Move Forward With Protest

– Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey –

During General Conference I had the opportunity to sit in on Church and Society Committee B’s deliberations on petitions related to human sexuality. In a packed room filled with persons wearing rainbow stoles delegates presented a foreshadowing of things to come. Two male international delegates spoke of feeling uncomfortable by the presence of so many stole-wearing visitors. As one delegate put it, “I feel like I’m the minority.” Another delegate complained to the chairperson of the committee saying visitors ought be required to remove their stoles. (Could it be that next General Conference we will see petitions to that effect?) As the committee struggled to rewrite a petition so that it might possibly be approved when put before the full General Conference, one delegate stated, “Look, Shakespeare himself could rewrite this. We are still going to offer a minority report!” And so, we began the steady diminution of grace-filled conversations.

General Conference 2012 will go down in the history of The United Methodist Church as one of its most infamous and mean-spirited conferences, not only by what petitions were or were not passed but also by such brutal attacks against LGBTQ folk that even one of our translators apologized for having to translate what was being said.

I am not of the mindset to continue hoping that “next General Conference” we shall prevail in convincing our delegates to eradicate discrimination in our church polity. Frankly, we can’t afford to wait for the “next” conference, judicial decision, meeting with bishops, or any other such activity. Now is the time for progress by protest. In addition to acts of biblical obedience such as Bishop Talbert encouraged (e.g. clergy performing same-sex marriages and commitment ceremonies), I believe we must righteously disregard not only UMC polity but, since LGBTQ folk are faithful members of other denominations, all denominational legislation that discriminates against God’s created people of sacred worth. And what is more, I urge us to do this protest from a position of love and grace.

Now is the time. We cannot wait! The status quo will not agree to anything simply because we desire it be so and certainly not because we all too patiently wait for justice to be legislated by our delegates. Regrettably, General Conference 2012 proved The United Methodist Church to be one of the last bastions of bigotry in mainline Protestantism. We had hoped to “agree to disagree.” Our petitions for the most part failed but I am sure our activism can prevail. In fact, it has already began. Both the US military and our President have joined in supporting equal rights for LGBTQ persons. History will record these bold endeavors as well as it will once again record the church’s advancement of discrimination. And so it shall be, the very same Book of Discipline used against us will be required to keep in its chronicles the story of our protest and triumph.

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Hope Against Hope

– Rev. Clayton Childers, General Board of Church & Society –

The General Conference, The United Methodist Church’s highest policy-setting body, decided not to accept a proposal that would have acknowledged our members have more than one perspective on the issue of homosexuality. In rejecting this and other proposals for change, the General Conference, which adjourned May 4, reaffirmed the anti-homosexual language currently in the Social Principles, which declares it incompatible with Christian teaching. Their common-sense proposal was defeated 513 to 439.

This year, a proposal came from the pastors of two of the fastest-growing and largest congregations in the denomination: the Revs. Adam Hamilton of Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kans., and Michael Slaughter of Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Tipp City, Ohio.

Every four years the moment comes when debate about the denomination’s stance against homosexuality comes to the floor. That moment is always tense. A feeling sweeps through the assembly as the body collectively takes a deep breath and says, “Here we go.” This issue has been surfacing for decades.
Many people supporting a more open stance on the issue of homosexuality continue to hope against hope that the denomination will change. So far it has not.

A Novel Idea
Last weekend, I visited Beaver Memorial United Methodist Church in Lewisburg, Pa., part of the Susquehanna Conference. Beaver Memorial is situated in a fairly conservative area of the state, but the town of Lewisburg itself is a college town, home of Bucknell University.

Beaver Memorial’s pastor, the Rev. Rebecca Foote, told me the congregation has experienced a significant revival over the past two years. It has gone from an average attendance of fewer than 40 to 160 in worship each week.

What happened? Beaver Memorial’s members simply decided they would let it be known that all their neighbors, even their LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) neighbors, are welcome to attend their services.

What a novel idea: They are not waiting for permission from The United Methodist Church to be a welcoming community; they are doing it anyway. And the community around them is responding enthusiastically.

