Over 500 United Methodist communities have gone through the Reconciling process. These communities have approved a statement that specifically names a welcome of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Churches, Sunday School classes, campus ministries, and annual conference groups strengthen the Reconciling Ministries Network through their witness for a fully inclusive church.
This explicit welcome is necessary because our United Methodist Church holds official policies that exclude lesbian and gay people from the full life of the Church. While the enforcement of the policies is often diminished by “don’t ask, don’t tell” behavior, the spiritual harm is done.
Bisexual and transgender people have not been denied as a matter of policy, but there is much that can be done to provide warmth and welcome.
The journey toward Reconciling affiliation has been undertaken by individuals, United Methodist groups and committees, Annual Conferences, and ecumenical collaborations. The Reconciling process will take intentional planning, educating, and the organizing of small groups, congregations, and various levels of living into the vision of a fully inclusive church and world. This process will take time – how much time will depend on the starting point of the discussion and the diligence in pursuing the goal. If the topic of homosexuality has never been addressed in any way, it will probably take two or three years of planning and ministering. If your community already has some degree of welcome, then it can take less time. In either case, the community needs to become aware of the people, the issues, the language and the stories of LGBT people – then the open hand of welcome can be extended with hopefulness that it will be received.more
In a church setting the journey is led by lay people in the congregation. It is certainly helpful to have the support and teaching of the pastor, but the motivation must come from the lay folks. This will enable the resulting hospitality to the LGBT community and families to be authentic and to carry forward even when there is a change of pastors.
The journey will include fresh opportunities even after the community affiliates with the Reconciling Ministries Network. By offering a special Reconciling service each year and additional educational programs, members will continue to grow in their understanding of true inclusion. People who are new to the community will have the chance to worship with the words of inclusion spoken out loud and the small group settings to ask the history and meaning of the path toward Reconciling.