In October, 2010 an ad hoc group began meeting to discuss how FUMC could become more welcoming to Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, and Transgender (LGBT) people. The group was initially called the “Reconciling Exploration Team” because reconciling is the term used for inclusion of LGBT people in the United Methodist Church. In January we changed our name to All Means All –LGBT Inclusion Team in order to clarify the purpose for our congregation—meaning that we would be the first of several teams to study how we as a church might be truly welcoming to all, including those, for example, with mental illness or those from different racial or economic groups.
Since January 2011 the All Means All Team has provided a variety of educational opportunities for our congregation. Several individuals spoke in support of All Means All during two Sundays in January 2011. We showed the film, For The Bible Tells Me So, in February and offered an adult study class, Radical Hospitality: Rethink Inclusion, in March & April. Team members discussed the Reconciling Process at several UMW circle meetings. Team members have continued to be willing to meet with individuals – to listen to individual concerns and answer questions. We also held Monday evening classes during September 2011 led by Pastor Bob Campbell that coincided with a sermon series on inclusion designed by FUMC pastors.
A straw poll was taken in October 2011 to invite the opinions of our membership for our reconciling initiative, and to propose a sample welcoming statement to supplement our existing church Mission Statement. Response to this poll was overwhelmingly favorable. In January 2012 a vote of the membership assembled was held, and it officially approved our new welcoming statement, and our joining the Reconciling Ministry Network.
Why is this important to you? Written by a FUMC Member…
I feel the current policies of the United Methodist Church cause significant damage to LGBT people, their families and friends. Currently 35 retired United Methodist Bishops and many others are calling for a change to these policies. When the church says the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, the LGBT person is being told that the essence of who he/she is as a sexual person is sinful and unacceptable. I feel the exclusion of LGBT folks from full acceptance is what is incompatible with what Jesus taught. Because these policies don’t allow for lesbians and gays to serve as ordained clergy we are also denied the talents and gifts of many faithful Christians. LGBT folks who feel the call to ministry in the United Methodist Church face the choice of leaving to go to accepting denominations, staying and praying for change, or challenging Church law and accepting punitive actions. Katy
What does it mean to be a Reconciling congregation or community?
A Reconciling Community or Congregation is any group who openly includes all persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Reconciling groups are listed on the Reconciling Ministries Network website after adopting a welcoming statement and registering with RMN.
Our Mission Statement already includes “welcoming all.” Why do we need to specifically mention sexual orientation and gender identity?
The United Methodist Church only defines one group of people as “incompatible with Christian teaching:” homosexuals. Because The United Methodist Church explicitly excludes, any inclusive welcome must be equally specific.
What does the United Methodist Church say?
The 2008 Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church* states in paragraph 161.J on Human Sexuality, “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.” Additionally, “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” are excluded from ordination (¶304.3); and, churches as well as clergy are forbidden from hosting or conducting same-sex weddings (¶341.6 & ¶2702.1).
How is Reconciling part of our United Methodist identity?
The United Methodist Book of Discipline reminds us that “we are called to be faithful to the example of Jesus’ ministry to all person” (¶139) and implores “families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons” (¶161.F). Reconciling Congregations and Communities take this evangelical instruction seriously, seeking to love rather than to exclude.
Who is Reconciling Ministries Network?
The Reconciling Ministries Network is a movement of tens of thousands of United Methodists working for the full inclusion of persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities. RMN’s mission is to “mobilize United Methodists of all sexual orientations and gender identities for the transformation of our church and world into the full expression of Christ’s inclusive love.”
*Official United Methodist statements are written into the Book of Discipline every four years by the General Conference, a group of elected representatives. The most recent edition (currently binding) is from 2008. Sections of the Book of Discipline are designated not by page, but by their paragraph (¶) number.