Radical Hospitality
What do you do with local churches like that? Perhaps someone needs to crack the whip, move the pastor, silence the gay sympathizers, get the congregation back in line with the denomination’s anti-homosexual stance.

Problem is, Beaver Memorial is not the only one. Other congregations across the United States are doing the same thing: embracing radical hospitality. Their openness has resulted in new hope and numerical growth.

I have seen it personally at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Atlanta and Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C. I know other examples in Nashville, Tenn., and Omaha, Neb.

Radical hospitality is being embraced in many, many places. I was especially struck by Beaver Memorial because it is in a small town, not a big city.

Many other congregations have adopted a “don’t-ask, don’t-tell policy;” a person’s sexual orientation is just not something they care to know, but everyone is welcome nonetheless.

Many United Methodist churches that wouldn’t even know what a “Reconciling Congregation” is are welcoming LGBT neighbors, and not thinking twice about doing so. It is just the nature of most United Methodist churches to welcome neighbors, not judge them.

A Kind of Miracle
The Rev. James Howell is pastor of Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, N.C. Myers Park is one of the largest churches is the Southeast Jurisdiction. Howell stood on the floor of General Conference and pleaded with the conference to change its anti-homosexual stand.

“We have said for a long time we do not condone homosexuality,” Howell said, “but they are here, they are in our delegations, they are serving in our churches. They keep coming back to a church that says no to them.

“There is a kind of miracle in that.”

Yet, even after such an eloquent plea by Howell and fervent entreaties from others, including a silent circle of persons prayerfully surrounding the plenary floor, the General Conference remained unmoved.

Church Goes On
So for at least four more years, The United Methodist Church’s official anti-homosexual position will not change. Perhaps, it will never change.

Despite that, Church goes on. The Spirit of God still surrounds us. The saving work of Christ still transforms us. The power of God still strengthens us. The vision of God’s new creation still guides our steps.

And in light of all that, the particular perspective of particular delegates at a particular conference on a particular day in a particular town seems particularly small.

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The Rev. Clayton Childers is director of Annual Conference Relations at the General Board of Church & Society. He is on special assignment focused on advocacy on behalf of the United Methodist “Imagine No Malaria” campaign.

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Deal With Our Wounds

– Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño –

On the last day of General Conference 2012 I went by the information booth. I was on my way to my last official responsibility and I wanted to make sure I knew where I needed to go. Our wonderfully kind United Methodist volunteers from the Florida Conference were there serving us all with their smiles and extraordinary hospitality. I went up to a volunteer at the booth, she greeted me with great warmth and asked how she could help me. As she asked, I realized that there was a beautiful little girl by her side, so small that she was hidden by the front booth half wall, but there she was, waving at me and smiling. It was clear that she felt part of the welcome team and was doing her part to welcome and help me. I said hello to her trying to match her sweet and loving spirit. How I wish that all of our churches had this kind of welcoming spirit.

The little girl then went off and I began to receive the help I needed from the woman at the booth. Before the adult volunteer could fully direct me to where I needed to go, though, the little girl returned with a small plastic box and lifted it up to me. It was full of band aids. I looked at her and I know she saw the puzzlement on my face because she then lifted up her box a bit higher and told me I could take one. I wondered what she had seen, looking at my hands wondering if per chance I had a paper cut. I didn’t see anything on my hands or my arms, but I took a band aid, and watched as the little girl smiled even bigger as she fulfilled her task. I walked away and somewhere down the hallways of General Conference I realized that this child had sensed woundedness and was responding to it. It wasn’t my woundedness, it was our woundedness. Our 2012 General Conference showed the world our woundedness as United Methodists.

