The History of the Movement

At the September 1982 meeting of  Affirmation: United Methodists for Lesbian/Gay Concerns in Boston, the idea of “developing a program in which local churches will declare their support for the concerns of lesbians and gay men” is approved at the business session that weekend. Mark Bowman, D.J. Porter, and Perry Wiggins agree to develop a plan. The model of the More Light Program, begun in 1978 by the Presbyterians for Lesbians and Gay Concerns, of a local church adopting a statement affirming lesbians and gay men and inviting their full participation in the life of the local church is adapted for United Methodist congregations.

Discussion about the need for “reconciliation” between The United Methodist Church and lesbians/gay men at a November 1982 meeting of Affirmation’s General Conference Task Force inspires the name “Reconciling Churches.” This is modified to “Reconciling Congregations” in order to clearly emphasize that this will be a local church network. The second choice is “Self-Avowed, Practicing Churches.”

At the September 1983 Affirmation meeting in Baltimore, Mark, D.J., and Perry present a plan which looks remarkably similar to the program today.


Beth Richardson and Mark Bowman serve as volunteer co-coordinators in the developmental stage of the Reconciling Congregation Program (RCP). The Nashville Affirmation chapter agrees to allow their post office box to be used as the official program address. The first brochure describing the program and the first resource paper, “How to Become a Reconciling Congregation” are written and published.

The May 1984 General Conference in Baltimore amends the Book of Discipline to state that “no self-avowed, practicing homosexual shall be ordained or appointed in the United Methodist Church.”

In the early morning following the vote on the ordination ban, about a dozen Affirmation members gather outside the Civic Center in Baltimore and pass out brochures to General Conference delegates and visitors inviting their congregations to become Reconciling Congregations (RCs), in essence to dissent from the unwelcoming policies approved by the UMC.

Within one month, two congregations vote to become RCs–symbolically located on both ends of the continent–Washington Square UMC in New York City and Wesley UMC in Fresno, California.

By the end of the year, nine Reconciling Congregations existed.

The first issue of Manna for the Journey is published and “sketches a conceptual framework and a theological context for the RCP” and “provides resources for those who choose to be reconcilers.” One thousand copies are printed as an “act of faith” and are mailed out to Affirmation and Methodist Federation for Social Action members in May 1985.Manna-v1-no1-p01

Thanks to the enthusiastic, generous response of the initial subscribers, the second issue “Living and Dying with AIDS” is published in the fall. Being one of the first magazines to devote extensive attention to the growing AIDS epidemic, this issue sells out quickly. The quarterly magazine addresses a particular theme on lesbian/gay concerns in the church, and also contains worship/devotional aids, a resource listing, and news from the movement.

In its June session, the California-Nevada Annual Conference adopts a resolution commending the program and encourages its local churches to become RCs.

Beth and Mark lead the first training session for “RC Enablers” in the northeast jurisdiction in May at Washington Square UMC.

15 Reconciling Congregations at year end.

The first local workshop on “How to Become a Reconciling Congregation” is held in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Manna for the Journey continues to expand, having 750 paid subscribers by midyear. Melany Burrill and Bradley Rymph become the first coeditors.

The U.M. Renewal Services Fellowship challenges the use of the name “Manna for the Journey” (their newsletter was trademarked as “Manna”). It is decided not to risk a lawsuit and change the name of the magazine, since it was so new and had not yet received wide recognition. An informal poll of supporters results in the name Open Hands, inspired by the II Kings 10:15 text used in John Wesley’s sermon The Catholic Spirit.

Supporters in the Northern Illinois Annual Conference make history by proposing a resolution to its June session to become a “Reconciling Conference.” The resolution is adopted.

The Wisconsin Annual Conference adopts a resolution suggesting that its local churches consider becoming RCs.

Efforts to promote the RCP to the largest possible UMC audience were thwarted when The United Methodist Reporter refuses to accept an ad for Open Hands, stating the magazine violated UMC policy by “promoting the acceptance of homosexuality.”

19 Reconciling Congregations at year end.

The first national convocation of RCs, “Empowering Reconciling Ministries” draws 120 persons from the 22 RCs and other friends to the United Church of Rogers Park (Chicago).

Seeking funds to support the costs of the convocation, a proposal is sent to the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women for $1,000 to assist members of RCs to get to the convocation. The commission approves this grant, noting the funds would be provided from a private fund and not from the operating funds received from the general church. An ensuing public outcry leads to the first (and still only) invoking of the national UMC “funding ban” (then paragraph 906.12 in The Discipline) by the General Council on Finance and Administration and the grant is revoked.

Invitations sent to all general church boards and agencies to send representatives to observe the convocation produces a controversy in the General Board of Discipleship. The invitation is debated extensively and two votes by the directors ended in a tie before the chair, Bishop George Bashore breaks the tie by voting against sending an observer. Supportive board members make contributions to send Nancy Starnes as an unofficial observer from the Board of Discipleship.

