This week in Flashnet, we announce 11 new reconciling congregations. These churches cover then entirety of the United States, from Florence, Oregon to Cleveland Heights, Ohio to Los Angeles, California to Lynn, Massachusetts, and many places in between! These highlights are designed to whet your appetites, and we strongly encourage you to visit these communities. If you are not within visiting distance, many of these congregations have strong online presences with Facebook, Twitter, and Blog accounts as well as their websites. Read more below for a glimpse into their processes, exciting ministries and the incredible movement for a United Methodist Church that truly loves our neighbors.
Florence United Methodist Church of Florence, Oregon
On September 18, 2011 Florence UMC adopted a reconciling statement by a secret ballot open to members and regular attendees. On September 25th, Florence UMC welcome 8 new members and baptized 2.
Lay and clergy leaders at Florence UMC began their reconciling process with a showing of the film For the Bible Tells Me So in January of this year. Following a six week study of the film, a small group of passionate leaders approached the administrative council and pastor requesting official support for a Reconciling Process. Lay and clergy leaders spoke openly with congregational members and created safe spaces for feedback in small groups and drop in times during the summer as the task force finalized the proposed reconciling statement. Then in September, the proposed reconciling statement was widely distributed along with explanations of the voting process and copies of the RMN mission statement and guiding principles.
After this clear communication, strong discussions and intentional thoughtfulness, the congregation overwhelmingly affirmed the following statement and became a reconciling congregation.
Following the example of Jesus Christ and with the goal of “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors,” we welcome with love all persons regardless of race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity to full participation in the life and ministries of Florence United Methodist Church.
Learn more at: www.florenceunitedmethodist.org
Grace United Methodist Church of Lynn, Massachusetts
Members report that for Grace United Methodist, “The road to becoming a reconciling congregation was actually remarkably easy. A small group met for a period of time determining the approach to take and educating others. Members of the congregation shared personal stories, discussed concerns and prayed for guidance. On Sunday, April 13, 2011 the congregation members voted unanimously to become reconciling. The Church Council voted to ratify the statement at the July meeting. Our new pastor includes reconciling language in sermons and the church is looking at ways to actively connect with the LGBT community in Lynn.”
Grace United Methodist Church of Lynn believes that all are children of God and are of sacred worth. We affirm Jesus’ example of love without exclusion. Therefore, we covenant to welcome, nurture, and deal justly and compassionately with all, regardless of age, race, gender expression, ethnic origin, economic reality, sexual orientation, family status, diverse physical ability, or social standing as full participants in the work of Jesus Christ and this reconciling congregation.
Learn more at: www.gracelynn.org
Christ United Methodist Church of Salt Lake City, Utah
Announcement by member Terry Haven
Christ United Methodist Church (CUMC), Salt Lake City, Utah became a Reconciling Congregation on May 17th, 2011 by a vote at our annual Charge Conference. There were almost 135 people present and the vote was almost unanimous. This vote was the culmination of a three year process which began in early 2008.
We began by educating the Church and Society Committee about the Reconciling movement and urging the church to create a welcoming statement. This Social Creed was unanimously accepted on November 4, 2008 by The Church Council. We followed this with several educational seminars about what the bible says about homosexuality, talks by LBGT youth, and a sign-up table during coffee hour for individuals to sign up to become Reconciling Methodists. In April, we had another church-wide opportunity for discussion when we hosted a showing of Incompatible With Christian Teaching.
On May 17th we voted on becoming a reconciling congregation at our annual Charge Conference. The vote was publicized for several weeks so everyone would know about it and could come and vote. CUMC is pleased to say the vote was almost unanimous and we have ordered display signs for our doors and our large sign at the street entrance to our church. RMN is linked on our webpage.
Together with First United Methodist Church we co-host a 5th Sunday worship service called “Believe Out Loud” for all Reconciling Methodists to come together and worship.
Social Creed of Christ United Methodist Church
Open Hearts. We strive to be a church with hearts big enough to love unconditionally. We want our love to extend to the homeless, children in poverty, singles, families and countless people in our valley who need a hand up. Therefore, we work closely with outside groups and agencies as we share God’s love to those who need it most. We are also concerned about God’s children around the world and give generously to a wide variety of missions and projects.
Open Minds. We strive to be a church that is thoughtful. We want to be a community of people ready to try something new for God. We respect the differences of opinion between people. We want to be open-minded about our own beliefs and quick to remember that, as John Wesley said, we do not all have to believe alike in order to love alike. Christ Church works alongside other churches and other religions as we serve God.
Open Doors. We believe all are God’s children and we believe God gives grace to everyone. People of all races, nationalities, abilities, socioeconomic backgrounds and gender identities are warmly welcome. Membership is desired, but not required for attendance. We accept people wherever they are on their faith journeys, and all are welcome to partake of the Lord’s Supper. We hope all who wish to follow Jesus Christ will feel included in the family that calls itself Christ United Methodist Church.
Mequon United Methodist Church of Mequon, Wisconsin
On Monday, May 23rd the Administrative Council met and unanimously voted to adopt the following statement and identify as a reconciling congregation. This concluded a year long process of open forums on education, Bible Studies, weekly bulletin and newsletter invitations for participation, and discussions which included most of the congregation.
Even in the few months since becoming reconciling, Mequon UMC has seen several new visitors, revised many of their church publications and are beginning to plan a new annual tradition of celebrating in worship their identity as a congregation who loves their neighbors.