Many good things happened at General Conference. They did not necessarily happen through legislative processes though some of the good came through our legislative work. Establishing a global theological education fund to help prepare persons for ministry, our commitment to mission and ministry around the world supported by a strong financial plan, the commissioning of missionaries to serve in a great variety of settings, our continued commitment to US racial ethnic plans, our ecumenical work, and certainly our Service of Repentance and our clear covenant to repair the cruel offenses we have committed against indigenous peoples, were all good things that came from our General Conference. I also rejoice in the great diversity we saw at our General Conference 2012. I heard many more voices from young people and persons from Africa, the Philippines and Europe. There were, in my opinion, deeper conversations on the floor of General Conference about what it means to be the church than in previous recent General Conferences. But here is where I saw our woundedness. We bared our woundedness through our fear of failure, our racism and sexism, our homophobia, and our U.S. centric attitude.

I support our direction for renewed ministry among our congregations in the U.S. Our Vital Congregations efforts to help our churches become more fruitful in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world are critical and important, but our efforts should never compromise our integrity out of a fear of failure. What I saw in the effort to pass the Call to Action and IOT recommendations felt to me like a manipulation of the process and rules of decision making that govern our General Conference. We are in decline in our U.S. ministry, a decline that concerns all of us, but if we allow a fear of failure to so dominate our thinking and our work that we are willing to lose our integrity in order to pass a piece of church legislation, then we have lost already; lost our way, lost our purpose and mission, lost our faithfulness. I believe we must have serious conversations about what happened at this General Conference starting with conversation at the table of our Council of Bishops.

Our renewed racism and sexism was captured in the words of a delegate who in an effort to eliminate our Commissions on Religion and Race and Status and Role of Women rose and stated that she was a pastor and received the flyers of training events of these commissions and they weren’t helpful to her one bit. Her language was derogatory of the work of these commissions who have long labored to help us be faithful to our commitments to overcome our racism and sexism, obstacles to our fully being the body of Christ Jesus. In a denomination that continues to be over 94% White, this delegate is right; it’s going to take more than monitoring and training, it’s going to take a conversion of our hearts to address our racism and sexism.

Our homophobia was blatant as we heard delegates compare homosexuality to bestiality, and voice other dehumanizing expressions against our LGBT brothers and sisters. Delegates from Africa once again proclaimed that their anti-homosexual stand was what U.S. missionaries taught them. I sat there wondering when our African delegates will grow up. It has been 200 years since U.S. Methodist missionaries began their work of evangelization on the continent of Africa; long enough for African Methodists to do their own thinking about this concern and others. Our conservative U.S. United Methodists continue to depend on the conservative vote of African and Filipino delegates to maintain our exclusionary position on homosexuality, a position I believe would be changed for the inclusion of our LGBT sisters and brothers if a U.S. vote for a U.S. context were taken. The manner in which we deal with the concern of homosexuality affects all of ministry in the U.S., and we are the poorer for it. It is time for us to let go of our wrong position and be the church of Christ Jesus, a church that excludes no one.

Then there is the U.S. centrism that has forever led our General Conferences, from our insistence on the use of Robert’s Rules of Order, a system of decision making used in the U.S. but nowhere else in our global church’s decision making processes, to lengthy discussions of U.S. issues with no comparable discussion of issues relevant to ministry in other places of the world. I for one was terribly embarrassed and even ashamed when much time was again given to a discussion about our U.S. clergy benefits. It is not that our clergy do not deserve to be supported through equitable compensation, health and pension benefits. It is that we in the U.S. have benefits that others in our connectional church do not have. Why should our sisters and brothers from the Philippines, Africa and Europe be subjected to our long discussions about such matters? It felt to me like salt in the wound of a church that is inequitable and that reflects the economic values of the world rather than the economic values of the kingdom of God. Our Central Conference Pension Initiative is on the right track. All our clergy around the world should have the caring support of the church as they strive to serve Christ Jesus. United Methodist laity at every place in the world should be able to count on the support of The United Methodist Church as they minister in the world in the name of Jesus.

I have heard over and over again the statement that without the U.S. church the rest of United Methodism around the world will fail because the U.S. church foots the bill. I no longer believe this U.S. centric statement. We have much to learn from United Methodists in other regions of the world who give sacrificially, for whom serving Christ Jesus is primary, and who believe that above all, we are citizens of the reign of God who has come among us with grace and mercy through Christ Jesus, and who does stand as the Sovereign One above all powers and principalities.

