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All Are Welcome 
Front page article from the July/August 2011 issue of the Contact

On Tuesday, June 28, members of NBUMC who had participated in the reconciling education series completed the final step to become a reconciling congregation. We were led through a faith-driven consensus service, guided by facilitators Revs. Don and Anne Stewart. In a warm and loving environment, 60 NBUMC members sat in a circle and individually voiced their hopes and concerns in taking this final step. Those who were not able to attend (but who had taken part in at least one workshop) filled out a reflection tool, voicing their hopes and concerns. These were read by the facilitators. At the conclusion of the discussion, there was no doubt that NBUMC was ready to make the final step into living the reconciling mission that the church already had proclaimed.
 
This process began approximately seven years ago when the reconciling process was introduced. The result of that process was the completion of two steps: to draft an inclusive welcoming statement, and to publish this statement publically. The final decision to become recognized as a reconciling congregation was tabled at that time.
 
In January 2011, the youth at North Bethesda United Methodist, motivated by a series of bullying episodes against Lesbian, Gay, Transgendered and Bisexual (LGTB) peers locally as well as nationally, approached Church Council to ask to untable the reconciling process and take the final step of officially becoming a reconciling church. Through the mentoring of Sara Sheppard, Rich McManus, Diane Barberesi and Rev. Deb and with the assistance of members of BWARM, the youth began the thoughtful process of providing educational workshops for members to attend. The youth mandated a required attendance at one of the many workshops in order to participate in the final consensus decision. This mandate was approved by church council.
 
These well-attended workshops were varied and covered all educational components of the reconciling journey. We had panel discussions with members and friends of NBUMC sharing their journey as either an LGTB person or as a family with LGTB members. We heard a panel discussion with two divergent opinions on homosexuality and the bible. We screened movies on the subject of church, homosexuality and the bible. An 
ethicist spoke to the OAKS about his personal journey on this subject.  Sara Sheppard led a bible study on Wednesdays on homosexuality and the bible.
 
One of the more frequent questions was how this decision might impact our church. Reconciling churches are not required to pay any monies to the reconciling movement. Churches that become reconciling typically do not see a reduction in membership; the most common occurrence is an increase in membership, primarily of new families. Reconciling churches have not had issues of violence or hate directed at them. How a congregation chooses to publicize their reconciling status is up to the individual church.

NBUMC is excited to become the first reconciling United Methodist church in Montgomery County and now joins a growing group of 400 reconciling churches throughout the country.

We are proud of our youth in leading us to this decision. NBUMC 
has always been a special place, welcome to all and inclusive. Now those who are searching for such a church will find us more easily.


 


Reconciling Reference Materials Included Below:

Reconciling Education at NBUMC

About Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN)

 


Reconciling Education at NBUMC
All events have now taken place - intended for reference only!
 
 
The youth of North Bethesda UMC have been hard at work planning a series of educational events to assist the congregation to better understand the issues and outcomes of becoming a recognized reconciling congregation of the United Methodist Church. The youth presented a proposal to the church council on April 12th that was approved, which outlined the program they had in mind.
 
The basic points were:
  • The program would take place over a six week period of time.
  • The program would consist of different types of events, films and discussions, panel discussions, a bible study, and single presenters.
  • The goal is to have open and frank conversations about the facts surrounding becoming a recognized reconciling congregation and to understand the fears and questions that congregation members have about the process.
  • At the end of the six weeks, the congregation would participate in a consensus event to decide together whether or not to become a recognized reconciling congregation.
  • The youth have asked that congregation members wanting to participate in the consensus event on June 28th attend at least one of the educational events. The youth will ask attendees to sign in at each event. Congregation members are welcome to as few or as many of the events as they wish.
 
Reconciling Congregations offer welcome to LGBT people in particular, because this is one group, the only group that is expressly made to feel unwelcome with the UMC. When a UM congregation wants lay LGBT people to feel welcome, they need to say it out loud.
 

 
Schedule of Events
 
Tuesday, May 17th    7pm
Church Council Meeting
A kick-off discussion will be held, led by BWARM's Jen Ihlo.
She will present a slide presentation and talk with time for questions and discussion to follow.
 
Sunday, May 22nd     6pm
We will screen the documentary For the Bible Tells Me So (w/ dinner).
 
Sunday, June 5th     11am
Right after worship.
Panel Discussion: Parents, family members and LGBT persons.
Members of the NBUMC church family will share their perspective and experience with this issue.
 
