For Churches that have been part of the Reconciling
Ministries Network for a long time, there can be a growing sense of “what
next?” or “how can we be even MORE Reconciling?”

My local church is First United
Methodist Church in downtown Portland, Oregon
. We became part of the
Reconciling Congregations Program on March 16th, 1993, and adopted a
one-page welcoming statement as well. Per our records, we believe we were one
of the first 75 Reconciling congregations.

Like a partnered couple that years later seeks to reaffirm
their wedding or partnering vows, our Congregation recited the following
liturgy as part of a celebration of that 20 year commitment. This liturgy was
written collaboratively by the clergy and the local Reconciling committee. The
“quoted sections” are direct quotes from the statement we made 20 years ago
along with responses showing how that vow has grown.

We share it today in hopes that other congregations may
consider doing something similar to connect past prophetic actions with today’s
realities.

~Rev. Jeremy Smith [blog][twitter]
Minister of Discipleship, FUMC Portland, OR

 

A Reaffirmation of Reconciling Ministries

Twenty years
ago, a vote was taken here at a Church Conference. Two hundred people attended,
and 88% voted “yes!” to becoming a Reconciling Congregation, saying: “All
persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are invited to worship and serve God
at First United Methodist Church of Portland, by full and open participation in
every aspect of our church’s life.”

When we said
that, “We believe God is challenging the Christian community to accept lesbians
and gay men as sisters, brothers and coworkers in the house of faith …”

We had no idea
how we would expand to include all persons beyond categories of orientation.
But we do include all people – we affirm that and we celebrate it!

When we said,
“Reconciliation includes healing, peace-making, overcoming separation, unity in
the midst of diversity …”

We had no idea
how hard it would be to maintain these principles in the midst of opposition
and hatred. But we do maintain them – we affirm that and we celebrate it!

When we said
that, “God intends the Church to be a community which incarnates love, grace,
and justice for all people…”

We had no idea
that hundreds of lives would be transformed by the welcoming spirit found in
our church. But they are – we affirm that and we celebrate it!

When we said,
“We affirm the participation of persons of all sexual orientations in all
aspects of our life together …”

We had no idea
that our church leadership would rapidly become more diverse and that so many
would be empowered to serve. But we are diverse leaders – we affirm that and we
celebrate it!

When we said
that, “As a Reconciling Congregation, we shall actively address General
Conference legislation which prevents persons of same sex orientation from
participating fully in the life of The United Methodist Church …”

We had no idea
that we would still be talking about this issue as a denomination 20 years
later. But we are – so we will still speak up and work for justice. We affirm
that and we celebrate it!

When we said,
“We recognize adopting this Reconciling Congregation statement is a
continuation of a journey of exploration and growth …”

We had no idea
the depth of our own journeys, the depth of our own struggles, the depth of our
own love towards the marginalized and the outcast. But we affirm this journey
and we celebrate our growth!

As the
gathered community here today, we continue to affirm our Reconciling statement.

May we
continue to grow in faith, fellowship in love, and seek justice for all God’s
people in the Church and in the world.

Rev. Jeremy Smith

Rev. Jeremy Smith (@umjeremy) was the Social Media Manager for the Love Your Neighbor Coalition at General Conference 2012, and currently serves as the Minister of Discipleship at First United Methodist Church in Portland, Oregon. He blogs about faith, technology, young clergy issues, and geek culture at HackingChristianity.net

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