A Letter from the RMN Board of Directors
The signs of love conquering fear are everywhere! Supporters of Reconciling Ministries are doing more than ever before. The RMN Called to Witness campaigns in 2011 celebrated 67 regional events where 1595 reconciling persons engaged strategy, reconciling process, public narrative storytelling, and building teams. Of the 682 participants at Sing a New Song, over 100 were young adults. We placed 500 calls to United Methodist delegates to General Conference. We gave $891,812 to support the mission locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally through Reconciling Ministries Network.
Your generosity made it possible for RMN to gather in coalition with the Methodist Federation for Social Action and Affirmation in early 2011 to plan Love Your Neighbor for both a regional and churchwide impact. Now we are living into the reality of a multinational church and underwrote our first staff persons to engage central conference relationships. You even helped us contract with media experts to conduct focus groups in Cote d'Ivoire and test messages in Uganda, Liberia, South Africa, and other countries to find common cause and build bridges.
Along the way, we celebrated the gains made in our sister denominations (Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, UCC) as they removed anti-gay policies and lived into a future of valuing all families. And in a flurry of change, we celebrated the federal acknowledgment of hate crimes, and that gay and lesbian Americans who serve their country no longer live in fear, along with New York, five other states, DC and the Coquille Tribe in Oregon affirming marriage equality.
Of course none of this is done overnight. Success is due to decades of organizing work within denominations, within states, within congregations to affirm God's love for all God's children and that love really does make a family.
Our Christian commitment to family goes back to Jesus who asked, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" His answer was, "Whoever does the will of God." And what is the will of God? Love God and our neighbors. This is the Gospel essential from which we cannot be deterred. Of course, this is not a comfortable love, it is a love that moves us out of our comfort zone and into the zone of loving neighbors who are different and sometimes condemned or excluded by "tradition" and even "Christian teaching." But the love of God cannot be boxed in by text, tradition or teaching.
Increasingly, our own United Methodist Church is following the Holy Spirit as it moves the church out of its comfort zone of tradition, to the uncomfortable love that opens doors, hearts and minds. Retired bishops are advocating an end to ordination discrimination; over 1,100 clergy have vowed to do marriages for all loving couples; bishops are recognizing the contradictions in the Book of Discipline; the Judicial Council implicitly acknowledged that 24 hour suspension is an allowable option for clergy who, in obedience to the Gospel, conduct marriages for loving same-gender couples.
The kin-dom of God is breaking through-as it always does. Churches must always be preparing for the coming of the kin-dom. Jesus said, the kin-dom of God is within you – it is among you – it is coming and you must be prepared. The change offered by God's love and grace is happening!
Our church has the chance to prepare for this change that is already here. The choice is to prepare instead of react, to address concerns and fears rather than allow policy to replace the Holy Spirit. It is time to prepare. It is time to help moderates who have longed for this truth to speak out their faith in God who loves us ALL. It is time to prepare central conferences to affirm the good news that salvation and evangelism are not restricted by sexual orientation or gender identity. It is time to help opponents who spent years resisting this good work to connect with us at the foot of the cross in God's love. It is time to release the nonessentials and join in the essentials of our faith in Jesus Christ. It is time to love God and love our neighbor.
Many of our supporters are careful not to express optimism about policy change in The United Methodist Church. But we can rest assured that the signs of love conquering fear are all around us. Clergy are marrying all couples today. Bishops are ordaining gay and lesbian clergy today. Families headed by gay and lesbian couples are raising children today and sharing their Christian faith with them today.
We, the board of Reconciling Ministries Network, thank you for living into love before policy change looked eminent. You had the vision and the generosity of time and talent and gifts to bring us to this point. When the policy statements catch up to the love of the Holy Spirit, we will all say, "We were there!" We stood up and said, love conquers fear. We stood up and reminded the whole church that we must live out the great commandment to Love Our Neighbor and prepare-prepare for the changes that are here, prepare for our whole church to be ready.
Your Reconciling Ministries Network Board
Brian Adkins, Helen Andrew, Bonnie Beckonchrist, Rachel Birkhahn-Rommelfanger, Vincent Cervantes, Daniel Diss, Jayson Dobney, Giselle Lawn, Pamela Lightsey, Madelyn Marsh, David Meredith, Joshua Noblitt, John Oda, Karen Oliveto, Bruce Robbins, Derrick Spiva, Monica Swink, Bishop Mel Talbert, and Joy Watts