The two above incidents receive widespread coverage in the religious and secular media. Reports of the convocation appear in several gay/lesbian newspapers across the country.

RCP friend Wayne Marshall Jones agrees to videotape portions of the convocation and interview representatives of some churches present. The footage he brings home is so inspiring and moving that it is agreed that an RCP video must be produced: Casting Out Fear: Reconciling Ministries with Gay/Lesbian United Methodists.

Three more annual conferences–California-Nevada, New York, and Troy–vote to become “Reconciling Conferences” in their early summer sessions.

A new RCP brochure, “Is Your Church Open to All Persons?” is produced.

Due to the income and expenses of the convocation, the program’s annual financial report doubles.

30 Reconciling Congregations at year end.

Continued program expansion brings the “growing pains” experienced by many grass roots movements. A joint meeting of the RCP Advisory Committee and the Affirmation Coordinating Committee is held in January to address these program needs. That meeting results in decisions to expand the RCP Advisory Committee to 8 persons and to provide a half-time national staff. Beth Richardson announces her intention to retire as national co-coordinator after the General Conference. Mark Bowman expresses his willingness to serve as a half-time national coordinator.

And God Loves Each One: A Resource For Dialogue About Sexual OrientationThe UMC General Conference in May in St. Louis provides the opportunity for a strong RCP witness. The video, Casting Out Fear, is shown during a daily luncheon forum in the RCP/Affirmation hospitality suite.

godloveseach1Seeing the need for a concise resource for lay persons that outlines facts and concerns about homosexuality and the Church, Ann Thompson Cook, along with other Dumbarton UMC members, write and publish such a resource: And God Loves Each One: A Resource for Dialogue About the Church and Homosexuality. The booklet debuts just before Christmas.

The first meeting of the RCP Advisory Committee is held in Washington, D.C.

Open Hands’ application to join the Associated Church Press (the national association of mainline religious periodicals) is accepted.

A fall retreat by the Evangelical Renewal Fellowship in the California-Nevada conference announces the formation of “Transforming Congregations,” modeled after the RCP, but seeking to change homosexuals into heterosexuals.

The membership of the UMC Study Committee on Homosexuality, authorized by the General Conference is announced and includes RC pastor, Dennis Alexander (Wesley UMC, Minneapolis) and a former RC pastor, Rebecca Parker (Wallingford UMC, Seattle).

37 Reconciling Congregations at year end.

Affirmation’s Long-Range Planning Committee recommends that the RCP become more autonomous.

The Reconciling Conference movement grows stronger as Eastern Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Oregon-Idaho appoint task forces to study such conference action. The Southern New England Conference commends the RCP to its congregations for study and action.

Open Hands 1987The continued high quality of Open Hands results in being honored with two prestigious awards from the Associated Church Press. The “Living and Loving with AIDS” issue receives the 1988 Award of Merit for “in-depth coverage of a current issue” and the magazine receives honorable mention in the overall General Excellence category, both for magazines with less than 10,000 subscribers.

The decision to incorporate the RCP as an independent nonprofit corporation is approved at the September Affirmation meeting. Christ UMC (Washington, D.C.) offers a small storage room to serve as an office for the coordinator.

Advisory Committee member Reva Anderson, Grant Park-Aldersgate pastor Sally Daniel, and coordinator Mark Bowman testify before the Study Committee on Homosexuality in November.

43 Reconciling Congregations at year end.

200 members and friends gather for the second convocation in San Francisco in February. A first-ever youth program draws five youth from RCs around the country and is led by Melany Burrill.

The RCP is incorporated in the District of Columbia in July and the first official board meeting is in Philadelphia in August.

The board invites all RCs to celebrate the first national RC Sunday during Epiphany, invites leaders of the welcoming programs in other denominations to a weekend for sharing and support, and launches a “92 in ’92” program to double the number of RCs in two years.

The General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns votes unanimously (with 2 abstentions) in October to become a “Reconciling Commission,” the first such action taken by a national UMC board or agency.

Commitment services for gay or lesbian couples become a hot issue, following a Washington Post story about Dumbarton UMC adopting a policy affirming such services. The local bishop declares that Dumbarton’s policy contravened his interpretation of UMC law. The resultant publicity brings a similar action against University UMC (Madison, Wisc.) which had adopted a similar policy in 1986.

The witness of local RCs grows and is recognized. Dumbarton UMC and St. John’s UMC (Baltimore) receive the annual Ball Awards from the Methodist Federation for Social Action for their witness to social justice. St. Francis in the Foothills is showcased in a UMC video as one of five “Vital Congregations” by the General Board of Discipleship. Many RCs testify at listening posts held by the UMC Study Committee on Homosexuality.