Mequon United Methodist Church affirms that all people are created in God’s image and are of sacred worth. We affirm Jesus’ example of love without reservation and we sacredly promise to deal compassionately and justly with one another. Therefore this inclusive and nurturing community of faith openly invites and welcomes persons of every age, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, physical or mental ability, ethnic origin, socioeconomic status, marital status – any and all diversities – as full participants in the life and work of this reconciling community. As we journey towards reconciliation, we proclaim this statement of welcome to all who have known the pain of exclusion and discrimination. WE are a church community seeking to embrace you and celebrate with you in God’s redeeming love for all.
Learn more at www.mequonumc.org
Reconciling Ministries Community of Traverse City Central United Methodist Church, Michigan
Almost forty members have come together to create a Reconciling Community of Traverse City Central UMC. Having initially formed in 2007, the community has sponsored a number of educational events for their congregation, including film showings of For the Bible Tells me So and Incompatible with Christian Teachings, panel discussions with local leaders, making and wearing rainbow ribbons, and sponsoring two Annual Conference “Believe Out Loud” gatherings.
We the Traverse City Central UMC Reconciling Community, believe Christ calls us to love all our neighbors. God’s love and grace are given to all regardless of ethnicity, race, culture, gender, class, ability, sexual orientation, marital status, gender identity and age. We Welcome all to join our faith journey.
Learn more about Traverse City Central United Methodist Church, home to this reconciling community, at www.tccentralumc.org
Reconciling Through the S.E.A. (Support, Education, Advocacy) – a community within Church of the Saviour United Methodist Church of Cleveland Heights, Ohio.
A small group within a vibrant church, the Reconciling through the SEA group has already been active in their church, community and neighborhood to reach out to all persons and encourage their church to continue to embrace the great commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves.
“Our Goal is to mobilize United Methodists of all sexual orientations and gender identities to transform our church and world into the full expression of Christ’s inclusive love.” Says 25-year-old group leader Melinda Carter. This group will meet monthly and work actively to support efforts for loving transformation at the 2012 General Conference.
First United Methodist Church of Oberlin, Ohio
On the back of their bulletin for over two years now, Oberlin United Methodist church has published this statement, approved in May of 2009 by the Administrative council as the Reconciling and Welcoming statement of Oberlin First UMC.
First United Methodist Church welcome all who have chosen to be in this place of worship today. Our Mission is to affirm the experience of Christ in everyone’s life and to help each to grow spiritually. We endeavor to welcome everyone, regardless of race, age, gender, sexual orientation, or any other category with open hearts, open minds and open doors.
First United Methodist Church of Tucson, Arizona
At the First UMC annual Church (Charge) Conference on November 18, 2010 the congregation passed a motion to become reconciling. All members were contacted beforehand and invited to participate in person or by absentee ballot; the results were an overwhelming 117 in favor and only 11 no). This natural next step was the continuation of a two and one half year process of congregational study and engagement.
We are an affirming congregation, embracing all persons regardless of age, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, and gender identity and welcoming all into full participation and membership.
This missional church is engaged in a number of social justice initiatives, which you can learn more about only at www.firstchurchtucson.org .
Northbrook United Methodist Church of Northbrook, Illinois
RMN’s Director of Development David Braden grew up at Northbrook United Methodist Church, and this congregation continues to produce powerful leaders for our church and world as they make public their identity as a reconciling congregation.
In January of 2011, the church council affirmed the early work of Northbrook’s Reconciling Task Force and encouraged the task force to offer congregational opportunities for education and discussion. These opportunities included film showings, a worship series entitled “We are called to a ministry of reconciliation,” and several opportunities for congregational feedback.
On August 21, 2011 the church congregation adopted the following statement and became a reconciling congregation:
Our Welcome knows no boundaries of race, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, economic reality, gender identity, education, family status, physical or mental ability.
Learn more about this amazing church at: www.northbrookumc.org
Church of the Incarnation of the United Methodist Church in Arlington Heights, Illinois
On June 5, 2011 the Church of the Incarnation voted to become a reconciling congregation. This congregation moved through their process with educational events and the stories of many of their lay leaders and other local leaders.
Their new Reconciling Statement reads:
Believe that we are all children of God, created in God’s image and of sacred worth, we welcome all regardless of:
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity and expression
- Marital status
- Nationality, culture or language
- Socioeconomic Status
- Special Needs
We embrace the radcially inclusive gospel of Jesus Christ: To love one another as God Loves Us.
ALL ARE WELCOME!
Visit the church at www.churchoftheincarnation.com
La Tijera United Methodist Church of Los Angeles, California
A diverse and active congregation with many children, La Tijera United Methodist church is a reconciling congregation. Their mission statement reads:
La Tijera United Methodist Church embraces Jesus’ message that God loves and accepts every person. We practice acceptance, belonging, caring, compassion, and spiritual growth. We believe in creating space at the Table for all God’s children to transform our church and world into the full expression of Christ’s inclusive love.
We respect the inherent and valuable contributions each member makes to the Body of Christ. WE celebrate our diversity and recognize the sacred worth and dignity of all persons regardless of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, race, age, ethnicity, physical or mental capacity, education or economic or marital status.
As we journey towards reconciliation, we proclaim this statement of welcome to all who have known the pain of exclusion and discrimination within the church. We welcome all persons to full participation in the live and ministries of La Tijera United Methodist Church.
At the same time, we recognize there remain differences of opinion among us. We do not seek to erase our differences. We welcome all in our journey together in faith toward greater understanding and mutual respect. As a reconciling congregation, we invite all people to join us in our faith journey toward greater love, understanding and mutual respect. All this is from God, who reconciled us… through Christ, and who gives us the ministry of reconciliation. II Corinthians 5:18
Learn more at: www.latijeraumc.org