One day during plenary in the middle of a particularly difficult discussion, a delegate expressed concern about the witness the body was giving. The delegate said, “The world is watching us.” A few minutes later another delegate rose and said, “If we think the world is watching us, we are delusional!” Well, the next day the New York Times reported on our General Conference discussion! The world is watching! Let’s deal with our woundedness, so we can focus on the woundedness of the world. Let’s pray to the Lord for our healing so that we can be His church in the world, agents of His grace and mercy. In our healing we will find our hope and the joy of being, truly being, Christ’s own church in the world. But even as we wait for our own healing, let us be faithful disciples of Jesus the Christ, wherever we may find ourselves.

-Paz, Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño

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Continue The Debate

– Bishop Robert Hoshibata –

This is my post-mortem for General Conference 2012. I had to take a week to let everything settle in my soul. Kind of like a mourning period, I guess. There are many thoughts swirling in my head and heart. I may write several blog entries. But for now, here’s my thinking:

Some have asked me about my decision to leave the stage where the bishops were sitting on Friday, May 4, to walk among those who were gathered on the floor of General Conference. In the midst of heated debate about human sexuality, specifically about language in the Discipline about homosexuality, a question was raised from the floor asking for a delineation of the “bar.” Those within the curtained area were to be voting delegates only. Those outside the curtains were non-voting. People without vote who were passionately concerned about the discussion and vote were gathering outside the curtained area. I could not remain seated in the section on the stage reserved for bishops. I felt God tugging at me to leave the stage and join the many non-voting persons who were demonstrating silently their distress at the continual efforts to disenfranchise the GLBT community. I decided that since I was not a voting member of General Conference, and because I needed to witness to what I believe, I belonged with those persons.

During the debate, I felt a need to simply walk among those who were outside the bar. I wanted to be a silent witness to the fact that God loves all persons. That is what my United Methodist heritage taught me to believe. I wanted to demonstrate that there are bishops of our United Methodist Church who support the efforts of the Church to include ALL persons, EVERYONE, and that those who consistently legislate the exclusion of the LGBT community from church participation, church membership, church leadership, church blessings of committed relationships and marriage, are causing harm and that we must change our “official” statements to reflect our insistence on grace over judgment, love over fear, Jesus over Leviticus.

So I walked back and forth around the floor of General Conference. I walked outside the bar. I nodded to some who looked at me. I wanted to silently convey: You are not alone; God loves you, even if the Church does not, God loves you; you are not alone! Some people smiled, others just looked at me. Some nodded acknowledgment of my presence, while I felt the stares of many who were in the stands. I wonder what went through their minds!

I am saddened by the way we who call ourselves United Methodist Christian are not Christian in the way we relate to each other when we have disagreements. I was disheartened by the way our conversations devolved into statements that pitted one interpretation of Scripture against another. It was disturbing to hear words describing another human in degrading terms. I appreciated the sensitivity of the interpreter who offered words of apology before publicly interpreting the crude, unkind words of an African delegate. Somehow, we need to break through the huge chasm of ignorance and mistrust that separates the cultures and the people of the global community. General Conference is not the venue for meaningful conversations that need to take place between people of the US church and the African church in order to get to that place where we can truly be engaged in holy conferencing.

From the first attempts to have conversations about sexual orientation in “small” groups to the legislative committee conversations, and certainly in our plenary time, the effort to achieve unity in a body as diverse and as politically motivated was doomed to failure.

Once again, the conservatives who control the votes of the General Conference were enabled in their efforts to block any kind of conversation and fair voting that might possibly create a “crack” in the wall of homophobia that grips our denomination. Political maneuvering that was clearly unethical was observed by others and (hopefully) reported. Those who were “sent to hold the line” in their resolve to declare homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching” demonstrated their inability to incorporate the value of “reason” in their thinking and voting. How else can you possibly explain the General Conference’s stubborn insistence to reject all wording that declares that we are unable to reach consensus on the issue of homosexuality! In the US church, this stubborn insistence is based on fear of change, fear of reality, fear of reason.

