In 2012, we headed into General Conference with 498 congregations, campus ministries and communities in the Reconciling Ministries Network. Some of us who were on the Love Your Neighbor Coalition leadership team could remember when there were only 11 and then 33 and then 78 Reconciling communities, all determined to change the discriminatory policies and practices of our beloved denomination. In those early years we all knew each other. We hung individual church and campus banners on the balconies or in galleries at our biannual convocations and in our General Conference gathering spaces.
Our General Conference 2012 witness included the lamentation that it had been forty years since the denomination had added the harmful words of paragraph 161f to The Book of Discipline.
In subsequent years, additional restrictions on the lives and ministries of LGBTQ United Methodist disciples had been added as the church continued its decades long membership decline.
I remember well how excited we were when during that last General Conference number 499 and finally number 500 were added to our ranks. Despite the recalcitrance of many GC delegates, local congregations and individual United Methodists throughout the United States were claiming a different position: committed to Christ and their baptismal and membership vow to “accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves,” including injustice and oppression perpetrated by our own denomination.
They’ve heightened their resolve to practice the radical hospitality of Jesus coined by Bishop Mel Talbert as Biblical Obedience.
Reconciling United Methodists continue to be at work in the church, the schools, the workplace, the courts, and on the streets. Their commitments extend beyond LGBTQ inclusion in the mission and ministry of The UMC. Here in Chicago, you’ll see RMN rainbow stoles at most rallies, marches, and demonstrations addressing a variety of injustices and calling for change such as: #BlackLivesMatter, marriage equality, trans equality, wage theft, prison reform and an end to mass incarceration, Palestinian rights, immigration reform, $15 minimum wage, state budget reform, ending police brutality, and others.
During this quadrennium RMN’s numerical growth has been exponential.
This week we welcomed our 700th Reconciling community into the network!
That’s a 40% increase in 39 months and we have nine more months until General Conference. We no longer know each individual personally (30,387) but we do know one another corporately. Together we share the mission of mobilizing United Methodists of all sexual orientations and gender identities to transform our Church and world into the full expression of Christ’s inclusive love.
When the General Conference finally removes the harmful language and discriminatory policies from The Book of Discipline we will still have the same mission. The Reconciling Ministries Network is a movement of love, a movement for change in a changing Church serving a changing world. I invite you to join us.
Rev. Bonnie Beckonchrist, retired
Former President of RMN Board