Friday, June 10th     7pm
We will screen the documentary Incompatible with Christian Teaching.
Anne Brown, the director and producer, will be with us to lead a discussion afterward.
The film discusses the United Methodist view on homosexuality as stated in the Book of Discipline.
 
Sunday, June 12th     11am
Right after worship.
"The Bible and Scripture": A discussion with two view points.
Presented by Dr. Youtha Hardman-Cromwell, Assistant Dean, Wesley Theological Seminary at Mount Vernon Square.
 
Wednesday, June 15th     11am
In the parlor.  
Presentation and Discussion with Rev. Dr. Phil Wagamon,
retired professor of Ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary.
 
Bible Study
May 25 through June 15
(Wednesday nights, 7-8:30pm)
"Claiming the Promise, An Ecumenical Welcoming Bible Study Resource on Homosexuality" led by Sara Sheppard.
 
June 28th     7pm
Consensus Meeting in Johnson Hall

Reconciling United Methodists are agents of change!



About Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN)

RMN mobilizes United Methodists of all sexual orientations and gender identities to transform our church and world into the full expression of Christ's inclusive love.
 
Since 1984, Reconciling Ministries Network has offered Gospel hospitality and affirmed their baptismal promises, which include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons as fully part of our church family. A widely quoted phrase in the UMC Book of Discipline calls the lives of LGBT persons "incompatible with Christian teaching." Reconciling congregations, communities, campus ministries and individuals join together to challenge any practice of our church which discriminates against LGBT persons and their families.
 
 
Steps to Affiliate with the Reconciling Ministries Network:
 
1. Write and adopt an explicit welcoming statement. ✔(NBUMC Completed)
2. Make it public. ✔(NBUMC Completed)
3. Send a letter of affiliation to RMN. ✔(NBUMC Completed)
4. Consider making an annual contribution to the work of the movement. (Optional)
 
 
For more information on the reconciling process, visit:
 
Reconciling Ministries Network
Baltimore-Washington Area Reconciling United Methodists

 

 

Information regarding the issues of
Reconciling Congregations and Homosexuality
in the United Methodist Church

A reconciling congregation in the United Methodist Church is a church that is part of the national Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN), which advocates the full participation of people in the United Methodist Church regardless of sexual orientations and gender identities. The name of the Reconciling Ministries organization is based on the passage from 2 Corinthians 5:19:
 
In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

The following provides information on reconciling congregations as well as the United Methodist Church's position on homosexuality, links to Methodist organizations on both sides of the debate, links to both Biblical passages and books dealing with the issue, and information that has been distributed to NBUMC members with regards to the current bridgebuilding/reconciling study.



 

What does becoming a reconciling congregation really mean?
 

Becoming a reconciling congregation,

1) DOES MEAN that the members of a church have chosen to publicly declare that it welcomes all persons regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity by issuing a statement of affirmation

2) DOES MEAN that all visitors to a reconciling church can know that they will be welcomed and not judged on their sexual orientation and will not be subjected to anything negative or derogatory with regards to the issue of homosexuality during any part of a church service or event

3) DOES MEAN that the church is welcoming the opportunity to become a more diverse congregation

4) DOES MEAN that the church joins other United Methodist churches, individuals and organizations in the belief that all people should be accepted and are loved by God regardless of their sexual orientation.

5) DOES MEAN that when the time comes for the appointment of a pastor to a reconciling church, the bishop will be mindful of this and attempt to appoint someone who shares the church's views on the subject of sexual orientation.

 

Becoming a reconciling congregation,

1) DOES NOT MEAN that the church will be disenfranchised or punished by the United Methodist Church because of the acceptance of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders into its congregation - there are no cases of this having happened.

2) DOES NOT MEAN that the church will become a "gay church" - it is believed that reconciling congregations have an average of about 10-15% gay members, and many churches acknowledge the added blessings of open honesty, trust and love in becoming a reconciling congregation.

3) DOES NOT MEAN that the church must have an annual "gay tax" line item in its budget payable to the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) - all donations to RMN are voluntary and there is no requirement or expectation that a reconciling church must pay a yearly apportionment/fee to RMN. Individual donations are the major source of funding for RMN.

4) DOES NOT MEAN that the congregation must support a clergy member who announces that he or she is gay and thus will be subject to a church trial under current United Methodist Church policy.

5) DOES NOT MEAN that the congregation will necessarily support gay marriage issues - some reconciling churches, especially some in California and Massachusetts, are certainly supportive of gay marriage proposals, but there is no requirement or expectation that a reconciling church will agree with proposals regarding the redefinition of the institution of marriage. These are considered two separate issues.