It is obvious: we are clearly NOT in consensus. I believe The United Methodist Church will continue to experience decline in numbers of young persons because we cannot admit our differences and thus we are unable to focus on a vision for ourselves that is in mission to the persons who need to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. We are stuck on debate and indecision about homosexuality while people around us are hungry, homeless, unemployed, in economic distress, and battered and bruised. What a sorry excuse for a church we are!

So I take comfort in returning to Oregon-Idaho and the Western Jurisdiction. Although I know well that even in our corner of the denomination we are not of one mind, I rejoice that in our Annual Conference at least, we are for the most part tolerant of others, kind and respectful in our disagreements, and willing to focus on mission and ministry instead of being embroiled aimlessly entangled in questions of human sexuality and trying to decide for God who is or is not surrounded by God’s grace. God has already decided that, and unless I am missing something, God is calling us to love all persons, EVERYONE! I sense that our congregations and pastors are more willing to preach about God’s call to ministry to the hungry and homeless and to care for the spiritual needs of all persons.

The debate in the general church will rage on. My thoughts are shared with you because I want to let you know where my heart and soul lie. I am open to your thoughts and reactions to these words, or to General Conference, or to our United Methodist Church’s struggle to be a place for all God’s children, EVERYONE! Amen!
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Robert Hoshibata is Bishop of the Portland Area of The United Methodist Church and presides over the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.

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Advocate For Justice

On May 19, 2012, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) adopted the following position:

The NAACP Constitution affirmatively states our objective to ensure the “political, educational, social and economic equality” of all people. Therefore, the NAACP has opposed and will continue to oppose any national, state, local policy or legislative initiative that seeks to codify discrimination or hatred into the law or to remove the Constitutional rights of LGBT citizens. We support marriage equality consistent with equal protection under the law provided under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Further, we strongly affirm the religious freedoms of all people as protected by the First Amendment.

Read the full statement here: http://www.naacp.org/news/entry/naacp-passes-resolution-in-support-of-marriage-equality

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Remain In Dialogue

On Sunday, May 13th, Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III of Trinity Church in Chicago spoke out about marriage equality, saying, “The institution of marriage is not under attack because of the President’s words. Marriage was under attack years ago [by men viewing] women as property and children as trophies of their sexual prowess. . . by low wages, high incarceration, and lack of education. . . by clergy who think nothing of stepping outside of the bounds of marriage to sleep with “preaching groupies.”

Watch the entire video below.

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Expand Our Understanding

The following was excerpted from an article in the Huffington Post, titled, “Beyond Male and Female: Creativity, Risks, and Resilience Among Genderqueer People in the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.” To read the entire article, visit http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jack-harrison/national-transgender-discrimination-survey_b_1516566.html.
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Are you male or female? For many people, answering this question doesn’t cause a moment’s hesitation. But for genderqueer people, this question isn’t so easy to answer, and survey research that offers only two gender options may overlook genderqueer people’s experiences altogether.

Genderqueer people are those who identify their gender somewhere between male and female, reject traditional notions of gender, or reject the concept of gender altogether. The latest issue of the Harvard Kennedy School’s LGBTQ Policy Journal presents new research focused specifically on genderqueer people and describes the risks and resiliencies of those who identify outside the male/female gender binary. This new article shows that genderqueer people have unique demographic characteristics and experiences of discrimination and violence when compared to transgender people who identify as “male” or “female.”

The National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS), a joint project of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality, provided the opportunity for survey participants to identify their gender as “male,” “female,” “part time as one gender, part time as another,” or “a gender not listed here.” Most survey participants identified as “male” or “female,” but over 800 (13 percent) selected “a gender not listed here” and chose to write in their own gender. “Hybrid,” “either/or,” “both/and,” and “mosaic” are just a few of the ways these genderqueer participants described their gender.