The historic gathering of nine leaders plants the seed for the Institute of Welcoming Resources from the More Light (Presbyterian)Open and Affirming (United Church of Christ)Reconciled in Christ (Lutheran)Welcoming (Unitarian-Universalist), and the RCP in October in Chicago brings national attention to a growing ecumenical movement, more than 200 congregations strong.

49 Reconciling Congregations at year end.

Production of several new resource papers and a study guide for Casting Out Fear is undertaken.1991Open-Hands-ecumenical-300x209

At the request of Wheadon UMC, which had amended its reconciling statement to welcome lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons, the board devotes a part of its August meeting in Chicago to learning about bisexuality. Recognizing that this is an emerging issue, about which there was not necessarily consensus in all RCs, the board agrees to be more inclusive of bisexual persons in Open Hands and other resources, but not to change official RCP policy at this time.

The UMC cable TV show, Catch the Spirit, does a segment on homosexuality in March and included information about RCs for the first time.

Covenant services continues to be an issue as the pastor of Walker Community UMC (Minneapolis) is told by the bishop that she could not do such a service there, in spite of the support of the congregation.

The second interdenominational meeting of the leaders of the welcoming church programs is boosted by the participation of two new programs: Supportive Congregations in the Brethren-Mennonite tradition and Open and Affirming Congregations in the Disciples of Christ. The initial terms of ecumenical cooperation in the publication of Open Hands are discussed here.

The UMC’s Judicial Council unanimously upholds the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns’ decision to become a Reconciling Commission.

54 Reconciling Congregations at year end.

The RCP is visible before, during, and after the UMC’s General Conference which receives the Homosexuality Study Report, but takes no other actions to change the church’s unwelcoming policies towards lesbians and gay men.

The RCP, along with the Methodist Federation for Social Action, sponsors a series of “Nourishing the Tree of Life” services in about 50 cities across the country during the summer and early fall. These services offer healing and reconciliation and are attended by several hundred persons.

Open Hands receives the prestigious Award for Merit for General Excellence for smaller magazines by the Associated Church Press.

The Methodist Federation for Social Action honors the RCP with one of its Ball Awards for the RCP’s outstanding social witness.

Staff operations of the national office are relocated to Irving Park UMC in Chicago. Mark Bowman continues as program coordinator, now on a full-time basis.

Plans for the ecumenical cooperation in the publication of Open Hands are agreed upon at the fall meeting of interdenominational program leaders. (The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists is the new program present at this meeting.) The publication process for Open Hands is changed to having one editor and an ecumenical advisory committee.

The Wesley Foundation at UCLA becomes the first Reconciling Campus Ministry. Covenant services, once again, catch the national attention as several articles appear about a covenant service in Indianapolis at which an uninvited UMC pastor videotaped the service as evidence to use against the clergy involved. Several bishops warn pastors against conducting such services (none against illicit videotaping).

The adoption of an antigay local referendum in Colorado results in the formation of United Methodists Against Discrimination in Colorado, spearheaded by the pastor and members of St. Paul’s UMC in Denver. This coalition, with the support of many other RCs, around the country, distribute petitions calling on the UMC to move its 1996 General Conference out of Colorado as a witness against discrimination.

62 Reconciling Congregations and 1 Reconciling Campus Ministry at year end.

Along with Affirmation and MFSA, RCP testifies before the General Conference concerning moving the 1996 General Conference out of Colorado. (Amendment 2 – banning laws that would protect gay and lesbian people from discrimination.) The Commission does not choose to relocate the conference but agrees to hold a witness there.

278 persons attend the Third National Convocation of Reconciling Congregations held in Washington D.C.

A Youth/Young Adult Task Force is formed to empower the voices of youth and young adults and address their needs in the reconciling movement.

A Reconciling Pastors’ Action Network (RPAN) is initiated to provide a vehicle for UMC church professionals to witness to full inclusion of lesbian, gay and bisexual persons.

The first ecumenical issue of Open Hands was published in the winter with More Light (Presbyterian), Open and Affirming (UCC) and Reconciled in Christ (Lutheran).

The Board begins the Angel Campaign which invites supporters to pledge $100 or more for the year. The goal of $40,000 is surpassed.

70 Reconciling Congregations and 3 Reconciling Campus Ministries at year end.

Eight years after initial refusal and under new editorship, the United Methodist Reporter accepts an RCP classified ad. The UMC releases the General Conference mandated The Church Studies Homosexuality as a “both sides” resource.

RPAN grows to 100 members as efforts toward advocacy and outreach expand.

“A Statistical Study of United Methodist Congregation on the Reconciling Journey” by Chad Heilig and Kristin Stoneking is published and shows that churches do not incur loss when becoming Reconciling Congregations.

In celebration of its 10th anniversary, RCP invites Tim McGinley, minister of music at Broadway UMC in Indianapolis, to write an original musical drama. A performance company is recruited from around the country. The result is HOME: The Parable of Beatrice and Neal which goes on a 15-city tour throughout the Midwest and receives widespread acclamation from the 1,600 people who see it. The UM Reporter features HOME in a special article.