 


 
Links to Methodist Organizations with Stated Opinions on the Issue of Homosexuality

 
United Methodist Organizations with Conservative points of view
 
Good News: United Methodist group that advocates strict interpretation of the Bible and denounces homosexuality by claiming that it is a choice.

Confessing Movement: United Methodist group that advocates for "the United Methodist Church to retrieve its classical doctrinal identity, and to live it out as disciples of Jesus Christ." There is also an "unofficial" Confessing Movement website at ucmpage.org.

Transforming Movement: United Methodist group that believes that those who deal with homosexual temptations are loved and through Christ can be transformed into heterosexuals.


United Methodist Groups with Progressive points of view
 
Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA): organization that advocates for peace and justice issues within all levels of the United Methodist Church.

Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN): - group of churches, communities, and individuals that advocates for the full "participation of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in the life of the United Methodist Church".

Affirmation: An activist organization of United Methodists that addresses inclusion and justice concerns of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders and their allies.

 


 
The United Methodist Church's Position on Homosexuality
 
The position of the church as stated in the Book of Discipline regarding self-avowed, practicing homosexuals and the ministry (Paragraph 304.3):
While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world. Since the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, self-avowed practicing homosexuals1 are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.
 
1 "Self-avowed practicing homosexual" is understood to mean that a person openly acknowledges to a bishop, district superintendent, district committee of ordained ministry, board of ordained ministry, or clergy session that the person is a practicing homosexual. See Judicial Council Decisions 702, 708, 722, 725, 764, 844.

 
The position of the church as stated in the Book of Discipline regarding homosexual unions (Paragraph 332.6):
 
Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.

 
The church's position on human sexuality as stated in the Social Principles,: Including the following statement on homosexuality:
"The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching."
 

The church's statement in the Social Principles regarding equal rights regardless of sexual orientation


From the United Methodist Church's website: "What is the denomination’s position on homosexuality?"


Videos on the United Methodist Church website: Statements from both sides of the homosexuality debate during General Conference 2004


Information on the United Methodist Church website regarding the trial and defrocking of Beth Stroud.
Additional information can also be found on Beth Stroud's website.
 

On October 29, 2005, the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church ruled in Decision 1032 that a Virginia United Methodist pastor was within his right to deny membership to a gay man because the perspective member was unwilling to repent or seek to live a different lifestyle.

In reaction to the Judicial Council's ruling, the Council of Bishops released a pastoral letter to the People of The United Methodist Church on November 2, 2005 stating that "gay and lesbian people are not to be excluded from church membership." The following day, Bishop John Schol also released a statement reiterating what the Council of Bishops had said and asking members of the Baltimore-Washington Conference to "keep the whole church in prayer and especially those who are experiencing the pain of being excluded by the recent Judicial Council decisions." The Bishop's letter can be found by clicking on this link.

The Baltimore-Washington and Wisconsin Annual Conferences passed motions in early November 2005 requesting that a special session of the General Conference be convened to address the matter of Decision 1032.





Scriptures often cited in the debate about Homosexuality

Genesis 19:1-29:
The story of Sodom & Gomorrah

Leviticus 18:22 & Leviticus 20:13:
the "abomination" passages

Romans 1: 26-27:
Paul's passage regarding the "unnatural", those who are socially unacceptable

I Corinthians 6:9-10:
Paul's reference to those who are unrighteous.
The translation of this passage has been debated by Biblical scholars

I Timothy 1:9-10:
A passage similar to the 1 Corinthians passage.
The translation of this passage has also been debated by some scholars



Other passages cited less frequently

Jude 1:6-7:
Reference to Sodom and Gomorrah

2 Peter 2:4-11:
Reference to Sodom and Gomorrah

1 Samuel 18:1-4, 1 Samuel 20:1-42, and 2 Samuel 1:22-26
The story of David & Jonathan which some argue was more than a friendship

Ruth 1:16-17:
The story of Ruth and Naomi which some also cite as being more than a friendship




 

Books That Address the Subject of the Church and Homosexuality

Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church by Jack Rogers

What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality by Daniel Helminiak

Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views by Robert Gagnon

The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics by Robert Gagnon

The Church and the Homosexual by John McNeil

Homosexuality in the Church: Both Sides of the Debate by Jeffrey Siker

Living in Sin?: A Bishop Rethinks Human Sexuality by Bishop John Spong

Stranger at the Gate : To Be Gay and Christian in America by Mel White

Uncommon Calling: A Gay Man's Struggle to Serve the Church by Chris Glaser




 
Reconciling churches in the Baltimore-Washington Conference

Capitol Hill UMC - Washington, DC
Christ UMC - Columbia, MD
Christ UMC - Washington, DC
Dumbarton UMC - Washington DC
Foundry UMC - Washington, DC
St.Luke's UMC - Washington, DC
St. John's UMC - Baltimore, MD

One other church in the conference, Metropolitan Memorial UMC in Washington, DC is considering becoming a reconciling congregation.