The remarkable list of specific gender identities offered by genderqueer people in the study provides an important snapshot of the complexities of gender identity and self-determination among genderqueer people in the U.S. today. Many study participants responded to the question “What is your primary gender identity today?” by critiquing the question itself, entering such responses as “gender is a performance” or “gender does not exist.” Others responded with a subversive or creative approach to living in a gender-polarized culture that generally sees only two genders, with such replies as: “birl,” “jest me,” or “gender rebel.”

Compared with transgender survey participants who identified as “male” or “female,” genderqueer participants were both younger (89 percent were under age 45, compared with 68 percent) and more likely to be people of color (30 percent compared with 23 percent). Particularly, genderqueer people were more likely to be multiracial than the others (18 percent compared with 11 percent). This means we should be thinking more about how race and age shape gender identity and expression.

Additionally, genderqueer individuals faced unique patterns of gender identity-based discrimination and violence. In some settings, genderqueer people experienced higher rates of physical assault and police harassment than their transgender counterparts in the survey. In other cases, they experienced similar or lesser impacts of discrimination. For instance, genderqueer people were less likely to have been fired from a job due to bias.

Understanding these nuances creates a host of policy implications, including around bullying and violence in schools. Genderqueer respondents reported being harassed in elementary and high-school settings at an alarming rate: 83 percent. Sixteen percent reported being sexually assaulted at school. As teachers and administrators think about how to create safer school environments, they should implement interventions that recognize the various ways youth express their gender and teach respect for diverse gender expressions.

Researchers should also be thoughtful about how to incorporate gender beyond the male/female binary. Surveys that only allow two gender options — male or female — will miss the opportunity to study the unique experience of transgender and genderqueer individuals. Researchers can learn from the structure of the NTDS survey instrument, which, by posing nuanced and open-ended questions on gender, was able to record and illuminate genderqueer people’s creativity, resilience, and risks for discrimination and violence.

Through the creative project of self-determination and naming, genderqueer NTDS participants offered an important critique of the rigid social structures that force gender segregation in everything from baby blankets to developmental toys for children. Genderqueer people’s experiences of violence suggest that standing outside these rigid gender structures is often met with significant backlash, and from many of the institutions and mentors that propose to nurture and educate children. As our understanding of gender identity and expression expands, we are challenged to reconfigure our policies and institutions to reflect the new realities of gender in our social world.
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Jack Harrison, Jaime Grant, Ph.D., and Jody L. Herman, Ph.D. are co-authors of “A Gender Not Listed Here: Genderqueers, Gender Rebels, and OtherWise in the National Transgender Discrimination Survey,” published in the 2012 Harvard Kennedy School’s LGBTQ Policy Journal.

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Welcome New RCs

Madras United Methodist Church in Madras, Oregon
A long time welcoming congregation, Madras United Methodist Church first wrote and displayed a welcoming statement fifteen years ago. Discussions about official listing as a Reconciling Congregation began in early spring of 2011, and continued as the church engaged in the reconciling process through Bible studies, informal and formal discussions, videos and panels about inclusion and the church. To ensure the greatest participation, the congregation voted over a period of almost three weeks, from April 1 to 22 of 2012. Over 85 percent of the congregation supported the public declaration of full inclusion.

Short and clear, the welcoming statement of Madras United Methodist Church reads:

As a Christian community called to be inclusive, caring and peace minded, we affirm that people of any race, ethnic identity, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, age, economic status, or life situation are welcome in our congregation.

To learn more about this exciting congregation, visit online at: http://www.madrasumc.org.

Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Chapel Hill, North Carolina
The church has been moving towards open inclusion of all sexual orientations and gender identities since 1995 when a group of members began meeting and later that year the Church Council formed an official Reconciling Ministries Task Group. Following a few years of education, in 1999 the congregation adopted an official welcoming statement but due to some concern within the congregation chose not to officially affiliate as a Reconciling Congregation. In the intervening years, members continued to dialogue as some refused to give up on the dream of becoming an official Reconciling Congregation.

For many, it seemed natural to become Reconciling when the Charge Conference voted on April 22, unanimously reaffirming their welcoming statement, and becoming officially reconciling.