RCP is invited with Affirmation and MSFA to present suggestions to the General Conference Commission regarding “witness” at General Conference. The Commission agrees to a plenary session which will focus on the church’s witness for civil and human rights for all persons.

Still on the Journey: A Handbook for Reconciling Congregation in Ministry with Lesbians, Bisexuals and Gay Men is published in response to requests for resources on what RCs can be doing after their public declaration.

90 Reconciling Congregations and 5 Campus Ministries at year end.

Board begins planning for “Open the Doors” campaign for 1996 General Conference in Denver. RPAN will become “Reconciling United Methodists” is an effort to attain 9,600 signatures for the campaign.

RCP works with local folks to bring to the public eye the sexual orientation discrimination based firing of Diana Chalfant, a coach at the United Methodist-affiliated Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Kentucky. RC and RPAN members protest with letters and phone calls to the college president and area bishop.

The fourth national convocation draws 325 persons to Augsburg College in Minneapolis. A highlight is UM leader Jeanne Audrey Powers’ “coming out” sermon. Open the Doors campaign is officially launched.

Summer intern Wil Brant writes and distributes proposal for an ecumenical Bible study curriculum. Proposal generates immediate positive response from several other lesbian/gay-affirming Christian groups.

In light of its growing staff and resource needs, RCP prepares to move into a newly renovated, larger office at the same location–Irving Park UMC.

160 activists from 33 annual conferences participate in six regional Knock-Ins to train and plan for local Open the Doors efforts.

Open the Doors activities spread across the country as local activists write letters and arrange meetings with General Conference delegates, organize Open the Doors rallies and signature parties, and enroll Reconciling United Methodists. Coordinators are recruited to facilitate Open the Doors activities in annual conferences.

104 Reconciling Congregations and 12 Reconciling Campus Ministries at year end.


Plans are finalized for Open the Doors witness in Denver which includes a joint WARM hospitality and work center with Women’s Caucus, Affirmation, and Methodist Federation for Social Action.openTheDoors1996-300x211

Outreach coordinator James Preston and colleague Marilyn Alexander publish book, We Were Baptized Too: Claiming God’s Grace for Lesbians and Gays.

Welcoming & Affirming Baptists join the cooperative publication of Open Hands with the Winter 1996 issue.

Over 75 RCP members and friends come to Denver to carry out an Open the Doors witness which permeates the General Conference. Posters proclaiming Open the Doors displayed in downtown businesses. Volunteers literally open doors for delegates and visitors to conference. Press conference with four testimonies of discrimination in church draws several hundred listeners. Placards with names of over 10,000 Reconciling UMs are unveiled. Fifteen bishops upset conference with their “Open the Doors” declaration. Youth/Student/Seminarian Rally calls on church to “open doors.” Original musical drama Caught in the Middle, written by RCP friends Jean Hodges and Julian Rush premieres. Over 400 persons attend Sunday morning worship in Denver’s RC, St. Paul’s UMC.

General Conference maintains unwelcoming policies and adds ban on same-gender unions to Social Principles.

Open the Doors stories circulate around the denomination after General Conference. Oregon-Idaho and Wisconsin vote to become the 5th and 6th Reconciling Conferences.

Group of students at UM Student Forum react to continued homophobia in church by forming Methodist Students for an All-Inclusive Church (MoSAIC), immediately setting up a national leadership team.

Judicial Council upholds Wisconsin’s Reconciling Conference decision upon appeal.

University UMC in Madison, Wisconsin, takes public stand against local antigay group and is subsequently subjected to harassment.

New England Conference produces video about its Reconciling Congregations, Because God First Loved Us.

Threshold Meetings throughout the fall and winter bring together over 550 local RCP activists in 25 annual conferences to cross the threshold created by Open the Doors and build a stronger local RC movement.

Open Hands editor Mary Jo Osterman leads year-long ecumenical process of creating new Bible study curriculum Claiming the Promise.

Open Hands breaks new ground with “Transgender Realities” issue. Subscription list surpasses 3,000.

Angel campaign in which supporters provide annual gifts of $100 or more surpasses $100,000 for first time.

$10,000 grant from Gill Foundation sets precedent as first grant from major foundation to support organizing for lesbian/gay concerns in religious communities.

118 Reconciling Congregations and 16 Reconciling Campus Ministries at year end.

Board and staff prepare four-year plan with concrete goals on building RC movement, increasing diversity, and undergirding movement growth.

Fifth national convocation, Come to the Table, is planned for Emory University in Atlanta–first national RCP gathering in the Southeast.

Claiming the Promise: An Ecumenical Welcoming Bible Study Resource on Homosexuality is published in January to immediate widespread acclaim.

RCP reaches new audiences with information displays at annual meeting of Black Methodists for Church Renewal and at UMC Global Gathering.

