustindouglas on Instagram.

Beyond Boundaries - 014 - Immigration w/ Allen Fernandez

Allen Fernandez attends The Bridge Midtown and is a friend of mine. We sat down and talked about his story. Allen is a first generation immigrant. He has an amazing story and experience which lends to his ability to speak to the immigration realities happening in our country right now. We talk about immigration and so much more in this episode.

You can follow and connect with Allen on Twitter and Instagram

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If you have questions or comments you’d like us to consider for future Beyond Boundaries episodes please comment below. I want this podcast to spark meaningful conversations so please let feel free to use the comment section below as a chance to dialogue or reach out to me @pastorjustindouglas on Instagram.

Beyond Boundaries - 013 - Kindness w/ Kazi Mannan

Kazi Mannan is the owner of Sakina's Halal Grill in downtown DC. His restaurant is just a few blocks from the White House. Kazi has an amazing story of helping the homeless in the DC community through his restaurant. It is estimated he has given away over 80,000 meals to those in need. Kazi and I met at his restaurant for the interview.

Check out Kazi's restaurant and plan a visit to get some amazing food

Follow Kazi on Facebook

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If you have questions or comments you’d like us to consider for future Beyond Boundaries episodes please comment below. I want this podcast to spark meaningful conversations so please let feel free to use the comment section below as a chance to dialogue or reach out to me @pastorjustindouglas on Instagram.

Beyond Boundaries - 012 - She's My Dad w/ Jonathan Williams

A few weeks ago I traveled to New York City and sat down with Jonathan Williams. Jonathan is Lead Pastor of Forefront Church in Brooklyn. His book, She’s My Dad: A Father’s Transition and a Son’s Redemption, was released just a few months ago. We had an incredible conversation about his story and his book.

She’s My Dad Book

ForeFront Church

Jonathan Williams and Paula Stone Williams Ted Talk

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If you have questions or comments you’d like us to consider for future Beyond Boundaries episodes please comment below. I want this podcast to spark meaningful conversations so please let feel free to use the comment section below as a chance to dialogue or reach out to me @pastorjustindouglas on Instagram.

Beyond Boundaries - 011 - The Eternal Current w/ Aaron Niequist

I traveled to New York City to interview Pastor, Liturgist, and Author Aaron Niequest. His book is titled, The Eternal Current: How a Practice-Based Faith Can Save Us from Drowning. It was a great conversation about spiritual practices, Aaron's journey, and many other things related to The Eternal Current book. 

Purchase Aaron's book here 

Find out more about Aaron here 

A New Liturgy can be accessed here

A New Liturgy Lament Episode here

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If you have questions or comments you’d like us to consider for future Beyond Boundaries episodes please comment below. I want this podcast to spark meaningful conversations so please let feel free to use the comment section below as a chance to dialogue or reach out to me @pastorjustindouglas on Instagram.

Beyond Boundaries - 010 - Genetics

What are the moral and ethical implications of genetic hacking/modification? What is CRISPR? How does it work? How could it be applied? Nathan McConkey joins me on episode 010 of Beyond Boundaries to talk about Genetics. It is a fascinating conversation, in which I do my best to keep up. Also, for those of you CrossFitters listening, there is a point in the podcast where Nate references rhabdomyolysis - And I was like, you know what, this is my podcast, so we are gonna go down this rabbit trail. So there is that.

At one point in the podcast, I reference a Ukrainian clinic that is using DNA from three different people to create a baby. Click here for more on that.

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If you have questions or comments you’d like us to consider for future Beyond Boundaries episodes please comment below. I want this podcast to spark meaningful conversations so please let feel free to use the comment section below as a chance to dialogue or reach out to me @pastorjustindouglas on Instagram.

Beyond Boundaries - 009 - Enneagram

I sit down with my good friend Annette Moran and we talk all about the Enneagram. If you don't know what the Enneagram is, that is fine. This is a great introduction to the Enneagram and why it is helpful in life and relationships. 

Links mentioned in the podcast: 

The Road Back To You

Center For Action And Contemplation

Sacred Enneagram

Liturgists 

Beatrice Chestnut (Subtypes)

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If you have questions or comments you’d like us to consider for future Beyond Boundaries episodes please comment below. I want this podcast to spark meaningful conversations so please let feel free to use the comment section below as a chance to dialogue or reach out to me @pastorjustindouglas on Instagram.