A list of all reconciling United Methodist churches in the United States can be found by clicking on this link.





Sample Statements of Reconciliation

 

Foundry UMC (Washington, DC) Statement of Reconciliation

We, the friends and members of Foundry United Methodist Church, hold deeply our commitment to help bring about a peaceful, loving, just and accepting world. We are proud of our active, diverse congregation and have seen how each person has graced our community with his or her talents. We believe that the Holy Spirit dwells in all.

We acknowledge our oneness with all of God’s creation and invite gay and lesbian persons to share our faith, our community life, and our ministries. We also affirm the same for all persons without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, age, economic status, or physical or mental condition.

We seek to be an inclusive congregation, and we proclaim our commitment to seek the reconciliation of all persons to God and to each other through Jesus Christ.

As we journey toward reconciliation with all, we proclaim this statement of welcome to all, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters: God loves you and we love you, we affirm you, and accept you, we treasure you. We welcome you.

At the same time, we recognize that there remain differences of opinion among us on issues relating to sexuality. We do not seek to erase our differences, but to journey together in faith toward greater understanding and mutual respect.

In becoming a Reconciling Congregation we believe that we are being reconciled to God and to one another.

"All this from God, who reconciled us ... through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation." II CORINTHIANS 5:18


 

 

Fair Oaks United Methodist Church (Fair Oaks, CA) Statement of Reconciliation


We believe that each individual is of sacred worth. Therefore, we pledge ourselves to engage in the sacred hospitality and responsibility Christ taught. We commit ourselves to maintaining a place of safety and sanctuary for all who come together in ministry and mission: people of all races, ages, sexual orientations, family structures, economic situations, and mental or physical conditions. Through the grace of Christ we dedicate ourselves to live out these commitments creatively, humbly and with hope.



Woodland Park United Methodist Church (Seattle, WA) Statement of Inclusion
 

We believe the simple truth that God loves each person, and that each individual is of sacred worth. Therefore,

We declare our church and church community to be a Hate-Free Zone.

We pledge ourselves to engage in the radical hospitality Jesus taught, creating a place of safety and sanctuary for all who enter.

We celebrate the gifts of all who come seeking God, Christian community and justice in our world.

We include people of all races, ethnicities, nationalities, ages, genders, gender identities, sexual orientations, family structures, economic situations, political affiliations, mental or physical conditions, or biblical interpretations.

We welcome all into full participation in the ministry and mission of Woodland Park United Methodist Church.




St. Stephen United Methodist (Mesquite, TX) Reconciling Congregation Statement

 

In response to our calling to share the message of God's unconditional love, we welcome persons of all ages, genders, races, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, socioeconomic status, physical and mental abilities as full participants in our community of faith. In so believing, we recognize that the Church's position on homosexuality has caused pain to many people. Therefore, we extend a special invitation to gays, lesbians, and their families to join us in building a community that reflects God's love for all.



Lexington United Methodist Church (Lexington, MA) Statement of Reconciliation


All persons are individuals of sacred worth. We affirm Jesus' example of love without reservation and covenant to deal compassionately and justly with each other. Therefore, this inclusive and nurturing community of faith will continue to welcome all persons of any age, gender, race, ethnic origin, economic reality, family status, sexual orientation, diverse ability or social standing as full participants in the life and work of this reconciling congregation.

 


 

Information Presented to NBUMC Members with Regards to the Reconciling Study

Letter to the congregation at the start of the reconciling study process, July 2004
BridgeBuilders' Preliminary Report to the congregation, February 2005
Circle of Understanding, November 2005
Reconciling Education at NBUMC, May 2011
 


North Bethesda UMC Statement of Welcome and Affirmation
Adopted by the Church Council on May 17, 2005

 
We, the members and friends of North Bethesda United Methodist Church (NBUMC), believe that each person is of sacred worth. In response to Jesus Christ's radical teaching of hospitality towards all, we welcome and affirm all people regardless of age, race, gender, ethnic background, sexual orientation, physical appearance, physical or mental disabilities, socioeconomic status, educational background or marital status into full participation in the life and ministry of NBUMC. We commit ourselves to being inclusive of all who seek to join us in a faith community reflective of God's love for all.

 


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