RCP staff design and lead first Leadership Training Weekend in Chicago with 20 participants from 10 midwestern conferences. Response is overwhelmingly positive and staff began preparations to hold regional Leadership Training events in fall.

MoSAIC carries out powerful witness at UM Student Forum. MoSAIC-sponsored resolution for United Methodist Student Movement to become “reconciling” gets strong support, but falls short of 2/3 vote needed for adoption.

Anti-gay “Good News” caucus undertakes major national mail campaign with misinformation about the RCP. Resolutions calling on Reconciling Conferences to rescind their “reconciling” status fail.

Five hundred RCP members and friends gather in Atlanta for the fifth national convocation, Come to the Table. This inspiring weekend of worship, study, training, and celebration is heralded as the “best convocation ever.” Particularly significant are first-ever Area Strategy Sessions in which RCP activists met to coordinate regional movement-building efforts and four preconvocation forums for particular constituencies: clergy; persons of color; parents of l/g/bi persons; and youth, students and seminarians.

Program priority for 1997-98 is to train and empower grass roots leadership in the RC movement. Staff plan to lead eight regional Leadership Training Seminars.

138 Reconciling Congregations and 20 Reconciling Campus Ministries.

The March trial of the Rev. Jimmy Creech for conducting a union service for two women at First UMC (Omaha) receives national media attention. Creech’s argument- the Social Principles’ ban on “ceremonies celebrating homosexual unions” is not binding- produces acquittal in trial. Later appeal to Judicial Council by South Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops results in ruling that the ban is legally binding.

Local RCP activists organize first-ever RCP regional conferences that bring together 40 Reconciling UMs in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana in May and 125 persons from Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska in July.

rmnLogoPinkTriangleDoveAfter talks with the General Council on Finance and Administration regarding the UM Cross & Flame in the RCP logo, RCP board decides not to engage in legal battle and institutes a contest for a new logo. Entry from the Rev. Doyle Burbank-Williams (Nebraska) is chosen as the new RCP logo. Logo is an ascending dove on background triangle framed by a cross.

The Open & Affirming Ministries (Disciples of Christ) and Affirming Congregation Programme (United Church of Canada) officially join the ecumenical cooperative publication of Open Hands.

A diverse group of 90 RCP activists from across the U.S. spend Labor Day weekend in a Visioning Retreat at an upstate New York campgrounds. This spirit-filled gathering lays the foundation for the RCP’s campaign for the General Conference 2000: “Wide is God’s Welcome– Extend the Table.” Retreat participants pledge over $100,000 toward the campaign.

The Judicial Council, in reviewing a “Confessing Conference” resolution from the Northwest Texas Annual Conference ruled in October that annual conferences or general church agencies cannot identify themselves as Reconciling, Confessing, Transforming or with any other unofficial church groups. By this action, the Judicial Council overturned previous rulings which upheld the decisions of Wisconsin Conference and the General Commission on Christian Unity and Inter-religious Concerns to become Reconciling.

148 Reconciling Congregations and 22 Reconciling Campus Ministries at year end.

California-Nevada Reconciling Congregations were prominent among the 1200 persons gathered for the union service of Jeanne Barnett and Ellie Charlton in Sacramento. Ninety-five clergy co-officiated in this blessing as a challenge to the UMC policy banning same-sex unions.

Eighty representatives from 33 Reconciling Congregations and Campus Ministries gather at First UMC Chicago for the first-ever RCP Consultation in order to discuss implications of recent Judicial Council decisions. The discussion revealed the diversity of situations in which different Reconciling Congregations find themselves. Participants adopted the following statement: “Be it resolved, we the assembled Reconciling United Methodists meeting January 29th and 30th in Chicago have resolved not to surrender the word ‘reconciling’.”

The initial phase of the “Wide is God’s Welcome– Extend the Table” campaign is launched in March as sixty RCP activists from twenty-one annual conferences are trained in five jurisdictional Mesa (“Table”) meetings to implement the campaign in their conference. A “Reconciling Cookbook” with campaign ideas is published. “Wide is God’s Welcome– Extend the Table” posters and buttons are on display at annual conference sessions.

The Rev. Gregory Dell, pastor of Broadway UMC (Chicago) is tried by Northern Illinois Conference for doing a commitment service for two men in his church last September. Dell is found guilty of disobeying the Order and Discipline of the church and is given suspension from pastoral duties unless he signs statement indicating he will abide by church policy.

The United Methodist Student Forum adopts resolution to become a “Reconciling Student Movement” at its Memorial Day gathering as a result of the educational work done by MoSAIC leaders in recent years.

Marilyn Alexander is named as Interim Executive Director of RMN. She will later be named Executive Director.

The sixth national RCP convocation, “Proclaiming Jubilee” is held in Denton, Texas. This is the first convocation in the South Central Jurisdiction. Video/sermons?

14 new Reconciling Congregations.
162 Reconciling Congregations, 24 Campus Ministries, and 9 Communities at year’s end.

