How can you draw nearer to God if you can’t get into His house?

I don’t know what to think about this reconciling church idea.
We are friendly and welcoming to all, why do we need to look at this?
Jesus called us to love one another; and said we weren’t to judge.
I can’t belong to a church which condones homosexuality among its members.
All should be welcome in church regardless of their sexuality.
I love the United Methodist Church.
If one part of the body is hurting we are all hurting.
Nothing will separate us from the love of God.
“Open Minds, Open Hearts, Open Doors” – ..really!

 

Do you identify with any of the statements above? Most of us identify with at least one of the statements.  The church council would like to encourage all of the North Bethesda church family to talk. Talk to each other. Talk to other members of the church. Talk to your church leaders. Honest questions and conversations are the only way we can build a bridge among us all.
 

Homosexuality within the church is just one of the many issues NBUMC is wrestling with. Other churches and congregations are also facing the same question. The everyday business of the church goes on as well and no single issue must overwhelm the rest. The sick and shut-in are still being visited, creative programs go on as usual, the trustees still manage the upkeep of our building, and so on. If you’ve been confused or offended by the conversations about NBUMC possibly becoming a reconciling congregation, we, church leaders offer our regrets for any misunderstandings that may have resulted from earlier letters or comments. We emphasize that no decision has been made; this is not a “done deal”.  Many have come to the table to discuss this difficult topic, but many others have stayed away. That concerns us, for we are truly a family. And families work together to understand each other. Each voice is an important part of the conversation.
 

Please take the time to read the following report. Hopefully it will answer most of your questions about where we are in our exploration process of whether or not NBUMC moves toward becoming a reconciling church. Perhaps, in the end, we will find this is not for us, that there is a middle position, a statement about who we are, that will be the result of our conversation. It is essential that you all share your thoughts and opinions. What we have at North Bethesda is special. Already, in many ways, we are a welcoming and diverse congregation. We love each other. That’s something special!
 

    Jack Enders                              Gordon Cragg                          Janet Replogle
      Lay Leader                          Church Council Chair                  Staff Parish Chair
 
 

NBUMC BRIDGEBUILDERS
 

Congregational Study Process

  • Issue: The UMC General Conference of May 24, 2004, voted to maintain the current language in the Book of discipline concerning homosexuals:

“Homosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth. Although we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching, we affirm God’s grace is available to all. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn their lesbian of gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.” (paragraph 161G)
 

“Since the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, self-avowed practising homosexuals are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve the United Methodist Church.” (Paragraph 304.3)
 

  • Bishop Schol’s Injunction:  Bishop John Schol of the Baltimore-Washington Conference issued a statement (see UM Connection, Dec. 15, 2004):
  • Called on “everyone in the church to be healers and bridge-builders”
  • “Pastors and church leaders have the opportunity to share and interpret to their congregations and communities concerning the church’s actions today in ways that build understanding rather than heighten divisiveness.”
  • “By demonstrating our love for, and commitment to, the United Methodist Church in the midst of differing opinions, we will communicate our confidence that God will lead us through these challenging times.”
  • “We have never been a perfect church, but we have always been a church willing to struggle with hard questions and to disagree with each other in a spirit of love. May we continue in this grace.”
  • Our Affirmation: We, the members of NBUMC, through our actions, deeds and words consider ourselves to be a loving congregation fully accepting of all forms of diversity and embracing all persons, irrespective of culture, gender, race, age, economic status, mental or physical handicaps, educational background or sexual orientation in a manner which truly reflects the UMC slogan of “Open Hearts, Open Minds and Open Doors”.
  • ?Challenge: Our keeping silent on the General Conference policy on homosexuality implies agreement with this policy. This policy:
  • Is proving to be extremely hurtful to homosexual members of our congregation who feel that the UMC has rejected them as persons of equal worth in the sight of God and fellow members.
  • Disillusioned members of our congregation who feel that the UMC is being utterly hypocritical in maintaining this policy while publicizing the “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors” slogan.
  •  Indicates to members of our local community that we agree with the General Conference polity, are aligned with the conservative elements of the General Conference, and are not the truly welcoming church which we believe we are.
  • Will thwart our NBUMC goal of increasing the diversity of our congregation and truly embracing all persons.

 

  • Actions to date:
  • After receiving letters and statements from several members of our congregation who feel deeply hurt by the General Conference policy statement, Pastor Debbie requested that an open dialog and discussion of the issues involved be initiated. This was spelled out in a statement to all church members issued on July 23, 2004, entitled “North Bethesda United  Methodist Church Begins Congregational Study Process”, and signed by Gordon Cragg, Church Council Chair, Janet Replogle, Staff Parish Committee Chair, and Jack Enders, Lay Leader.
  • The issues have been discussed at several Church Council meetings to which all members of the congregation were invited. Some have expressed support for moving towards becoming a Reconciling Congregation, others have expressed reservations about such a move as being divisive, others have favored maintaining the status quo, and others have favored a compromise approach in which a statement reflecting the true welcoming spirit of NBUMC is emphasized.
  • A presentation by Rev. Laura Easto elaborated on the General Conference procedures and discussions of these issues, and was generally well received by those who attended.
  • Some members have elaborated on the hurt they have experienced due to public attitudes towards homosexuals, and while they have felt the warmth and love of the NBUMC congregation, they still feel that a small but subtle tension exists with a small percentage of the membership. Some homosexuals still feel uncomfortable about attending NBUMC.
  • Many of those with reservations about the reconciling movement have felt reluctant to express their views lest they be regarded as biased and bigoted.
  • There have also been concerns expressed about the apparent leadership of Pastor Debbie in promoting a movement towards a Reconciling Congregation, and statements made by others during church services which appear to support the reconciling church movement. It is felt that the expression of an individual position could be made better during a meeting of the congregation.
  • Some members have expressed strong opposition to being named a Reconciling Congregation and to any appearance of this on the church sign.
  • No members want to be separated from the organized UMC. Opposition to the General Conference action could be taken to voting delegates of the Conference in the form of a petition seeking change in the current position, but only following prior discussion of the issues with the congregation.

 

  • Goals:
  • To develop a process of study and open discussion involving ALL church members through arranging a series of presentations by speakers representing all the opinions, ranging from those supporting the General Conference policy to those supporting the Reconciling Congregation movement, and also including “middle of the road” attitudes of those who have not fully embraced the Reconciling Congregation movement.
  • This series will proceed on a periodic basis through mid-2006 to be in a position to make recommendations to General Conference.
  • While considering the whole spectrum of feelings of our membership, to formulate a statement defining ourselves in a manner that reflects the true NBUMC welcoming spirit while also maintaining our commitment to the United Methodist Church.

Current members of the Bridge-Building Committee:
          Jack Enders
          Gordon Cragg
          Janet Replogle
          Rev. Jacqui Thorpe
          Valerie Blane
          Wanda Cockrell
          Mark Patkus
          Carol Malmi
          Jennifer Fellows
          Rev. Debbie Scott
 

Last Updated: February 5, 2005