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.
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.