General Conference– RCP Wide is God’s Welcome: Extend the Table campaign in Cleveland, Ohio; Noon time communion services, often officiated by bishops, grew each day. Over 700 volunteers signed in for portions of the conference!

The first time presence of Parents’ badges stating “My Child is of Sacred Worth” and of the United Methodists of Color statement for inclusion added depth to the message. The Shower of Stoles project surrounded the meeting spaces. A Saturday rally of hundreds surrounded the conference center with a rainbow ribbon “hug” by singing RUMs.

Soulforce witness included Jimmy Creech, Rev. Jim Lawson, and ecumenical partners – over 200 were arrested Wednesday of the second week. Thursday morning after impassioned speeches and a negative vote on the truth of differing views, Reconciling witnesses came onto the floor of the conference to protest the continuing exclusion of GLBT United Methodists. 29 were arrested from the floor.

Beginning of both the United Methodists of Color for a Fully Inclusive Church (UMOC) and the Parent’s Reconciling Network (PRN)

A video of the General Conference actions was produced and offered as a resource.

Reflecting emerging vision and structure, RCP changes its name to Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN).

9 new Reconciling Congregations.
168 Congregations, 24 Campus Ministries, and 12 Communities.

Rev. Karen Damman of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference sends a letter to Bishop Elias Galvan that stated she was living in a “partnered, covenanted, homosexual relationship.” Bishop Galvan filed an official complaint, charging her with “practices declared by The United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teaching.” (BOD paragraph 2702.1.b) The Conference Committee on Investigation did not charge her.

Rev. Mark E. Williams discloses his sexual orientation as homosexual to the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference in June. Bishop Elias Galvan filed an official complaint (as above). For the time, Rev. Williams maintains his appointment to Woodland Park UMC as a pastor in good standing.

Open Hands Magazine goes out of publication with the Summer 2001 issue.

Revival! Reconciling United Methodists and friends gather in Tacoma, Washington for the seventh national convocation. Bible study led by Rev. Irene Monroe and Dr. Mary Ann Tolbert. Worship design by Marcia McFee. Voice in the Wilderness awarded to Union Memorial UMC, Boston, MA, the first predominately African American UMC to declare Reconciling status. Cup of Justice awarded to the Rocky Mountain Youth, for a statement at Annual Conference and to Pacific Northwest AC RUMs for their statement “To Plead the Cause”.

Promise of Inclusion awarded to the UM Communications folks for the “Igniting Ministries” campaign to lay claim to the “Open Doors” language and reveal our presence in that.

Beginning of the Clergy Alliance. (This later becomes Reconciling Ministries Clergy (RMC).) A special award from “Clergy Alliance” went to Mark Williams and Karen Damman.

“I Just Want to Keep Telling My Story” video project is completed and offered as a resource for congregations in the Reconciling process. It features people who have experienced both the needs and the joys of Reconciling ministry. It debuted at Convocation.

6 new Reconciling Congregations.
Totals: 174 Congregations, 24 Campus Ministries, and 15 Communities.

Rev. Mark E. Williams retains his credentials to continue as an ordained United Methodist minister. The Pacific Northwest Annual Conference Committee on Investigation found insufficient evidence to sustain the complaint of homosexual practice filed against Rev. Williams. The vote was unanimous. He continued as pastor at Woodland Park UMC which reports a sense of joy and relief at the news.

Bishop appealed to the Western Jurisdictional Committee on Appeals asking whether there were egregious errors made by the PNW Conference Committee on Investigation when the dismissed his complaint against Rev. Karen Damman. (July)

Flashnet! the RMN email digest begins sharing news and ideas on a weekly basis. This greatly enhances the ability to inform and mobilize our constituency.

General Commission on Interreligious Concerns and Christian Unity held listening posts on Homosexuality around the country as mandated by the 2000 General Conference. Marilyn Alexander, ED of RMN, Rev. Gil Caldwell of UMOC, and Sue Laurie of RMN testify in Cincinnati. They were joined by John Calhoun of Affirmation and Kathryn Johnson of MFSA. RUMs from Clifton UMC and Central UMC (Toledo) provide prayer and presence support.

13 new Reconciling Congregations, 1 new Campus Ministry, and 4 new Communities.
Totals: 184 Congregations, 25 Campus Ministries, and 19 Communities.

The case of Rev. Karen Damman continues. The Western Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals affirms the local decision to dismiss charges against Rev. Damman. (January). It is appealed to the Judicial Council which remanded it back to Pacific Northwest directing them to send it to a church trial. (October) The Committee on Investigations delays it.