Beyond Boundaries - 008 - Why I Am Side A

I share my own personal journey through LGBTQIA theology and why I now consider myself Side A. Many books are referenced during this podcast episode, feel free to Amazon search them. The book I referenced multiple times, God and the Gay Christian (Matthew Vines), can be found here: https://amzn.to/2VrXHqq 

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If you have questions or comments you’d like us to consider for future Beyond Boundaries episodes please comment below. I want this podcast to spark meaningful conversations so please let feel free to use the comment section below as a chance to dialogue or reach out to me @pastorjustindouglas on Instagram.

Beyond Boundaries - 007 - Coming Out

At Q Conference last month there was an open share time where individuals could come up and share their journey. It was a very emotional time as many many people shared the pain of rejection from family and their faith communities. I spent most of the time holding back tears, but there was a moment where I couldn’t hold back my tears, and that was during Levi and Kristi’s time of sharing.

After the share time I met Levi and asked him if he and Kristi would like to record an episode of the podcast with me and share their story and experience with the Beyond Boundaries audience. Levi and Kristi both agreed and we recorded this podcast. I am so thankful for Levi and Kristi and their openness and willingness to be vulnerable with all of us.

Levi’s Blog

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If you have questions or comments you’d like us to consider for future Beyond Boundaries episodes please comment below. I want this podcast to spark meaningful conversations so please let feel free to use the comment section below as a chance to dialogue or reach out to me @pastorjustindouglas on Instagram.

Beyond Boundaries - 006 - Learning To Truly Love Our Gay Son

While at Q Conference last month I was able to connect with Rob and Linda Robertson and do this episode of Beyond Boundaries. This may be one of the most important episode yet. The hours shared with Rob and Linda were holy for me. This conversation reminded me that God’s grace is at work right here and right now in our lives. It also gave me hope for a new, more beautiful, reality being birthed out of pain. God is so good at repurposing our stories. I want to warn you in advance that this episode is an emotional rollercoaster. Many tears were shed as we recorded this. Lots of pain, but lots of hope.

Find out more about Rob and Linda at the following links

Just Because He Breathes Website

Exodus International Video

Gay Christian Network Video

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If you have questions or comments you’d like us to consider for future Beyond Boundaries episodes please comment below. I want this podcast to spark meaningful conversations so please let feel free to use the comment section below as a chance to dialogue or reach out to me @pastorjustindouglas on Instagram.

Beyond Boundaries - 005 - Mom I'm Gay

On this episode of Beyond Boundaries I sit down with Susan Cottrell of FreedHearts.org and hear her story. She wrote a book titled, "Mom I’m Gay." She supports, educates, and encourages many parents who have LGBTQIA children. She is primarily working with parents in faith communities who are struggling with how to respond to their LGBTQIA children.

RESOURCES AND LINKS:

Find out more about FreedHearts

Susan Cottrell Ted Talk

Mom I’m Gay Book

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If you have questions or comments you’d like us to consider for future Beyond Boundaries episodes please comment below. I want this podcast to spark meaningful conversations so please let feel free to use the comment section below as a chance to dialogue or reach out to me @pastorjustindouglas on Instagram.

Beyond Boundaries - 004 - Jared Meyers

On this episode of Beyond Boundaries I sit down with Jared Meyers and we talk through his story. Jared is a coach at Crossfit Gamma and has also started his own personal training and nutrition coaching business, New Life Hershey LLC. His story is heartbreaking, inspiring, and necessary. I am so thankful Jared took some time to share his experience with us.

You can find out more about Jared here:

www.newlifehersheyllc.com

www.facebook.com/jared.meyers.908

www.instagram.com/wodinit/

www.instagram.com/workoutpenguin/

www.hersheybarbellandfitness.com

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If you have questions or comments you’d like us to consider for future Beyond Boundaries episodes please comment below. I want this podcast to spark meaningful conversations so please let feel free to use the comment section below as a chance to dialogue or reach out to me @pastorjustindouglas on Instagram.

Beyond Boundaries - 003 - Who Is God?

I sit down with Brendan Acebo and we talk theology. Brendan is an amazing young leader and thinker in the church. We talk through his theological journey and experience. We talked about atonement theory and our concerns with penal substitutionary atonement, non-violence and enemy love, grace and judgement, and much much more. You will find that we are largely answering two questions: 1. Who is God? 2. Is God angry? Maybe these are questions you’ve pondered at times. Hope you find this conversation helpful.

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If you have questions or comments you’d like us to consider for future Beyond Boundaries episodes please comment below. I want this podcast to spark meaningful conversations so please let feel free to use the comment section below as a chance to dialogue or reach out to me @pastorjustindouglas on Instagram.