The church is a fellowship of believers called together by God to worship God, uphold one another in mutual love, and embody God’s love in ministry to the world. We recognize that anything which distinguishes us one from another is irrelevant in God’s eyes.

Aldersgate United Methodist Church invites into its fellowship all persons seeking to live in the Christian environment of the Church and to receive its nurture and assistance throughout their lives. This invitation is extended without regard to one’s economic status education, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, mental or physical ability, ethnic origin, or the present stage of their spiritual journey. We publically affirm that we welcome all persons to participate fully in the worship, fellowship, education and service live of our church.

To learn about this persistent congregation, visit them online at http://www.gbgm-umc.org/aldersgate_warm_heart/.

Grace United Methodist Church in Lake Bluff, Illinois
One hundred and twenty-five years after their founding, Grace United Methodist Church continues to seek to make disciples for the transformation of the world by declaring their commitment to full inclusion. After a ten-month process of information and education involving the entire congregation, this process included two open forums, several small group discussions, and a book study before writing and adopting the following welcoming statement:

Embracing the example of Jesus, our welcome knows no boundaries of race, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, education, family status, religious background, or physical or mental ability.

To learn more about this young community, visit them online at http://www.graceumclakebluff.org.

El Dorado County Federated Church in Placerville, California
A joint Presbyterian (USA) and United Methodist Church, Federated Church is proud to be known as a Reconciling and More Light congregation, a designation which celebrates both of their denominational affiliations. In January of 2011, the Neighbors small group within the church became a reconciling community and committed to helping the entire church live out their shared value of full inclusion.

The Neighbors group encouraged the congregation to discern a public statement by offering a series of events and educational resources which included: a brochure of the congregation’s history of living out inclusion, wearing rainbow stoles to identify those prepared to answer questions about becoming a Reconciling and More Light congregation, created and shared powerful videos about personal experiences as LGBT persons and allies, as well as held informal small group opportunities to receive thoughts and questions about proclaiming full inclusion.

After this process, the congregation found it a natural step to adopt a reconciling statement and become a More Light and Reconciling congregation. Their new official statement reads:

The people of Federated Church are Christians from varied faith traditions united for the purpose of knowing and worshiping God, and growing in relationship with Christ while serving our community and our world.

All persons are welcome to participate fully in the ministries of Federated Church, regardless of age, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, cultural background, disabilities, marital status or financial circumstances.

To learn more about this large church, visit them online at http://www.eldoradofederatedchurch.org.

Stone Village Church in Columbus, Ohio
Stone Village is a new church for a growing population of young people in the urban core of Columbus, Ohio; from its early inception, this new community was inclusive and welcoming through its style of worship, ministries, and community.

The mission statement for the vibrant new congregation includes their reconciling statement:

We are a church that is audacious. We are a church that is relevant. We are a church that is fully inclusive of ALL people. We believe that every human being is created and gifted by God; therefore, every human being is invited to be a real part of the church, regardless of background, belief, sexual orientation, gender identity, class, age or any of the other categories people use to separate or exclude. We believe that the goal of church is not to make people more religious but to help people be more fully human. Our ultimate goal is to grow in love and understanding of our creator, God, while simultaneously growing in love and understanding of one another.

To learn more about this exciting new congregation, visit online at http://www.stonevillagechurch.org.

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Believe It Gets Better

Jason Martin lives in Norman, OK and was excommunicated from a church for being gay. A church his father pastored for over 20 years. Jason found St Stephen’s UMC, an oasis in an otherwise spiritual desert. He went from contemplating suicide to deciding to survive. He found a church when church couldn’t have been farther from where he wanted to be. It was truly a blessing from God!

St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church is a Reconciling Congregation. Below is a video its members created as part of a series to show people, especially those who have been marginalized by society, cast out, or put off by churches for being LGBTQ, that there are faith communities that are welcoming and accepting of EVERYBODY.

We at RMN would like to thank St. Stephen’s for their work and ministry.

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