Participation at Witness Our Welcome (WOW 2003) an ecumenical welcoming gathering in Philadelphia, PA. One hundred 131 gather for a United Methodist Pre-WOW Reconciling Day. Highlights include the Dumbarton UMC players, Rev. Janet Wolf, and creative worship offered by MOSAIC. “Miracle Moments” revealed good action in surprising places and General Conference planning was undertaken.
Voice in the Wilderness awarded to Bishop Richard Wilke and Rev. Zan Holmes for speaking publicly for the necessary inclusion of LGBT persons in our communities of faith. These two are linked in the minds of UMs who have used the Disciple Bible Study. Cup of Justice awarded to Easter Hill UMC which became a Reconciling Congregation in 2002.

Publication of Made In God’s Image: A Resource For Dialogue About the Church and Gender Differences, Ann Thompson Cook

Rev. Troy Plummer named as Executive Director in October.

7 new Reconciling Congregations, 1 new Campus Ministry, 2 new Communities.
Totals: 189 Congregations, 26 Campus Ministries, and 21 Communities.

Rev. Karen Oliveto performed the first legal same-sex marriage in a church at Bethany UMC in San Francisco. Rev. Oliveto conducted eight same-sex services during this legally open time in February in San Francisco. A complaint was filed and resolved.

Rev. Karen Damman of Pacific Northwest Annual Conference was on trial in March. Rev. Damman is acquitted by the PNW clergy jury. The jury found no “declaration” that homosexuality is incompatible. She was acquitted and kept her appointment.

General Conference (Pittsburgh, PA) RMN’s witness is Watermarked: A Ministry of Assurance. The focus is on the radical equality that baptism promises which necessitates removal of exclusionary language. Daily “Remember your Baptism” fonts are at the doors. Hundreds of supporters wear the rainbow stoles introduced by the Parents Reconciling Network. Water bottles, badges, prayer, Saturday “Family Reunion”, Sunday worship with preacher Janet Wolf and baptism rituals inspire and challenge many. Daily “Water Reports” are posted on the RMN website to help people at home to stay informed.

The Common Witness strives to pass legislation offering a truth – that there are differences of belief about homosexuality. The proposed legislation also asked to delete the current “incompatibility” sentence. After a negative vote, RMN is joined by Affirmation, MFSA, and Soulforce for a “River of Life” link/soulforce demonstration on the floor of the General Conference. The common witness of hundreds of GLBT people, and allies such as parents, delegates and Bishops is welcomed in by Bishop Janice Riggle Huie.

“RUM clusters” gather in local settings during the General Conference to participate in the Watermarked activities. They provide solidarity and inspiration across the country.

Publication of And God Loves Each One: A Resource for Dialogue about Sexual Orientation (2nd edition) Ann Thompson Cook

Rev. Irene Elizabeth Stroud (Beth) of the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference comes out as lesbian and in a covenant partnership. A complaint is filed by Bishop Peter Weaver. Rev. Stroud is found guilty by a trial jury (12-1). She is defrocked by a 7-6 vote. She decided to appeal.

5 new Reconciling Congregations
Totals: 194 Congregations, 26 Campus Ministries, and 22 Communities.

The national office resources 36 Annual Conferences in May and June. Local activists tailor each witness to their unique situation. Some break the silence in new places, others lead the way in striving toward full and authentic welcome. Brochures, stoles, story-telling, worship services, meals, awards, silhouettes, legislation, rainbow ribbons, promoting resources and identifying prospective Reconciling congregations are some of the activities.

Hearts on Fire! the eighth national convocation enjoyed record attendance- over 600 people! It featured inspired worship, Bible study, workshops and opportunities to meet with extension ministry groups. Reconciling Ministries achieved a higher level of visibility as part of the United Methodist family as we are hosted by Lake Junaluska, the headquarters of the Southeast Jurisdiction. This brought a protest invited first by Good News, then the IRD, followed by Focus on the Family, and then by the Ku Klux Klan. Security was heightened as the staff of Lake Junaluska and RMN prepared our church folks for the outburst of un-welcome. The benefits of our time together was heightened by the overt welcome of 43 United Methodist Bishops and the participation of seven bishops. The sense of the 2004 Watermarked campaign continued– “We are permanently and powerfully part of the family!”

The Parents Reconciling Network creates and gives every convo participant a rainbow stole. The visibility of Reconciling presence grows by great measure with the wearing of stoles at Annual Conferences, convocations, Judicial Council meetings, and other UM gatherings.

The RMN board meets alongside the October Judicial Council hearings in Houston, Texas. They hear testimony for cases concerning the ordination status of Rev. Irene Elizabeth Stroud (Beth) and the discretionary authority of UM clergy to deny membership to lay people known to be gay.

Rev. Irene Elizabeth Stroud (Beth) had her credentials reinstated by a North East Jurisdiction appeals committee. Stroud announced that she would not resume her clergy roles until the appeal process is completed. In October the Judicial Council ruled against her appeal.

In the Halloween Judicial Council ruling 1032, the council affirmed the discrimination of a pastor who refused to allow a gay man to be a member. This action removed accountability of the pastor to the clergy session of their annual conference and to their bishop.

15 new Reconciling Congregations, 1 new Campus Ministry, and 9 new Communities
Totals: 207 Congregations, 27 Campus Ministries and 31 Communities.

The Judicial Council ruling 1032 accelerates the urgency to publicly declare a Reconciling welcome. Over fifty Reconciling UMs travel to Kansas and hold vigil outside the spring Judicial Council meeting and pressure the council to at least practice open communion as they consider open membership resulting in a joint worship including the council and the RMN witnesses.

RMN also filed amicus briefs on behalf annual conferences seeking to live the reality of open membership and inclusion in opposition to 1032.

Pastoral Letter to the United Methodist Church from 75 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender UM Clergy is written and released in April. The signatories observe that they have seen the church at its best and… “At the same time, we have known the church at its worst. Since 1972, the UMC has been on a slow but steady course to exclude lgbt people from the life of the church as a whole. Many in our denomination support this dismembering of Christ’s Body. Yet even while our sister Beth Stroud was stripped of her ordination credentials, lgbt clergy continue to serve the church faithfully at every level of leadership.”

2006-jc-Kansas-aAnnual Conference volunteers push their areas toward a more inclusive church. Over forty ACs received kits from the RMN office. Prayer, worship, water, legislation, silhouettes and stories show our persistence and urgency.

RMN introduces a new logo! The rainbow flames that lit up the Hearts on Fire convo now give full color to our inclusive message in new brochures, literature, banners and more. In conjunction with And God Loves Each One, RMN distributes a new culturally specific Spanish translation Dios Nos Ama Por Igual.

The Clergy Women’s Consultation in Chicago called upon women to remember the past years of persistent knocking until the doors for ordination were opened. The continuing denial to lesbian women instigated the “Bloody Knuckles” action of loud knocking to bring attention to this wrong.

19 new Reconciling Congregations, 1 new Campus Ministry and 8 Communities.
Totals: 226 Reconciling Congregations, 28 Campus Ministries, and 39 Communities.

Faith, Hope, Love is the ninth national Reconciling convocation. The program has an emphasis on worship, on FHL-logo-nw-hi-e1279577159435community building and on training for activism within our United Methodist contexts. Reconciling becomes more visible in various UM settings – Judicial Council, UMW Assembly, UM Student Forum, GBHEM listening post, Christian Educators Forum, Annual Conferences as we are confident that every UM gathering can be a reconciling gathering.

RMN launches a five-year Called To Witness campaign for 22 annual conference trainings that prepare laypersons and clergy to engage their delegates to the next General Conference.

Rev. Drew Phoenix, a transgender pastor, is re-appointed to St. Johns UMC in Baltimore, MD.

7 new Reconciling Congregations, 1 new Campus Ministry and 13 Communities
Totals: 233 Reconciling Congregations, 29 Campus Ministries, and 49 Communities.

The UMC met in Fort Worth, TX under the banner of “A Future With Hope” for the 2008 General Conference. Reconciling United Methodists proclaimed hope in Christ envisioning “One Family Tree” that thrives as persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. In coalition with MFSA and Affirmation, RMN provided an excellent legislative team to inform and support delegates.

Volunteers prayed, protested and witnessed outside, inside and on the plenary floor marking the continued harm caused by the “incompatibility clause” with a Good Friday witness. Reconcilers continue to be an Easter people even in the face of continued discrimination and participated in a lesbian wedding on the last day of General Conference. See more at 2008 General Conference Blog.

Following up on a successful Called to Witness campaign, the second phase All Means All was kicked off in October with 70 regional organizers ultimately training 1041 persons to speak in support of strengthening inclusion in the UM Constitution.

22 new Reconciling Congregation, 4 new Campus Ministries, 12 new Communities

Justice and Joy attracted over 540 persons to celebrate RMN’s 10th convocation and 25th anniversary working for equality in The United Methodist Church. In the Rocky Mountains at Estes Park, RMN especially welcomed our international leaders from Uruguay, the Philippines, Nigeria and Zambia. We debuted the ecumenical organizing Believe Out Loud and our United Methodist component of Believe Out Loud.

In collaboration with God Loves Each One, RMN released All God’s Children a resource on teaching children about sexual orientation and gender diversity authored by longtime educator Melany Burrill. RMN also worked ecumenically to make two new resources available Building an Inclusive Church and All In God’s Family: Creating Allies for our LGBT Families.

Building our infrastructure to meet the needs of the movement, RMN recruited our first Director of Development and Associate Executive Director.

25 new Reconciling Congregations, 1 new Campus Ministry, and 10 new Communities

2010 and beyond...

Today, RMN+ consists of over 1,000 Reconciling Communities and over 40,000 Reconciling United Methodists. We face a pivotal time in our Church’s history and future.

If you’re passionate about LGBTQ justice history in The UMC and would like to help build out RMN’s history section, please email us at

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